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:lol: From the Register Guard


Irish still dividing figure in football

By Chris Dufresne

Los Angeles Times

Published: Monday, November 28, 2005


PALO ALTO, Calif. - Notre Dame did it again.


It made half the college football world delirious and the other half want to jump off a roof.


There is no in between with these guys, no shades of gray, no shrugging of shoulders.


There is only drama - win, lose or draw - and more buzz than any 10 beehives can produce.


Take Saturday for instance.


Notre Dame did not simply muster a game-winning touchdown in the final minute to beat Stanford, 38-31, at Stanford Stadium.


The 80-yard drive, in six plays, with tailback Darius Walker breaking the goal line on a six-yard run with 55 seconds left, was worth $16 million to the Irish, the amount of green the school will cash for making one of eight Bowl Championship Series slots.


Except Notre Dame, because it is a football independent, does not have to share it with anybody.


At 9-2, and by the skin of Stanford's teeth, Notre Dame rallied back from 31-30 in the final quarter and qualified for a BCS game, likely the Fiesta.


''Sign me up,'' an ebullient Irish coach Charlie Weis said after his team totaled 663 total yards and gave up 345.


Nothing can be put in ink until the bowl rotation is finalized next week, but Notre Dame's harrowing victory was greeted with chants of ''BCS! BCS!'' from fans that seem to materialize from far corners of stadiums and Earth.


The only thing for sure is that Notre Dame is in and probably will bump 10-1 Oregon out of a BCS game - and that's just the way it goes.


Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker did not join the post-game party on the field because, for now, his hands are tied.


If USC and Texas win next week and play for the national title in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl will get the first and third picks in the bowl selection process.


It seems a cinch that the Fiesta Bowl, in that scenario, will take Notre Dame to match against 9-2 Ohio State or (yeah, right) 10-1 Oregon, which, by the way, beat Stanford, 44-20, in Palo Alto on Oct. 1.


Junker can't invite Notre Dame yet because if Texas or USC loses next week, he might not get the chance. If fact, if USC and Texas lose, he might get USC vs. Colorado.


The desire to take Notre Dame, though, was made clear by Junker's attendance.


Notre Dame in your bowl means you don't have to work as hard to get television ratings or sell hotel rooms.


''They are clearly a national team,'' Junker said.


In trying to line up Fiesta Bowl opponents, Junker hears, ''Boy, if we could play Notre Dame'' and ''Boy, would our players love to play Notre Dame.''


Notre Dame sets off bells and whistles.


Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen, for instance, was openly rooting for Stanford on Saturday.


Hansen is trying like dickens to get a second team, Oregon, into a BCS game, and the only bowl that makes sense for Oregon is the Fiesta.


A Stanford win would have knocked Notre Dame out of the mix and created the opportunity for a Penn State-Oregon matchup in the Fiesta.


Stanford's loss, though, all but dooms Oregon's hopes.


''That's just the way it is,'' Hansen said.


The commissioner could not understand why the Fiesta would


want 9-2 Notre Dame instead of 10-1 Penn State.


He said he doesn't understand why bowls ''fall at the feet'' of Notre Dame when it comes to bowl selections.


He could point out that the Irish have lost seven straight bowl games and were routed, 41-9, by Oregon State in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.


Hansen doesn't get why the Fiesta would take two-loss Notre Dame and want to match them against two-loss Ohio State.


''You ought to go for the best football teams,'' Hansen said. ''You ought to be fair to all the teams and players. ... If they want 9-2 teams, that's their choice.''


It was only a year ago, two days after Thanksgiving, that Notre Dame was routed by USC at the Coliseum and soon became a program in need of a 12-step program.

Coach Tyrone Willingham was fired the following Tuesday, gridiron anarchy threatened to overtake the school, Utah coach Urban Meyer was supposed to be the savior, but his private jet flew over the Golden Dome on his way to Florida.


''It seems like a long time ago,'' Irish athletic director Kevin White said Saturday of some of the darkest days in the school's storied past.


Some thought it might take years for Notre Dame to recover.


It took less than a year.


Notre Dame woke up the echoes with a landscape-altering victory over Stanford that had nothing to do with the plan to raze 84-year-old Stanford Stadium almost immediately after the game.


The landscape the Irish altered was college football's.


Notre Dame turned last year's 6-6 into a new-and-improved 9-2. Weis, the first-year coach, has put pop back in a program that was a pop gun. While the Notre Dame defense still has a ways to go, the offense is pro style and efficient.


''Before I got here,'' Weis said, ''I don't think I knew if they could win a game like this.''


Does Notre Dame deserve to be in the BCS?


''No doubt about it,'' receiver Jeff Samardzija proclaimed on the field afterward.


Others have different opinions, but that doesn't alter reality.


Deal with it.

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