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Surrender Only To Excellence

Friends, Irishmen, lend me your ears. I have noticed a disquieting trend in Irish expectations for the dawn of the Kelly epoch--cautious optimism. "What's wrong with cautious optimism?" you ask. My response? Cautious optimism does not become us as Irish fans.

It belies a fear to invest our hearts, minds, and spirits into Notre Dame simply because we have been disappointed for so long.

Coach Kelly has a 20-year record of success at the college level, something that we haven't seen in an Irish general since Holtz. "But that was 20 years ago! The game has changed?!" you say. "Coach Kelly likes to pass, his spread offense can't control the line of scrimmage, he can't handle the pressure." Bollocks.

On this the eve of our "Season of Faith's Perfection," Irish Nation should take heart by looking to... Urban Meyer. Yes, Urban Meyer. Meyer executed at Florida the most rapid and dramatic turnaround in the history of major college football. And he did it via the spread. And he ran over, around and through SEC defenses. And his defenses shut down the nation's best athletes. Consider that in 2005 Urban Meyer took over a Florida squad that Ron Zook foolishly bumbled to a 7-5 finish the year before. Meyer's 2005 Gators returned 14 starters--7 on each side of the ball. Meyer's first year was less than perfect to be sure, but he accomplished much: a 9-3 record; wins over four ranked opponents; an undefeated home record; wins in 4 of his last 5 games; and a bowl win over a ranked opponent.

Brian Kelly has assumed control of an Irish team that returns 15 starters. He has as much talent at his disposal as any team in the country. The Irish have first round draft picks and potential first round draft picks on both sides of the ball. We have a solid supporting cast around our stars. We have four-star talent behind many of our starters. We have every reason to believe that Brian Kelly is as good a coach as Urban Meyer was when he took the reins at Florida. We should expect at least what Meyer achieved at Florida.

You had better believe that Brian Kelly expect his team to win immediately, and you had better believe that he has set goals accordingly. If I were Coach Kelly, these would be my objectives for this season:

  1. Win 10 games
  2. Go undefeated at home—Over are the days of letting people come into OUR HOUSE and push us around
  3. Go undefeated on the road
  4. BEAT SC
  5. Field top-25 offense
  6. Field top-25 defense
  7. Become a team—a group of people that (a) care about themselves as invididuals, (b) care about each other as teammates and (c) collectively cannot stand to lose. As Lou said, everyone like to win; we need to become a group of individuals that become ill at the very thought of losing
  9. Win BCS game
  10. Win National Championship Game

If we want the Irish to achieve greatly, we need to expect it. We must surrender only to excellence, as Father Hesburgh said.

To the team--it is the eve of battle. Girt your loins, like the Israelites preparing to depart Egypt. Expect to win. Accept no other outcome. To the fans--discard your cautious optimism. Believe in Notre Dame. If you will be standing on the hallowed ground of Notre Dame Stadium, yell until you lose your voice. Then yell some more on third down.

Ali said that "the fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights." The Irish have put in the work. Our players have already won the game through their offseason blood, sweat, and tears. Now we need only "dance under those lights."