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The Ty Legacy: Why ND sucked and why ESPN doesn’t have a clue

Darrin WallsAs many people reveled in the 3-9 Notre Dame football season this year – many die hard fans were particularly miffed by ESPN’s treatment of Charlie Weis and the football program. Not because they said we sucked – because we did. Rather, because ESPN refuses to bury the Ty Willingham firing and tries to play the race card as they gasp in horror that Charlie Weis was not given the same treatment. In reality, they are missing, for the benefit of their ratings, the fact that a large part of Notre Dame’s failure this year can STILL be attributed to Ty Willingham. Let me explain.

First let me say that I like Tyrone Willingham, I don’t blame him for taking the ND job, I think he tried as hard as he could, he is a man of exceptional dignity and principle and I honestly root for him to do well at Washington. However, his recruiting was so poor that it set the program back years. Ignoring the job a college coach does recruiting would be like ignoring the job an NFL GM does drafting. It is absolutely vital to the success of a program and look the other way shows a gross misunderstanding of the sport.

The 2007 ND football team was composed of 4 classes. The junior and senior classes, the rock of any football program, were recruited by Ty. The freshman and sophomore classes represent Weis’ first two years. Recruits are ranked by several services on a scale of 2-5 stars, with the ratings representing roughly the following descriptions.

5-star: Elite talent, usually only 30 make this grade. Potential game-changer and likely NFL prospect

4-star: Top or near top in their state. Top 10-15 in their position in the country. Quality starter for a high-end program, huge get for a lower-end program.

3-star: Quality player, likely to go to a school like Michigan State, Purdue, Oregon St., etc…

2-star: Happy to get an offer from a D-I school

The elite schools (LSU, Florida, USC, Ohio State) classes usually consist of 60-70% 4-5 star prospects and fill out their class with 3-stars they feel may be sleepers. The average class is around 20 players.

Here is how the Notre Dame football team looked like this year (and a look at their freshman class next year), based on the recruiting rankings from their senior year of H.S. (per rivals.com) Anyone who has since left the team or transferred was taken off the list.







# of Players

Avg. Rating









































The senior and junior classes represent 2 of the worst classes in Notre Dame history. Only SEVEN seniors lasted to their senior year, and of them, only two were 4-5 star players. The junior class isn’t much better, with only one 4-star. This isn’t even factoring in that not every player plays to their potential, some get hurt, some can’t handle college football, etc, etc. In terms of overall talent, the 2007 ND football team only had THREE upperclassmen that, coming out of high school, figured to be big-time college football players. Those 3 players combined for 35 rushing yards, 130 receiving yards and 20 tackles in 2007.

Aside from the lack of talent, you will also notice the very small numbers of total players. Ty recruited small classes to begin with, and then also lost many players through transferring or quitting.

Since Charlie came in, he has recruited, including the incoming ’08 freshman class,  thirty-nine 4-5 star players vs. Ty’s three. 39-3. The immense talent gap is the reason ND played mostly un-tested Fr. and So. this year, and a good reason why many of them looked lost being thrust into the college game earlier than they should have.

Next year will still be a bit of a struggle, with the senior class contributing nearly nothing to the program, and the freshman class once again being forced to play a major role.

The Future

Once the black hole of talent has left, things look fairly bright for Notre Dame (please excuse the horrendous play on words there). Since Weis’ has been head coach – the top programs in reeling in 4-5 star players are (not excluding transfers or academically ineligible players)…

  1. Florida, 50
  2. USC, 46
  3. Georgia, 44
  4. Notre Dame, 43
  5. LSU, 43
  6. Florida St., 42
  7. Texas, 41
  8. Ohio State, 34
  9. Oklahoma, 34
  10. Auburn, 34

Tell me those aren’t the 9 best programs in the NCAA… and Notre Dame. In the 3 years Ty recruited, he brought in 10, or, three times worse than anyone on this list. 6 of those 10 played for Notre Dame this year – the three mentioned above, and 3 5th year seniors.

The above is a list of elite college football programs. Once the legacy of Ty has been fully exercised, Notre Dame should take its place among the college elite once again and ESPN will finally stop running uneducated segments on the Willingham/Weis situation. Luckily, by this point, they will have expanded Sports Center to a 3-hour show with one hour dedicated to what A-Rod did that day, and another dedicated to what T.O. asked his mommy and daddy for Christmas, so there wouldn’t be time for that anyway.

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8 Responses

  1. You can blame Willingham for recruiting, but he still had enough quality and depth in those classes to prevent a 3-9 season. Weis went 3-9 because he didn’t manage his team well. Period.

  2. I agree that Weis could have done a (much) better job coaching this year – but to argue that there was depth in willingham’s classes is just wrong. they could have made up for lack of talent WITH depth – but they had neither. the only class with depth graduated last year (and was an OK class) – the next two, the ones that were still around this year – were horrible.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Pete, nice job on the research.

    The real issue for Charlie Weis over the next few years will be what he does with the talent he recruits. It is undeniable that his recruiting classes are strong. However, amidst the disappointments of this year, there were many accusations (mostly true) that Weis is not very good at “developing” his 18-year-old high schoolers into players capable of competing against the elite teams in the country. It’s been alleged that his NFL-style practices lack both regular contact and a strong emphasis on fundamentals. This is the same problem that led Nebraska to one of its worst seasons of all time and got Bill Callahan (also a former NFL coach) fired. Callahan was too stubborn and never learned from his mistakes, whereas I have the confidence that Weis will overcome this.

    My favorite stat of the college football season: Notre Dame has a longer current winning streak than both of the teams in the national championship game. What a strange year!

  4. “Ty Legacy” Isn’t part of coaching making your players better? Check out west virginia’s recruiting classes the last 5 or 6 years, very few 4 or 5 star recruits. If i’m not mistaken they did pretty good the last few years. Penn State doesn’t have many either and i think they handed it to the Irish this year. Bottom line, Charlie Weis is getting all these mega-recruits with his NFL reputation, not his college coaching ability.

  5. […] Top 100. For those unfamiliar with recruiting, here is my explanation of the star rankings from a previous postabout how Ty Willingham set the program back years with his […]

  6. Fellas (as Charlie would say), it is all about player talent. Among the elite programs, coaching talent is the difference between 8-4 and 11-1 — Lou Holtz vs Bob Davies.

    By 2009, ND will have a four or five star player in every position on both sides of the ball — in many cases two deep. The offense will feature Clausen with twenty starts under his belt (or Crist) with the best receiver corps east of Los Angeles.

    Corwin Brown will be in his third year, with John Tenuta blitz schemes on defense, and Charlie calling the plays on offense.

    And, yes, pass coverage led by a cornerback named Slaughter !

    ND might just run the table in 2009.

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  8. […] Top 100. For those unfamiliar with recruiting, here is my explanation of the star rankings from a previous post about how Ty Willingham set the program back years with his […]

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