All, the time has come to officially pass the torch to Murtaugh and the rest of the crew here at OFD. Between family and my professional pursuits, my already limited spare time will all but disappear for the next couple of years. Simply stated, it's just time.
Just shy of 5 years ago, I started OFD with the only real goal being to create a place for rational conversation about Notre Dame football and the greater college football landscape. In a 5-year span, OFD grew from one guy who had zero clue what he was doing into the place that you see today. The education was vertical at times, but I will always believe that focusing on that singular goal is what made it work.
Today that rational conversation is quite large. It is also self-sustaining due to the continued efforts of a very talented staff and a pretty fantastic commentariat. Thank you for that. Knowing that never-ending conversation will still be going when I swing by here in the future has made this decision significantly easier for me.
How do you sum up five years in a single post? After giving that a little thought I decided that I don't want to completely re-hash the evolution of the site or spend a bunch of time thanking all of the individuals that have helped along the way. That alone would be a very long post. I will just say that those people all know who they are and how grateful I am for all of their direct and indirect contributions to the site. The people that I have met and the friends that I have made will be what I will always appreciate most about this experience. I will take care of thanking all of them behind the scenes and look forward to maintaining those friendships for years to come.
I eventually came to the conclusion that the best thing to do with this post would be to look back at some of the things that have transpired over the last 5 years that gave us so much to talk about. From year 5 under Weis through year 4 under CBK, it has been an interesting ride.
I have a feeling that I might find my inner Murtaugh when I take this look back but I will try and keep the more recent stuff brief. The last couple of years are still pretty fresh in everyone's memories and chances are most of you were around here for the majority of those anyway. Let's start at the beginning.
I launched the site just a few weeks after Jimmy Clausen led the Fighting Irish to a 49-21 victory over Hawai'i in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. I had no idea what I was doing, so I figured I would give myself the off-season to get unscrewed. Much to my surprise people started reading long before I was totally able to do that. At the time there were several good ND blogs so my initial concept was to discuss college football as a whole with a heavy Notre Dame lean. Hence, the more general site name, "One Foot Down." It took less than a month to realize that a combination of having limited free time and my natural affinity for Notre Dame would turn it into an ND blog anyway!
National Signing Day brought Manti Te'o's commitment and a buzz was in the air. I spent most of the spring studying recruiting rankings, looking at the roster, and trying to determine whether or not the improved recruiting under Weis would help the Irish turn the corner in 2009. In the beginning it was pretty much just MotS and I debating K Mac vs. Sergio Brown in the comments. Every now and then tlndma and a couple of others would chime in too.
That March I accepted an invitation from the Subway Domer to join several other ND blogs in the early version of the Irish Blogger Gathering. That was fun. I also kept dissecting recruiting rankings, talent levels, and dug into the Notre Dame depth chart. It looked better than it had in years, but I was cautiously optimistic that it would manifest itself in more W's in 2009.
The summer was relatively quiet with the exception of the USC investigation that was heating up. That prompted me to write this post about choosing sides. That was the first OFD post that got linked around on the message boards and discussed on a larger level. Someone was actually reading this stuff!
The 2009 season wasted no time challenging my desire to have a rational conversation. The Irish opened with a 35-0 victory over Nevada, but promptly followed that up with a gut wrenching 38-35 loss to Michigan at the Big House. The loss was on Weis and ND, but the officials certainly didn't do ND any favors on that day. Notre Dame followed that game up with narrow wins over Michigan State and Purdue. At 3-1 they still had a chance at a decent season.
A thrilling overtime win over Washington followed. Freshman Manti Te'o started for the first time and recorded 10 tackles. Kyle McCarthy iced the game with a big hit that separated the Washington receiver from the ball. Next was a tough 34-27 home loss to USC. Golden Tate was pretty awesome that day. ND bounced back with wins over Boston College in South Bend and Washington State in the first ever Shamrock Series game down in San Antonio. Notre Dame was 6-2 heading into November.
In November the wheels came off. It started with an ugly home loss to Navy and another on the road at Pittsburgh. Then we hit rock bottom. Chuck Weis was in tears when the team came out of the tunnel against UCONN and after a 2OT loss to the Huskies, we had all joined him. When that game ended we all knew a coaching search was right around the corner. The subsequent 45-38 loss on the road at Stanford nailed the coffin shut and closed out the season at 6-6. Letting Stanford score to get the ball back at the end of the game pretty much summed up the season. Two days later on Monday November 30th, Charlie Weis was relieved of his duties as the Notre Dame Head Coach.
At the time it seemed like the coaching search took forever, but in retrospect it was pretty quick. On December 11th Notre Dame hired Brian Kelly as its 31st Head Football Coach. We occupied the rest of our December talking about CBK, the Bowl Games, Mark Ingram's Heisman, and things like tWWL 30 for 30 episode "The U." Was that really 5 years ago?
We started the year off by watching Alabama beat Texas for their first National Title under Nick Saban. A few days later Pete Carroll left USC holding the sanction bag, and the Trojans quickly hired Lane Kiffin. I'm still smiling.
We blew through signing day and dug back into the recruiting/ talent discussion and tried to decide what Brian Kelly might be able to do with the roster that he was inheriting.
In March I joined our buds at Barking Carnival and moved over to become the Notre Dame site on the FanTake network. Shortly after the move our first guest writer treated us to a series of X's and O's posts on the 3-4 defense. That's when I knew for certain that I needed to beef up our writing staff. Somewhere in there Jack Swarbrick hinted around about potentially joining a conference. The internet melted.
Later that spring Notre Dame signee Matt James lost his life in a tragic spring break accident. Back in South Bend, spring football was underway and I saw some things that I liked about CBK's approach. At the Blue-Gold game Nate Montana was QB2 and freshman T.J. Jones snagged 4 passes for 56 yards and a TD. From there we dove back into the usual offseason routine.
That June Eric Murtaugh wrote his first post on OFD. He was a machine from day one, and we quickly became partners in this endeavor. Over the summer we wrote about any and everything- the USC sanctions, conference expansion, the Texas connection, Notre Dame's Independence, ND's rivals, and how brutally difficult the 2012 Notre Dame schedule was going to be!
By the time the 2010 season got underway, we had a handful of writers on staff and the site quickly began to resemble what you see here today. We started to dig deeper into recruiting, X's and O's, and all of the other things that have become OFD staples.
The Irish opened the season with a win over Purdue then lost 3 straight to Michigan, Michigan State (Little Giants), and Stanford. It was a rough start. Somewhere in there Reggie Bush forfeited his Heisman Trophy.
In October wins over Boston College, Pitt, and Western Michigan got the Irish back above .500. A subsequent loss to Navy left all of us with an all too familiar feeling and a 4-5 record. The next week Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan lost his life in a tragic accident while filming practice. The tragedy rocked the campus and followed the team into the Tulsa game two days later. Quarterback Dayne Crist went down with another knee injury and freshman Tommy Rees stepped in. That end result of that game sparked the first of many debates on the site about Tommy Rees and offensive play calling.
Then in November the improbable happened. The Irish closed out the season with 3 straight wins! First was a huge upset of then #15 Utah. Wins over Army and USC in Los Angeles followed. Robert Hughes was a man possessed against USC and helped snap an 8-game losing streak to the Trojans. The Irish closed out the season by dominating Miami in a frozen Sun Bowl to finish 8-5. The overall mood on the site was very positive after the way that the team closed out the season. There was plenty of discussion about locking up the staff and maintaining that momentum long term.
January got off to a busy start. Auburn beat Oregon in the BCS Championship, Chuck Weis (and his son) were hired as the OC at Florida, and Brady Hoke was hired to replace Rich Rodriguez at Michigan. Kyle Rudolph declared for the NFL Draft, but Michael Floyd decided to stick around for his senior season.
In February the class of 2014 signed their LOI's. Everett Golson, GA3, DaVaris Daniels, Matthew Hegarty, Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, Ishaq Williams, and Kyle Brindza headlined the class. They're still working on their legacy...
That spring Jim Tressel ran into trouble at tOSU, and back in South Bend Michael Floyd ran into some trouble of his own. As we debated the Floyd situation on the site CBK and Michael worked through it. Spring football was relatively uneventful with the exception of Aaron Lynch wowing everybody at the Blue-Gold game.
That summer OFD accepted an invite to move over to SBNation. We settled in quickly, finished up the off-season routine and got ready to kick of the 2011 campaign. We were ready to have a big season.
The season got off to a bad start with a bizarre loss to South Florida in South Bend. In the process of losing that game, Tommy Rees resumed his duties as the starter. Then the Irish traveled to Michigan for "Under the Lights" 1.0. I wish I could erase both of those games from my memory. I have a fuzzy memory of MotS talking me out of tossing my patio furniture over my back fence. Or did he talk me down after I had already done it? I can't remember... ND bounced back with a big win over Michigan State and a narrow win over Pitt to finish the month 2-2.
Big wins over Purdue and Air Force put the Irish at 4-2 before USC came to South Bend to play the first night game at Notre Dame Stadium in 21 years. Dayne Crist replaced an injured Rees, and his goal line fumble went 99 yards the other way for a TD. The blunder sealed the game and Crist's career at ND. On the site we debated both the loss and version 1.0 of piped in music at Notre Dame Stadium. A blowout win over Navy closed out November at 5-3.
A narrow win over Wake Forest was followed by an easy victory over Maryland in a Shamrock Series game at FedEx Field. Quite a discussion erupted on the site when Notre Dame announced the full "Shamrock Series" plan in the days leading up to the game. Oh those bowling ball helmets!
The Maryland win was followed by a close win over Boston College set the Irish up at 8-3 heading to Palo Alto. The Cardinal proved to be too much and the Irish finished the season at 8-4.
In December the Irish drew Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl and Baylor's RGIII won the Heisman Trophy. A familiar script of playing well but making just enough mistakes to lose materialized once again in Orlando. Notre Dame finished the season at 8-5.
We started the year watching Alabama beat LSU in the BCS Championship. I doubt any of us would have laid down a bet that ND would be playing the Tide for the title one year later.
The off-season was relatively quiet. CBK signed a smallish class of 17 and we all got ready for spring football. We couldn't wait to see if Goldrix, or maybe Gunner Kiel would be able to unseat Tommy Rees at quarterback. The Blue-Gold game was fun, and the vast majority of the OFD staff was able to spend the weekend together in South Bend.
The remainder of the off-season was relatively quiet, with the exception of quarterback Tommy Rees being taken down by a vigilante cabbie. His 1-game suspension paved the way for Everett Golson to take over under center. The season approached, and our expectations were high yet measured. We were excited about Golson, but could a redshirt freshman quarterback really pull it off?
The 2012 season exceeded our wildest expectations. There were so many great and memorable moments packed in between the big win over Navy in Ireland and the goal line stand at USC that I won't even try to rehash them. Almost every game delivered moments that none of us will likely forget any time soon. It was a magical season and being #1 for a few weeks there before the BCS Championship was pretty awesome. I can't wait to see that happen again.
Can we go back to 2012? Please? A brutal first half against Bama in the BCS Championship, rumors of CBK to the Eagles, Catfishing with Lennay Kekua, de-commitments, transfers, the Golson suspension, and then to top it off the injuries started piling up in fall camp. You could call it my least favorite off-season ever. Despite all of the drama the everyone stayed pretty reasonable around here for the most part.
The season hadn't even started and we knew that the depth chart was going to get tested. Once the games got going the injuries continued to pile up, a few weak areas got exposed, and four losses were fueled by turnovers of the most maddening variety. After the bowl game I'm hoping that the team spends their spring getting healthy, killing Longo Beach, and getting prepped for a 2014 that looks a little more like 2012 than 2013.
The wide angle
It has been an interesting stretch of time to cover Notre Dame and college football as a whole. If it happened at Notre Dame we probably talked about it here. If it was a big story on the national landscape we probably talked about that here too. We have always made a concerted effort to keep an eye on the national landscape to try and prevent ourselves from getting too myopic in our view of Notre Dame. It's tough to tell where you are if you aren't paying attention to where everyone else is.
There are so many storylines one could spend a few weeks in our archive just catching up. We have covered the final 5 years of the BCS. We watched the uniform craze explode in a way that will confuse those watching highlights for decades to come. The staff here even designed a uniform or two themselves. We saw a Notre Dame linebacker become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. We watched Reggie Bush give his Heisman back. We watched Notre Dame play for a National Championship only 5 years removed from a 3-9 season. I walk away expecting to see CBK lead the program to another run or two in the very near future.
When we moved OFD to SBN, we already had a decent-sized following and we brought them with us. The foundation was in place we just continued to build on it. Over the course of the last few years here we have methodically added writers to expand our coverage of Notre Dame and the greater college football landscape. With Notre Dame the focus will always be football but we remained ambitious about expanding that conversation to all Notre Dame athletics. We continue to expand our hoops coverage, and have made an effort to keep an eye on the other sports with our TWINDA series. We even tossed in some other things like Football Food. After 5 years the most controversial thing I managed to post was a Guacamole recipe. I consider that a nod to just how rational we've managed to keep things around here despite countless opportunities to let the place melt down. As for the whole "Whipping the guac" bit, at least it made it into the Unofficial OFD Lexicon.
The site is still growing and that won't slow down any time soon. At this point we have a pretty broad cast of characters on the staff and what is by far the best commentariat on the ND interwebs. The one person that I will thank in this venue is Murtaugh. Behind the scenes my lifestyle can be a little unpredictable at times and if it weren't for him this place would have closed up shop a long time ago.
With Murtaugh at the controls and the writing staff doing what they do, you can expect no real noticeable changes around here. As you all know I recruited myself out of a job as a writer a long time ago, and the staff is more than capable of covering down on the things that I do behind the scenes. The content will only keep getting better and as a result the conversation will continue to grow. I am really looking forward to seeing what they are able to do with the place.
Continue to keep the faith and keep one another sane. As frustrating as this season was at times, the Notre Dame football program is positioned to be very competitive for the foreseeable future. Try to relax a little bit and enjoy the ride.
Thanks OFD. Just keep being you.