Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If you think you're seeing a lot of Notre
Dame now, wait until next year and the year after and the year after.
I'm not sure how much more Irish we can get - every game they play, home or
away is shown nationally - since they have their own network for home games,
but the TV folks will try and find a way.
Notre Dame is polarizing and polarizing brings eyes to television sets. They
are loved or hated and no other college football team can say that.
You may love Alabama or Oregon, but unless you live in the southeast or in
Oregon, few others hate them. Instead, the rest of us across the country are
pretty much ambivalent.
The only equivalent, on a smaller scale, is probably Duke basketball.
Nationwide, most people have an opinion on the Blue Devils, but they're about
it. Two teams, out of hundreds playing college football and college basketball
that all folks can get worked up about.
For the lovers of Notre Dame, what the Fighting Irish did on Saturday, beating
Southern California with the help of a goal line stand for the ages, will never
More importantly, it won't be forgotten by the 17- and 18-year-old high school
football studs out there watching.
Those are the ones that will keep Notre Dame front and center.
Those kids don't remember, or don't care, that the Fighting Irish haven't been
relevant for 20 years.
What they do know right now is that Notre Dame is good, really good, and if you
decide to go to school in South Bend the chances are you're going to be on a
team that's right near the top of things and always on television.
For two decades, Southern Cal, Penn State and the Michigans of the world
got the recruits that Notre Dame craved.
Yes, the Irish were in the running for plenty of top-level talent, but they
also seemed to just miss.
That blue chipper or three that they needed to sign on the dotted line, put on
the hat of somebody else in his high school gymnasium on signing day.
Close is nice in a lot of things. Getting close in recruiting isn't nice.
Getting close, as a coaching staff in recruiting, gets you fired. Every time.
That all changed when Notre Dame held off the Trojans. And because they got
lucky against Pitt. And were able to keep Stanford out of the end zone
(Cardinal fans can whine, but they weren't in the end zone at the end).
It all adds up to an undefeated record and a date against either the Crimson
Tide or Georgia in early January in Miami.
The Irish could be playing anybody for the national championship and the
networks and college football in general would have been ecstatic. ESPN, in
particular, because they have the game, will truly be pumped.
And if the opponent were East Jerkwater State, it wouldn't have mattered. All
that mattered is that Notre Dame is a part of it.
Love 'em, or hate 'em, the Irish deliver the audience and it will be an
enormous one tuning in on Jan. 7.
But what's going to make the Irish even better in 2013 and especially in 2014
and 2015 is what happens between now and Jan. 7.
They have nearly six weeks to pump out their chest even more than usual to
attract the best players from across the land. Notre Dame has always recruited
nationally, but now they can do it with more bravado.
And, of course, the Irish would love to win the national title, but just
getting to the game is enormous.
From unranked and an afterthought before the season (well, as much of an
afterthought as Notre Dame can be) to No. 1 with a bullet? What a story.
And what an opportunity to keep it going.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia-area
newspapers for over 25 years.
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