The lip service is intended to placate alumni and fans so that they will keep spending money to go to games, donate, and buy merchandise. We know it isn't the goal because a board of trustee member came out and said as much last year. Rod West was interviewed by Lou Somogyi. He also went on that most revealing, and stomach turning, post game show with Jack "Baghdad Bob" Nolan. It isn't Father Jenkins' goal and it isn't the board members' goal. They speak in a way that it makes it seem that it is either great academics or great football, not both. He said we will never be Alabama. That is fine. Perhaps if we were the ND that used to exist, that would still be better than being Alabama. Maybe we would have interrupted Slabama's string of dominance and won one of those NCs and it would have been so sweet because it would have been done right. We sure as hell wouldn't have gone 4-8 last year, we wouldn't be an 8-5/7-6 team, on average, and we wouldn't be a soft program.
During the post game show, West said ND may be able to win a title if we "catch lightning in a bottle." That isn't striving to be the best. That approach will ensure that ND's days as a national championship contender are over forever. It doesn't have to be this way. If the goal were changed, they could go hire a great AD, head coach, and go to work at building a championship program. However, that isn't the goal so it is a pipe dream.
If that message was delivered by Rod West, what kind of message would come from many of the BOT members who did not go to ND and never cared about football. I really do believe that it is over.
Edited to add that the lip service over the last couple of decades has been dishonest and unenithical. It has been a disservice to every player, student, graduate, and fan. It has been a betrayal to everybody who helped build the program over the decades. It has made the program and the entire university look foolish. The half-hearted approach has led to almost every major decision about the program during the last 25 years being the wrong one.