Marcus Freeman made the media rounds yesterday, and most of the headlines surrounded his comments on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and their conference status, the upcoming Ohio State game, NIL, and other issues of the day. His answers were more or less what you would expect if you had followed the program in recent weeks. A commitment to support players as much as we could within the rules. A statement that the Buckeyes are a great team he is excited play. An acknowledgment that while joining a conference might become necessary in the future, it isn’t now, and until that day comes Notre Dame is content to stand athwart history politely asking the oleaginous lackeys of various integers to leave them alone. Etc.
Another sunrise and another proclamation of "Not today Satan" pic.twitter.com/IOVdifFxX5— Brendan (@verypiratey) July 11, 2022
But buried in his remarks was a pretty refreshing comment in response to a question about Notre Dame’s ability to compete for a national championship. Here’s Freeman, asked directly whether he feels the Irish can compete for a title:
“Absolutely, absolutely. We won’t make excuses for what we don’t have. We have everything we need to truly maximize our potential and compete against the best teams in the country.”
Many read this as a jab at Freeman’s predecessor, who since his departure has been rather open about what he saw as limiting factors that made it impossible for him to win a title at Notre Dame. And while that is probably part of it, the truth is there are a great many to whom this is a rebuke. Reporters, commentators, even fans - of both other teams and the Irish themselves - have shown little hesitation to voice similar “excuses for what we don’t have” over the last few years. You do not have to look far to hear that Notre Dame can’t recruit, coach, plan, etc. for X,Y,Z reason (academic standards, weather, location, facilities, religious affiliation, nebulous cultural factors). And you can hear these things not only from Notre Dame’s detractors, but from its supporters as well, usually as comfort after a crushing loss on the big stage. After seeing your team fall short of championship-caliber play, it can be oddly comforting in the moment to believe that reaching said level was never possible - even if it eats at you in the long run.
That’s what makes Freeman’s attitude here so refreshing - he is not accepting what too many of us (and I absolutely include myself at various times in this) have come to accept, that the world of college football has reached a level that Notre Dame cannot adjust to compete with. It may not happen overnight, and there will be challenges we aren’t used to - like holding on to your five-star edge when the Alabama Crimson Tide come calling - but he is committed to seeing that change happen, and that is something to get fired up about. Happy weekend Irish fans, only 37 days ‘til gameday.