Despite the chaos around him, Fr. Malloy maintains a preternatural calm that can only be described as Gump-like. He sits behind an immaculately clean mahogany desk that suggests either orderliness, or the absence of any real responsibilities. An unread copy of Ex Corde Ecclesiae sits on his credenza next to a well-thumbed copy of U.S. News and World Reports Guide to Colleges. In pride of place on a wall between two large windows hangs a shiny new plaque. It's the 2002 Golden Commode Award---the coveted "Toity"---given to honor the lavatory in the Administration Building as the best public restroom in America.
In a wide-ranging interview Fr. Malloy discussed the new head football coach, the expulsion of four football players, the Church's pedophilia scandal, and serious issues like the new alcohol and tailgating policies. Part one of the interview follows:
Q: This has been an eventful year, hasn't it?
Rev. Malloy: [Smiling] That's an understatement.
Q: There's been a coaching change---two really. Fr. Beauchamp, your longtime confidant, has been reassigned. The bear market has taken a bite out of the University endowment. Scandal has rocked the Church. And, of course, there was 9/11. Which event has had the greatest impact on you?
Rev. Malloy: Well, you're right. That's quite a list. But really the biggest thing that happened to me, personally, is that I finally got my book of haiku published.
Q: Oh really? That's, um, impressive.
Rev. Malloy: Thank you. I'm quite proud of it. …Would you like to hear one?
Q: Well, I---I mean, our readers would probably rather---
Rev. Malloy: Ahem:
Picture a Golden
Dome in Palo Alto sun
Far from South Bend snow
Q: Wow… That's really…something.
Rev. Malloy: Would you like to hear another?
Q: Actually, I---
Rev. Malloy: [Thumbing through the book] Oh, here's one of my favorites:
Whose names are not on buildings
Snipe at their betters
Q: These were actually published, you say?
Rev. Malloy: Oh yes. The book is available on amazon.com. It's called Vows and Perquisites: A Cleric's View From the Ivory Tower.
Q: If you don't mind Father, I'd like to talk about the football program.
Rev. Malloy: Oh, couldn't we talk about women's basketball---
Q: Please Father, it's football that gets people excited about Notre Dame. That's what they want to hear about.
Rev. Malloy:[Disgruntled] Yes, I suppose…. But I could talk about Title IX compliance for hours.
Q: That's what we're afraid of. But on the subject of football---the coaching transition wasn't exactly a smooth one---
Rev. Malloy: ---There's another understatement.
Q: Things got a bit chaotic, didn't they?
Rev. Malloy: Like a Bob Davie two-minute drill.
Q: People were left with the impression that Notre Dame didn't get the best coach available. That Jon Gruden, for example, was there for the asking.
Rev. Malloy: Jon Gruden was never seriously considered.
Q: Why is that? Wouldn't Gruden have been a perfect fit? He loves Notre Dame. He would have been an exuberant, telegenic, and passionate representative of the University.
Rev. Malloy: We've already got Regis Philbin. Isn't that enough?
Q: Some say you were offended by Gruden's frequent use of profanity.
Rev. Malloy: Heck no! I don't mind bad language. Golly! I mean, I attended The Vagina Monologues twice. No, that wasn't it at all.
Q: What was it then? Many fans were bitterly disappointed that you let Gruden get away.
Rev. Malloy: Well, if you must know…Al Davis said that if we stole his coach, he would have my legs broken.
Q: He sounds like Tony Soprano.
Rev. Malloy: Tell me about it.
Q: Did you ever consider, you know, taking one for the team?
Rev. Malloy: I'd rather the team take one for me. That's how we ended up with O'Leary
Q: Well, the O'Leary fiasco has been well documented. Tell me about the process that led you to hire Tyrone Willingham.
Rev. Malloy: Well, that's really a question for Kevin White, isn't it?
Q: You mean to say that you had no role in his hiring?
Rev. Malloy: Not that you know of.
Q: Are you saying that the reports that you interviewed Coach Willingham last December are inaccurate?
Rev. Malloy: No, not at all. They are completely accurate.
Q: But you just said that you had no role in hiring Willingham.
Rev. Malloy: That's right. I didn't.
Q: I'm afraid I don't understand.
Rev. Malloy: I interviewed Coach Willingham in the context of a coaching search that resulted in George O'Leary being hired. So, no, I didn't hire Coach Willingham. I rejected Coach Willingham.
Q: But when O'Leary had to resign, you turned around and hired Willingham.
Rev. Malloy: No, that's not correct. Kevin White hired Coach Willingham. I rejected him, remember?
Q: Then why did you heap so much praise on him when he was announced as the new football coach? You talked about integrity and character and academics. You talked about how good a fit he is.
Rev. Malloy: Those things are all true.
Q: Then why distance yourself from his hiring?
Rev. Malloy: Because I'm not going to be known as the first president in Notre Dame's history to give the football coach a lifetime contract.
Q: Lifetime contract? I thought Willingham got a standard 5-year deal?
Rev. Malloy: [Chuckling] Don't be silly. Sure it's a 5-year deal on paper. But have you ever heard of a major American university firing an African American from a high-profile position? The press would crucify us---pardon the expression…. No, he's Tyrone the First, coach for life.
Q: So you needed plausible deniability.
Rev. Malloy: That's right. If anything goes wrong, he's Kevin's man.
Q: Kind of like the Bob Davie contract extension.
Rev. Malloy: You're catching on. Look, you think it's easy to evade accountability? It's a full time job. And since the Board of Directors stepped in to demote Fr. Beauchamp it's been twice as hard. He was the perfect fall guy. Do you realize that I've been working without a net for two years now?!
Q: Speaking of Fr. Beauchamp, how did you react to the news that he would be transferring to Portland University?
Rev. Malloy: My first reaction was that the Warren Golf Course just freed up 7 prime tee times a week that they could fill with real, paying customers. My second reaction was to pray for Portland.
Q: How do you think Fr. Beauchamp will be remembered?
Rev. Malloy: I will always remember him as my personal Jim Colletto. But for the University he leaves a legacy of unfinished, under-financed, and unoccupied buildings.
Q: So when visitors come to campus and see cluttered quads filled with drab brick buildings where open green spaces used to be they should think of Fr. Beauchamp…
Rev. Malloy: Precisely.
Q: Let's switch gears. I want to ask you about a phrase that you have used repeatedly---a phrase that strikes some as being at odds with Notre Dame's place in American culture. I'm referring to "aspirational peer." Should Notre Dame even have an aspirational peer university?
Rev. Malloy: Well, first, I think everyone---every institution---should aspire to become better than it is now.
Q: But "aspirational peer"… Isn't that just a fancy way of saying ND is a wannabe? We wannabe an Ivy League school, we wannabe Duke… It makes Notre Dame seem like a follower, doesn't it?
Rev. Malloy: I don't think that seeking an aspirational peer necessarily makes Notre Dame a follower. Especially, if we're aggressive about it. In fact, I would venture to say that we lead the nation in aspirationality. And in residentiality. No school in the country combines aspirationality with residentiality like Notre Dame does.
Q: So who are your aspirational peers? Is Northwestern an aspirational peer?
Rev. Malloy: At one time you could say that Northwestern was an aspirational peer, at least academically. But then they won the Big 10 that one year…
Q: What about Stanford? It's clear that Kevin White wants to emulate Stanford athletics.
Rev. Malloy: Well, I think the Stanford comparisons are a bit overblown. Sure we like their student profile. Their success in non-revenue producing sports has been admirable. But they did win the Pac-10 in football two years ago.
Q: And that's a bad thing?
Rev. Malloy: Don't get me wrong. We want to field a competitive football team. But trying too hard to win football championships is a bit déclassé. It's too SEC. Look, I'll be happy if the offense starts throwing on first down, and if the head coach isn't seen launching mucous on national television.
Q: So let me see if I understand. You want Notre Dame to be like Northwestern with Stanford's weather and a West Coast offense.
Rev. Malloy: Yeah, that's about right. Either that or Rice with C.S.C leadership and a better marching band.
In Part 2 of the interview, Fr. Malloy discusses player expulsions, the new alcohol and tailgating policies, and the decline of the University endowment. Excerpts:
Rev. Malloy: "Dotcoms!" he said. "Telecoms!" he said. "Argentinean debt instruments!" he said.
Q: Enron? Tyco?
Rev. Malloy: [hanging his head sheepishly] Yes, yes…
Q: Then how is it that Mr. Malpass retains his position as CIO?