December 4, 2009

Frank Deford, of SI.com, tells the “Subway Alumni” that ND has more problems than just Charlie Weis.
“So Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis. OK, but at some point Notre Dame has to realize its coaches are not the problem. Yes, sure, hiring Weis was a mistake — generically. College football and basketball programs should never hire coaches from the pros — just as NFL or NBA franchises should never hire
college coaches. It simply doesn’t work — unless it’s Larry Brown, who can coach anywhere. And has.
Rather, the problem with Notre Dame is that such a fine academic institution hasn’t wised up to how much the football landscape has changed. It’s been
decades since Notre Dame became America’s only national college team — back in the day when professional football was not popular and few Americans went to college. So Roman Catholics everywhere — Irish and otherwise — adopted Notre Dame as their surrogate team. They were even famously known as its “subway alumni.”
But as television made the NFL more prominent, Catholic fans, like fans of all stripes, started adopting their favorite NFL teams. The subway alumni were now suburban commuters who’d gone to college, and they became primarily Eagle rooters or 49ers rooters … and so forth.
As that fabled old national team, however, Notre Dame kept scheduling games all over the country, because it also alone boasted its own rich network contract, on NBC. Virtually all other major teams joined conferences, but Notre Dame remained independent. The inference was that because its football team must remain a national institution, Notre Dame football could not possibly limit itself to any mere regional conference.
Yes, Notre Dame had its own network presence. But as cable television proliferated, other major conferences become nationally familiar. Hey, fans in Seattle could watch the SEC with interest. Fans in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., could pay more attention to the Pac-10 than to the fortunes of Maryland. And the conferences began making big TV money, too. An obscure college like Mississippi State, for goodness sake, makes more TV moolah than does legendary Notre Dame. The Irish might be ubiquitous, but unless they’re competing for the national title — which they haven’t come close to doing since 1993 — their games don’t mean as much as everybody else’s.
You know what Notre Dame ought to do if it feels so superior to joining a conference? It ought to be a wild card and lend itself to lots of conferences. One year it could play in the Big Ten and another in the Big East and another in the Big 12 and another in the SEC. Rotate. That way the Irish could still move around the country, but their games would fit the 21st century mode.
The conferences would surely buy into that. After all, Notre Dame football is still somewhat special. It’s just that it remains noteworthy for the wrong reason.
Notre Dame football is like that old definition stating a celebrity is famous just for being famous. Notre Dame football isn’t famous anymore for football. It’s just famous for being Notre Dame. So long as it remains the only independent of any consequence, the current team’s only real rival is the past. And it can’t
possibly win against that glorious past. No matter who the coach is.”

John Shea of the SF Chronicle is wondering what some owners are doing with their shares.
“A baseball owner popped off about other baseball owners, which is rare in this guarded fraternity. Boston’s John Henry virtually accused seven teams of pocketing revenue-sharing checks instead of reinvesting in their teams.
Henry, proposing a plan with less revenue sharing and more payroll taxing, told the Boston Globe that “over a billion dollars have been paid to seven
chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’s highest operating profits. Who, except these teams, can think this is a good idea?”
Was Henry including the A’s, who received $32 million in the latest round of revenue sharing?
Three years ago, the A’s reached the AL Championship Series. They made the playoffs four straight years in the early 2000s. So if he’s calling the A’s
“chronically uncompetitive,” that’s a bit unfair.
He might have a point when regarding “operating profits.” Forbes reported the A’s ranked seventh in the majors in 2008 operating income ($26.2 million) behind a curious bunch: Marlins, Nats, Cubs, Rays, Orioles and Twins.
Revenue sharing, though costly to the Yankees and Red Sox, has helped lower-revenue teams such as the A’s exist among the revenue giants. Forbes had the A’s tied for 26th in revenue at $160 million.
We contacted A’s owner Lew Wolff, who declined to directly address Henry’s take but said the A’s use revenue sharing to invest in baseball operations,
including a revamped farm system, the draft and the pursuit of foreign players (Dominican pitcher Michael Ynoa cost $4.25 million), not solely the major-league payroll.
“We prefer to reach a point where our revenues do not require us to receive revenue sharing. To do so, we need a viable venue,” said Wolff, whose latest
ballpark target is San Jose.
Henry proposed a payroll minimum, but Michael Weiner, who replaced Don Fehr as the union’s executive director Wednesday, said the players would oppose it because they believe it’s a “precursor to a request for a salary cap.”
The current deal expires after the 2011 season. We’ll hear much more from both sides before then.”


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