There will be no bowl game for the Irish this season, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick announced on Friday, citing the “unique circumstances surrounding the program” following the coaching change. The announcement was not surprising to those following the program since the announcement of Charlie Weis’ departure.
The decision to forego the bowl opportunity is not without precedent for the Irish. After Lou Holtz’ departure following the 1996 season, the 8-3 Irish also passed on bowl opportunities. Also, between the 1925 Rose Bowl and the 1970 Cotton Bowl, the Irish did not participate in bowl games.
Several factors contributed to the decision. Given that Charlie Weis also served as the Offensive Coordinator, the Irish staff is currently left without an established signal caller.
Additionally, the timing for the two realistic bowl opportunities available to the 6-6 Irish was not ideal. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is December 26, close to finals for the student-athletes. The other opportunity – the January 6 GMAC Bowl – seems much too far in the future for a team with such uncertainty among both the coaching staff and key players.
Not to be overlooked, the bowl payouts for such middling bowl games would likely cost the program more than they received.
Of course, the unstated factors which may have influenced the decision are the likely opponent for the Irish and the prolonging of the discussion regarding the recent underachievement.
Collectively, these factors overwhelmed any influence by the players to participate in the bowl season.
By skipping a bowl game this season, the Irish will miss the valuable practice time to develop the program’s younger players. This practice time can be invaluable to player development, as evidenced by the leap forward last year’s Irish squad achieved leading to the impressive 49-21 victory over Hawaii. Instead, the players will begin the off-season strength and conditioning regimen.
Positives can come from the decision. This allows the Irish administration to focus on the coaching search. If the new coach is identified quickly, the program can turn the page and focus on the future. For the Irish assistant coaches, their focus can now be largely devoted to recruiting, for which they have already done an impressive job given the circumstances. And, for the players, hopefully the lost bowl opportunity serves as further motivation in the off-season efforts.