Mike Golic

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Sunday, December 2
Updated: December 3, 5:36 PM ET
Notre Dame needs a major change

By Mike Golic
Special to ESPN.com

Two years ago, one of the top recruits in the country -- who shall remain nameless -- had Notre Dame on his very short list of schools. His father, who played at the highest level of the game, told me that his son ultimately chose not to attend Notre Dame because they both knew that Notre Dame would not prepare him for the NFL. Truth is, I don't blame the father or the son in this situation. I understand where they are coming from.

Notre Dame needs to address the landscape of what college football is now. Today's college game is playing more NFL-style offenses and defenses. Especially offense. Blue-chip athletes used to go to Notre Dame because it was Notre Dame.

Bob Davie
Bob Davie didn't get it done on the sidelines at Notre Dame.

There was a time when the best high school wide receiver in the country would go to Notre Dame even if the Irish already had an All-American receiver who was only a sophomore, just because the high school kid loved Notre Dame so much. It is nothing like that now. The Blue Chippers are looking for pro-style offenses where they can shine because while, of course, they want to have successful college careers, the ultimate goal of the Blue Chippers is reaching the NFL, and they know they have to start preparing for that goal earlier than ever before.

It may seem unfair that Bob Davie was fired a year after signing a five-year extension, but "fair" doesn't really apply to coaching now, does it? Sometimes contract extensions are given as a true reward for performance. Other times, they are given to provide an illusion to future recruits.

By and large, coaches at Notre Dame are given five years, and Davie has been no exception. His record was 35-25. Gerry Faust was given the standard five years, with a record of 30-26-1. Davie's record suggests -- fair or not -- that it is indeed time to make a change.

Davie put together a great 9-3 overall season last year, and even when they lost, the Irish were always in the game. Everyone -- Davie included -- expected them to take it to the next level this year. Davie himself said this was the most talented team he had since his tenure at ND began. After the season they had last year, there's not much patience for mediocrity. You don't get a lot of time to prove yourself -- again, "fairness" doesn't apply.

It may be pure perception, it may be actual aura, but the fact of the matter is that Notre Dame is supposed to win more -- 10 games over .500 isn't going to cut it in South Bend. Plenty of excuses are advanced as to why Notre Dame hasn't been winning, but the bottom line is the Irish should be looking for answers, not excuses. How can they again get the athletes that can help them win?

If I were the new coach at Notre Dame, I would sing from the highest mountaintop that I am taking this team to a pro-style offense. I would open it up and do the things that specialists love to do. If they at least lean in that direction, they will at least get the attention of the best prospects again. Tell the recruits, "Not only is ND one of the most storied programs in college football, that always gets publicity and major network TV time, but now we're playing the type of offense that could really give a player of your caliber the chance to shine."

The truth is, you can't put it all on Bob Davie -- he can't go out and block tackles -- but the nature of his job means that he will take the brunt of any criticism. Perhaps Davie never had the athletes necessary to open up the offense. Carlyle Holiday is more of a running QB, and after throwing it well last year Matt LoVecchio struggled this season. They had absolutely zero team speed.

Maybe Davie lacked a trigger man, but the point is that he should have (and now the new coach must) go out right now and say that he wants the very best throwing quarterback in the country to come to Notre Dame.

The new coach needs to tell that kid, "My man, you are going to throw the ball. We are going to pro-style it and open it up. Of course, ND will always have the good running attack that can supplement the passing game, but if you come to Notre Dame, don't think you are going to only be running the option all day long. Because I'm going to give you the chance to light it up."

It may be a pie-in-the-sky theory, but I think it's the best way to get the kind of recruits needed to win to come to Notre Dame.

Everyone has heard the same names as possible Davie replacement candidates -- John Gruden, Ty Willingham, Tom Coughlin, Bob Stoops. Of course, Gruden is the sexiest choice, and not because he was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People." Gruden gets a lot out of his players, he's intense, he's from the Midwest, his dad was an assistant at Notre Dame -- all of it makes him a fantastic choice for the Irish.

Whomever it is, in addition to running a more NFL-style offense and defense, the next coach at Notre Dame has to be an ass-kicker. He needs to bring an attitude and a bit of a swagger back to South Bend. Opponents need to feel again that they will be in a war every time they face Notre Dame. That feeling has been missing. It is high time to bring it back.

Mike Golic played at Notre Dame from 1981-84. He serves as a color man for ESPN's college football and an analyst for NFL 2Night.

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