The Shenanigans of Notre Dame Football Coverage

Brian Kelly is getting used to dealing with the occasional absurdity of the coverage of Notre Dame football (Photo: Robin Alam / Icon SMI)
Brian Kelly is getting used to dealing with the occasional absurdity of the coverage of Notre Dame football (Photo: Robin Alam / Icon SMI)

After college spring games have wrapped up across the country and football programs head into the summer lull, a strange season of public relations blunders begins.  With more time on their hands, college football players are more likely to get into trouble, a pattern that has not gone unnoticed by sports writers.  There are even websites with police blotters tracking how many days expire without a student-athlete being arrested.  Even football coaches are far from immune to troublemaking, and it’s usually a result of touring the alumni circuit, which occurs more frequently during the off-season when time is more readily available.

Current Penn State head coach James Franklin was once forced to apologize after a misogynistic joke he told on a local Nashville radio station while head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

“I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant coach until I’ve seen his wife.  If she looks the part, and she’s a D-I recruit, then you got a chance to get hired.  That’s part of the deal.”

LSU head coach Les Miles took a shot at a high school athlete when former #1 quarterback recruit Gunner Kiel decommitted from the Tigers and signed with Notre Dame instead.  Miles told LSU fans at the annual “Bayou Bash” that Kiel lacked “the chest and the ability to lead” his program.  In a related accusation of cowardice, Michigan head coach Brady Hoke made news last summer for telling Wolverine fans at the West Michigan Sports Commission that Notre Dame was “chickening” out of playing the Big Ten program into the future.

Whether it’s a student-athlete arrested for making a poor decision or a head coach engaging in bravado for an alumni base, there’s ample opportunity to cause trouble.   And, at times, the pot-stirring can even extend to the media seeking stories to fill the void left from the absence of football.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly recently discussed the state of the Fighting Irish program to college football writer and FOX Sports analyst Bruce Feldman on Feldman’s podcast.  Kelly covered a host of different issues, including Notre Dame’s future series with the Texas Longhorns, its desire to schedule an SEC opponent, and the ACC partnership set to begin this fall.  Kelly detailed the pros and cons of Notre Dame’s relationship with the ACC, stating the deal made the Irish’s athletic department “whole” but also made football scheduling more complicated than it had been in the past.  It was a routine interview one would expect to hear take place during the summer when little else is going on.

Is Notre Dame football getting a raw deal with ACC Partnership?” writes Kevin McGuire of CollegeFootball Talk, a college football news website.  McGuire references Brian Kelly’s interview with Feldman, pointing out Kelly’s comments that football scheduling is less flexible under the new ACC partnership.

“So is Notre Dame football getting the raw deal here? Hardly. The Irish can take advantage of the ACC’s bowl tie-ins under certain circumstances and will benefit by having that exposure in the east and southeast in addition to the west coast and any other national opponents Notre Dame ends up scheduling,” McGuire concludes.

At no point during Kelly’s interview did he explicitly state or imply that Notre Dame felt it was getting a “raw deal” from its ACC partnership.  Such phrasing was never used, and one has to wonder: Out of all the potential talking points discussed during the interview – such as Notre Dame’s desire to schedule an SEC program – why did McGuire focus solely on Kelly’s statement that the scheduling was now more difficult?  With USC, Stanford and Navy locked in every season, and with five ACC opponents to be played annually, Kelly’s statement regarding Notre Dame’s schedule was not only accurate but previously well documented.

Simply put, equating Kelly’s innocuous comment about scheduling difficulties to mean Notre Dame feels it received a “raw deal” from the ACC – which it doesn’t – is such a leap in logic that, at its best, it’s deliberately misleading, and at its worst it’s an intentional hatchet job to generate a headline.

No reasonable sports writer would ever imply or rhetorically ponder whether Notre Dame landed a “raw deal” with the ACC.  In fact, most sports writers within ACC territory lamented what a great deal the Irish received.  John Feinstein of the Washington Post discussed the topic in an article literally titled, “In Notre Dame deal, ACC got short end of the stick.”  Feinstein wrote, “Let’s give credit to Notre Dame where it is due: When it comes to deal-making no one does it better than the Irish.”  He concluded by arguing Notre Dame was “laugh[ing] all the way to the bank.”

Luke DeCock of the Charlotte Observer also believed Notre Dame received the better part of the agreement, though he stated he felt the ACC stands to benefit from the partnership.  DeCock described the agreement as “controversial”, “unusual” and “one-sided in Notre Dame’s favor.”

Headline-seeking articles such as the one posted by CollegeFootball Talk are not new. published an article criticizing Notre Dame’s “Pot of Gold” recruiting strategy as a “gimmick” designed to draw attention to the program’s NFL draft history despite numerous factual errors, such as naming the wrong recruits within the article.  ThePostGame’s coverage was made all the less credible when they failed to cover the report that Alabama had been sending fliers to recruits with copies of NFL paystubs and the number fifty-one million listed in bold to highlight how much current Crimson Tide players are making in the NFL (though, oddly enough, ThePostGame did have time to write an article titled “New Issue of GQ Sizzles: Shirtless Tim Tebow” during the same timeframe).

During the summer dead period, it’s expected that mistakes will be made.  Student-athletes are young and coaches have an alumni base to galvanize.  But sports writers should refrain from becoming a part of the story by joining in on the shenanigans of the subjects they cover.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his fiancée. Scott can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Hate to say this but the author wrote an article just like the ones he was complaining about. The reality of commentary journalism basically from inception …

    -Unless you have a captive audience the headline needs to capture the readers attention. Pretty much everyone who follows sports will recognize ND no matter what the rest of the headline says but will be more likely to read it if there might be controversy or better is. Off season media coverage of ND football as a title … not so interesting

    -Besides a good lead to the “story” successful (read) commentators are that because they offer their readers an unusual take or some unique insight or knowledge. The ACC article in essence says the obvious for just about any independent joining a conference in any sport … gee a downside might be not being able to use the old scheduling strategy. Of course the author could have described Kelly’s comment as an opportunity to develop new relationships, etc (what our media guys would say) and many readers would have tuned out

    Pretty much accept the commentary media world as it is. Really only get upset when factual information is incorrect or used way out of context (sort of politifacting) or when the author delves into motives, state of mind, and inferences that are mostly speculation (even ones that are “positive”). Actually look for the content of an article to be “fair and balanced” (the meaning it had pre Fox News) and to tell me something useful. If that happens often enough will read the authors work no matter the headline with the hope it will be worthwhile.

    BTW generally speaking I don’t see a media war on ND but rather the folk doing this type of journalism plying their trade. Think our problem over the years has been we are a national entity that has been at or near the top of the hill (or hoping to rebound there) and thus have lots of audience for stories about how we got there or what we are doing to stay there or get back and those looking for the backstories behind the official image we present that ND is a model of doing “it the right way” and never acting in our self interest

  2. The reality of Notre Dame football is the reality of Notre Dame Football.
    Its essence is its definition, and perceptions cannot change that.

    The sporting press is a parasite industry. Yeah, Parasite. As in fly, maggot, feeding off the health, blood and “precious bodily fluids,” (cf. Jack Ripper, Dr. Strangelove.) of the host.

    Knuckleheads can make million working for ESPN and blathering on about
    sports gaga. CF Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas of ESPN, er,
    Skip, the faux Freudian, Bayless and Stevie “The loudest guy in the room is the dumbest guy in the room” Smith.

    I lubs dem Irish and lubs when they play and play well.

    That’s all that matters.

  3. When reading anything these days I find many, to the percentage of better than 50% of journalists/writers whether it be sports or not, will sensationalize or flat out concoct a conclusion for the controversial headline without any regard for fact or evidence.

    The sad part about this type of reporting is many readers will agree with the headline grabbing up what they can instantly read and base their opinions on that one moment. Therefore it is now fact.

    1. We agree wholeheartedly with your concluding statement! The distortions and outright lies are simply too much.

      Stay Safe.

  4. A majority of the media writers are jackals and will stoop to any level to create a story or an issue where none existed. Many perjure their souls. They skewer those of good character while protecting the ilk of their liking. Examples might include baiting Coach Kelly on the ACC affiliation, chastising Coach Sabin for qb transfers, and demonizing Coach Franklin for some silly joke concerning hires. PC rubbish. As for the national news services; look no further than the kid glove treatment the scandalous forces in Washington, D.C. perpetrated upon this country and walked away unscathed in most cases. And some of you think that this does not permeate the sports journalist world? Now that’s naivety! Top to bottom, they are all currs. A revolting state of affairs.

    Football season needs to get here and soon. Ignore the ‘Sons of Nast.’

    Stay safe.

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