Notre Dame Scheduled Another November Collapse in 2018

Notre Dame has had problems in November the last five seasons.  In three of the last Novembers Notre Dame opened the month as supposed national title contenders.  All three times Notre Dame ended the season well outside the race after failing to close the seasons strong and losing games each year.  So of course when Notre Dame officially announced its 2018 schedule this week, they also announced that they were playing Syracuse at Yankee Stadium as a marketing ploy instead of playing the game at Notre Dame Stadium leaving the Irish just one game at home in 2018 after October 13.

Has anyone at Notre Dame been watching football games in November the last five years to realize that Notre Dame has had problems during the month?  If they have, who in their right mind thought that surrendering a home game in November in 2018 for marketing dollars and forcing the team to travel 4 of the last 5 weeks of the year was a good idea?

I mean, really.  This isn’t rocket science.  You have a team that’s had trouble in the month of November so now you are asking that same team to do the following over a five week span.

  • October 27 – travel all the way across the country to San Diego to face Navy and their freaking option
  • November 3 – travel to Chicago to play Northwestern in Ryan Field – it’s a short trip but it’s still a trip away from home
  • November 10 – host Florida State who will no doubt be much improved over their disaster 2017 season
  • November 17 – travel to New York City to play Syracuse at Yankee Stadium in a game that could have and should have been played at home
  • November 24 – travel all the way across the country again to play a USC team that very well could be in the national championship race

This isn’t smart scheduling or resume building.  It’s sacrificing home field advantage in exchange for the almighty dollar.  The Navy game didn’t have to be played in San Diego but that was agreed upon a while back.  Fine.  With that already agreed upon though, why on earth make this team travel again when they didn’t need to.  Just so you can sell more Shamrock Series jerseys and hats and brag about playing in more pro stadiums?

Moving the game to Yankee Stadium didn’t do any good for Notre Dame from a resume standpoint.  Syracuse isn’t expected to be any good next year so even if Notre Dame wins big it will be expected.  Playing in Yankee Stadium won’t give this game any more exposure either.  There is literally a bowl game in the stadium every year so the novelty of this wore off a long time ago.  Notre Dame has even played in this stadium already twice in the last seven years – 2010 and 2013.

From a football perspective, this just doesn’t make any sense and behind the scenes I would hope that Brian Kelly was in Jack Swarbrick’s office raising some hell over this because it’s just not smart.  For a school that touts itself as placing academics so highly, how does all of this November travel help the student athletes forced to do all of this travel in the classroom too?  I can’t imagine that all 85 scholarship players will be able to maneuver that travel gauntlet without having to make a few arrangements on assignments.

If the purpose behind this is to help build the brand, guess what, want to know what will build the Notre Dame brand more than anything else right now? Winning some games in November and finishing seasons as strong as Notre Dame has been starting some of them.

Let’s forget about the November angle for a second too and just concentrate on Notre Dame surrendering a home game.  This team is 13-12 at games played outside of Notre Dame Stadium in the last four seasons including bowl games and all away games.  (2017: 3-2; 2016: 2-4; 2015: 4-3; 2014: 4-3).  Notre Dame will now have just six true home games in 2018.

I’ve been on board with the premise of the Shamrock Series for a while and think games like the 2020 matchup with Wisconsin at Lambeau Field are amazing.  That said, if Notre Dame truly wants to contend for a national championship, it has to cut crap like this out or it won’t make a damn difference who the head coach, defensive coordinator, or strength and conditioning coach is.

Think Nick Saban would allow this to happen at Alabama and put his team at such a disadvantage in November? Nope.  Remember, Alabama played Mercer at home a couple weeks ago.  They took the flak for it and then they still went to the playoffs over Ohio State despite playing a D1AA school at home in November.

Playing both Florida State and USC in the same month was never a great idea in the first place, but some of that was the luck of the draw with the ACC scheduling agreement.  What Notre Dame has done, however, is take a difficult situation and make it even more difficult.

Notre Dame’s last home game in 2018 prior to Senior Day on November 17 is October 13 against Pitt.  After that, Notre Dame has a bye week and then plays four of its final five games away from Notre Dame Stadium.  That’s one game at home after October 13th.

Brian Kelly said last week that his team looked emotionally spent in the preparations for Stanford this year.  A large part of that is on him to fix and honestly, I still don’t know why the heck he ever admitted that publicly, but do you think making your team travel to San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles all in a five week period is a recipe for success with regards to keeping a team fresh mentally?

Spoiler alert: it’s not.  It is a recipe for cash to flow in though so if that’s the goal, this was a smart move.  If the goal for Notre Dame is to win a national championship again someday though, well then this was a terrible move. And if the Irish enter next November in the thick of the College Football Playoff race only to collapse in November again, Brian Kelly might only have to look at the way this schedule was constructed as one of the reasons why.

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35 Comments

  1. I think Notre Dame should drop Stanford and renew Purdue. Notre dame has played Purdue a lot longer through history than Stanford. Also with a good coach Tiller, now Brohm Purdue has traditionally been an 8 to 9 team win. Stanford going to decline here shortly imo.

  2. An in-season “collapse”….or a January 1st humiliation by any one of the three best teams in college football?
    Pick your poison.

  3. Swarbrick obviously seems more concerned about traveling around the country on ND’s nickel than ND winning games. It’s either that or he likes setting the head coaches up for failure.

  4. I get the point about the heavy, coast to coast travel, which no other team does in November if at all. Combined with the heavy course load, it’s one of the truly stupid self inflicted wounds ND management imposes on the football program.

    What I don’t get is why it’s more money to play in NY. TV money won’t be affected and crowd size should be about the same I’d guess. The delta in paraphernalia sales can’t be that big. What am I missing?

  5. I just went back and look at ND’s schedule in the last National Championship year. They played 11 regular season games. Seven were at home and four were away. Out of the away games they are spread out over the three months. Only two of these games were against power houses USC and MSU. The other two were against Pitt and Navy. The furthest ND traveled was California, with most games coming within a minor time zone difference.
    The following year they played 6 away games and traveled quite a bit, before playing Miami and losing at the end of the year.

    Finally, lets look at 93. They played 4 away games the furthest being Stanford. The rest were spread out again and within a time zone radius.

    My point is what ND is asking of it’s players has never been asked before and not by other programs. Alabama and other schools spread out their scheduling and away games to refresh players. What ND is asking is for it’s players to take a demanding course load and play and NFL schedule. It is almost nearly impossible.

    If you main recruiting tool is the campus than play more home games. The reason everyone is telling ND to go into a conference is that the conference would have to balance home and away games. Also, it is time for ND to stop being nice and require the boys from Troy to travel to ND in November and for that matter some of these warm weather teams to play in the cold. If not we will get more of the same November collapses

  6. GREAT POINTS IN THIS ARTICLE. I AGREE WITH LOUIE. FOLLOW THE TOP PROGRAMS SCHEDULING STYLE. BAMA, CLEMSON, OKLAHOMA, OSU, WOULD NEVER MAKE IT THROUGH THIS SCHEDULE WITHOUT A LOSS. JUST STUPIDITY FROM SWARBICK.

  7. This is the most whiny article I’ve read in some time. I don’t care for the Shamrock series to ever be played on the Northeast, it isn’t football country. Very little talent there and it’s crap weather. It should always be played near home or in the Southeast, period. That is my only rant. As far as schedule goes, do you want them to front load it so that you can complain about it being to difficult in Sept like this site has done before.

    1. Why is front loading the only other alternative? Why not actually spread the games out? And you missed the point entirely about surrendering a home game in November. That is the problem here. The schedule was manageable even with two potential top 10 teams in November but then Notre Dame made it harder on themselves for no good reason. THAT is my issue.

  8. I’m shocked to see a number of people ready to see ND join a conference full time. There was a time when that was a taboo subject.

    I’m not totally old school, I’m ok with the jumbotron for instance (kids aren’t going to want to play at a school that has a field stuck in 1970 these days) and I think they’ve done a good job maintaining an old school feel without just being old.

    But I’m very much a traditionalist in certain things. Not having names on the regular uniforms, slashes in the endzones and the other being their independence. I like the fact that ND is willing to schedule ACC, Big 10, Pac 12, SEC and Big 12 schools within the same season if they can pull it off. Basically they feel they can play anyone. It’s great for the players in the sense that they get national exposure every single week.

    If they join a conference that’s all over. Within 5 years they’d be no different then any other school. Smaller games, say a game against a lower level ACC school would not even be on national TV. ND would be giving up a lot. They would not be able to keep the NBC deal. They’d have to give that up as soon as the contract ended. Right now ND football is on every week on national TV. If you’ve got cable or satellite, you can see all 12 regular season games. Join a conference and in a few years you’d likely miss 2 or 3 games depending on where you live and what schools in your area are playing in.

    I agree with Tim, if we need to schedule around a coach (or join a conference) to artificially engineer a few more wins, maybe it’s the coaching. However, I do take Swarbick to task for his move which is only a money grab. If ND is in the run for a playoff spot, ND playing Syracuse in NY will not be on anyone’s make or break list, so what’s the point. Making the kids travel from one end of the country to the other for no other benefit then money makes no sense.

    1. If winning is a priority, it makes no sense, but it makes a lot of dollars; the ND athletic admin. priorities are obvious. Follow the money.

  9. Frank,
    This article detailing Swarbick following the money, despite putting his team in an absurdly impossible situation after mid-October, is clearly presented and self-evident to any with even a bit of brain activity.

    It’s hypocritical at the very least when fans bad-mouth the athletes for leaving early to cash in at the team’s expense but understand when the administration pursues more money to cash in at the team’s expense.
    “Follow the money”- in American politics and ND athletics.
    In the meantime, Swarbick will continue to do the money-bloated athletics program’s bidding and add to their overflowing coffers even while sabotaging the team, clarifying what the athletic administration’s priorities are.

    At ND, the moneychangers in charge maximize the minimum (chasing more dollars) while they minimize the maximum (winning). When is enough, enough, Mr. Swarbick?
    “Although the odds be great or small, ‘ol Notre Dame must overcome all- even as their administration marches onward for dollars more.”

  10. Yeah, a bad move. I’ve liked some of the moves Swarbick has made (threading the needle with the ACC agreement while maintaining overall independence for instance). Taken by itself maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But the fact that one week they have to play in NY, then the next week in CA is a bad move and asking for trouble.

    I typically like that ND plays a tough schedule and it really gets me whenever haters talk about ND “playing Navy every year” while the school they are a fan of plays a school like Savannah State. Hypocrisy to the extreme if you ask me. But it doesn’t make sense to artificially make it harder for absolutely no benefit other than to pull in a few more dollars. This won’t help SOS at all and will have no effect on playoffs, bowl games or anything else.

  11. Follow what all of the elite football programs do. Is the administrative mind set at ND so entrenched that any change is impossible to make
    to make ? The 2018 schedule with all of this ridiculous travel is mind boggling. Do you see Alabama, Clemson, Ohio St, Oklhoma doing
    this type of scheduling ? Why put these students-athletes under intense pressure on and off the field when you DON”T HAVE TO
    Things have changed dractically in college football yet ND makes tiny tweaks that rarely produce any advantages. Keep USC and Navy
    on the permanent schedule and rotate Stanford, Mich, Michigan St and maybe one of the SEC schools every 4 or 5 years.
    If Kelly loses to Michigan on opening day both him and Swarbrick will on the hottest seat they have ever felt underneath their fannies.

  12. I’m so tired of hearing about Navy’s “friggin options” and the difficulties ND has in stopping it. I appreciate how the option offense it fits certain programs and love watching it having played it as QB, but holy keeper it’s not that unstoppable as it’s presented in multiple ND blogs. Ask several on Navys opponents, none with NDs talent, who have defended the option effectively.

    I think NDs late season dumps are as much mental as physical. I would think the academic load and requirements combined with the demands of playing football could eventually cause mental fatigue.

    1. Exactly. Take Army, which STIFLED the option from Navy two years running. Is it so hard?

      No.

      Stop making excuses.

  13. The best solution is to join the ACC as ND already has for basketball and other sports. Yes, there would be travel, but the schedule would be manageable. Keep USC, Navy annually and one or two others randomly, plus 7-8 ACC opponents. It would improve ND recruitment in the east, particularly Florida. And a conference title is an important interim goal to a National Championship.

    Frank is right – the scheduling has been brutal and not nearly what other National Championship hopefuls have faced. Independence is a grand tradition, but it’s become impractical and counterproductive, as recent years prove. Let’s face it and move.

    1. Bob….I totally agree with joining the acc. Playing for a conference championship may be the tonic in late stages of the season particularly if you are out of the running for a four spot.

    2. Yep playing a bunch of games on the road and heaven forbid we lose a second game at any point because then they’re done
      mentally as National Championship is out of the picture. You think one of these kids is really worried once the NC is out of
      the picture if they play in the Cotton or Peach Bowl or the Citrus Bowl. Hell I’d throw my last game to spend my holidays in
      Orlando playing in the Citrus Bowl rather than hanging out in Dallas or Atlanta. The best November motivation is for these
      kids to have a chance to play in their conference championship. Kelly didn’t see a tired team at Stanford it was Orlando in
      January or Dallas in January. I am not tired I am going to Disney World!!!! I keep praying that an 8 team championship will
      finally come and push ND into full ACC membership.

  14. Hey Frankie Vitovitch – STOP YOUR DAMN WHINING! You sound like the MGoBlosers up north. It would be against the kool of Notre Dame football to suit the schedule for comfort. That would REALLY upset me. Life is about winners and whiners. So stop whining. And toughen the damn football team.

    1. …and it wasn’t too long ago, no – it was pretty long ago. But I can remember when Stanford was a cake-walk of a game. Things change.

  15. Last time ND played the regular season finale at home was BC in ’93. Since that FG went through the upright they are 7-16-1 in 24 straight away games to close the regular season.

  16. Notre Dame has been scheduling poorly since 1980 imho. I’m okay with the 5 acc games, I’m okay with Navy Stanford and Usc but why can’t we play the Usc game the last game of the season every year. Let them come to Notre Dame in late November every other year. If they refuse schedule the Stanford game last every year. The way it is set up now Notre Dame never plays at home the last game of the season. Also, the 4 games Notre Dame schedules outside the acc and navy, usc and Stanford should be 2 easy games to start the season and then 2 good opponents, schools like Washington state, Kansas state, west Virginia , Mississippi state, teams that usually win 9 games a year. Forget scheduling, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan. If your good enough you’ll play teams like that in the playoffs anyway.

    1. Only if Notre Dame, as great as they are, agree to play USC or Stanford out there in September with a 7:30 PST kickoff as so many
      teams from the Big Ten and East coast have done in the past.

  17. So we’re worried about TRAVELING all the way to Chicago and playing Navy, Northwestern and Syracuse in November. I don’t care where those games are played – if you want to be an elite program … this should not be a problem. Wow … have we fallen that far that these are the things that we worry about now? And we’re going to compete with the Alabama’s, Ohio States and Clemson’s of the world? Sounds like a lot of whining and excuse making to me

    1. The problem is making a bunch of 18-22 year olds travel over 5,000 miles over the course of a few weeks without there being any inherent benefit for the program. Notre Dame gains nothing – other than $$$ – for playing another game in Yankee Stadium against a mediocre at best opponent.

    2. ND can compete w/ Alabama, Ohio St, Clemson with an honest ,practical re-assessment of the scheduling. Do you ever see Saban, Meyer
      Sweeney, or other top coaches complain about the schedule or travel time. The alumni and student body don’t complain about
      the schedule or travel. When was the last time Alabama, Clemson, Georgia have travelled to the West Coast ? These schools
      rarely schedule West Coast teams. Has Clemson or Oklahoma ever played in Yankee Statium , San Antonio, Cowboys stadium or
      over in Ireland ? I could be wrong but i don’t recall these teams ever playing there ? Why ? Because these school want to play
      in front of the student body, alumni and boosters. Thats where your loyalties lie. Change the scheduling to align w/ the elite
      progams and you will see a different outcome in November

  18. I think the article conveys much factual accuracy regarding the scheduling issue. I agree, if improvement for the ND brand is occur, it will happen by on the field winning, not picking gimmicky venues to play in to maybe increase cash flow. So, once again ND athletic Admin, nice job of shooting ND in the foot for self sabotage. It’s these kind of decisions that continually lead the fan base to criticize how the football program is operated by the decisions implemented.

  19. You made a clear case for what you don’t want, but
    said nothing about what you would change it to.
    So your post sounds like a whiny bitchfest from a
    Michigan fan.
    If you want to complain, please do. But how about
    your alternative solution?

    1. Pretty simple to interpret that if you read the post but it’s pretty simple. 1) Don’t surrender home games for marketing ploys and 2) Don’t make a team that’s faded in November and been weak on the road travel 4 of the last 5 games of the season.

  20. Filling seats is way more important than winning games. Who would want to see Notre Dame vs. North Dakota St. It would probably Pack em’ in anyway.

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