Stewart Mandel puts on those special 20-20 hindsight specs of his and lets us in on a secret.
… As he peeled back the curtain on Weis’ regime, during which the Irish went 16-21 the past three seasons, Kelly found what many of us on the outside had suspected all along: For years, Notre Dame had run more like an NFL franchise than a college program. For many, career aspirations came before championships.
“All along” – like when Mandel informed us that Notre Dame was a legitimate contender for the 2006 MNC, in part based on this:
But Weis’ impact reaches beyond X’s and O’s. Neither Willingham nor predecessor Bob Davie could be said to exude confidence, and it showed in their players. Weis, though generally mild-mannered, is beyond confident — he’s downright cocky. He constantly references his coaching abilities both in public and, according to several sources, with his players. They must be buying into it. After years of maddening inconsistency (beating Michigan and Tennessee, losing to Boston College and BYU), the Irish, if nothing else, looked prepared every week last season. They appeared outclassed only once, in the Fiesta Bowl, and exhibited not a hint of intimidation against a USC team that at the time had won 27 straight games and clobbered the Irish the previous three seasons.
“I guarantee those kids playing for Notre Dame right now believe they can win every time they step on the field,” said SuperPrep‘s Wallace. “They play so much more competitively now.”
… In today’s landscape, there couldn’t be a more telling barometer for Notre Dame’s supposed resurgence than whether a senior-laden Irish team could stack up with the young, reloading Trojans.
“We did well last year, but we really have a long way to go,” said Quinn. “I’d be lying if I told you [a national championship] isn’t in the back of my mind. People talk about it and write about it, but we want to make it a reality.”
It’s already closer to reality than much of the country would like to admit.
Does “much of the country” include the folks from Mandel’s go-to state? I wonder if they knew it all along, too.