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.