When I was at ND (90-94) I had numerous professors instill in me the desire to achieve academic excellence. They said it was the ND way. When I was a lost and lonely freshman and needed guidance, numerous priests encouraged me to pursue a life of virtue and justice. They said it was the ND way.
When I struggled with grades while running track my freshman year, Coach Piane got me a tutor and told me that grades came before athletics. He said it was the ND way. When I walked on under Lou, he taught us to play by the rules, work harder than everyone else, and to expect nothing less than perfection from ourselves and our teammates. He said it was the ND way.
When I saw countless fellow classmates volunteer their summers to help the homeless and those in need, I learned that it was the ND way. When I saw my roommates stand guard over a girl they didn't know who had passed out in a dorm room just to make sure no one took advantage of her, I knew that was the ND way.
My time at ND had a very profound influence on my life. I was able to overcome some of the darkest times of my life by relying on the values that were instilled in me at ND (my parents did a pretty good job of this as well). When I was faced with ethical choices, I remembered Lou's words and followed the rules, no matter how much harder that made my job.
I was taught that ND was not about football. It was about honorably seeking and achieving excellence in everything you do. It was about a way of life. It just so happened that the football team was a very visible and successful component of this way of life. ND football was considered the best in the land and it achieved that status honestly through hard work and a desire to be the best. No gimmicks, just hard work.
That is why the last twenty years piss me off so badly. The leaders have not managed the school or the football team the ND way. Perfection no longer seems to be the goal. Virtue and justice have given way to maximizing the brand.
Many people are complaining about the jumbotron, the shamrock helmets, the field turf and rally towels, not because of their impact on our ability to win, but because they signify that ND has lost her way.
This leads me to my ultimate point. Many of the most successful programs over the past 10-15 years have recently proven that they cannot win the ND way. OSU, PSU, USC, Miami all have had tremendous scandals rock their programs. Imagine where ND could be sitting right now if it had not lost its way. Now, more than ever, college football needs a program to show that it can win and win the right way. It is a travesty that ND has lost such an opportunity.
I used to love watching ND football in part for what it represented. That has been taken away from me and I am pissed. It's not about shamrocks on the helmets or running the ball more. It's about wanting to be the best and doing everything within the rules to reach that goal. By abandoning this approach, ND is telling me that the values it instilled in me years ago are no longer important.
I apologize for this rant and I hope it does not come across too trite or arrogant. I am not the writer that many here are, and I even thought of having BI or someone else ghost write it for me. Anyway, I have been in a depression for fifteen years and I cannot take it any longer. I miss the ND way.
The contents of this post represent the views of the author. NDNation.com is not responsible for its contents.