Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hanging up our Jerseys | by Jay

If you're a regular reader, you've probably noticed the updates on BGS have been less and less frequent of late. Heck, that's an understatement: we've been MIA for over a month. As the season wound to a close and we entered into yet another coaching transition, Pat kept the lights on with the occasional update, but I and the other contributors haven't been blogging nearly as much as we used to. With the day-job priorities heating up (and my first baby on the way at the end of May) I haven't had nearly the time to devote to BGS as I had in the past. And Pat, Mike, Michael, Dylan, Jeff, Pete and Kevin are no less busy than I. It's with those bittersweet thoughts in mind that we think it's time to drop the curtain on the Blue-Gray Sky.

It's been a good run. When we started this endeavor, way back in the Winter of 2004, Tyrone Willingham had been fired, and Urban Meyer had just said "no thanks" to Notre Dame. Charlie was to be hired shortly thereafter, and we followed him diligently over these last five years. I think if BGS can claim anything, it's turned out to be a pretty comprehensive chronicle of the Charlie Weis era under the Dome. Over the last five years we've parsed the pressers, broken down the schemes, charted the recruiting, celebrated the victories, and mourned the losses. In the heyday of the blog, we were spending countless hours a week reading articles, brainstorming ideas, researching history and statistics, watching (and rewatching, and rewatching) games, corresponding with other bloggers and folks in the media, and writing and editing posts. One of our hallmarks was that we weren't afraid of the long-form post (or even the multi-post project, spread over several weeks). Maybe that was a way of getting out of having to post something every hour of the day, as many bloggers do it; but for us, the style seemed to fit. We took our time, polished things up, and when we were ready, hit that "post" button. It was a blast.


It's interesting to look back to that Winter of 2004. Eight years of mediocrity were capped by the controversial firing of Willingham, and many people -- including some of our own alums in the national media -- were proclaiming that Notre Dame was beyond salvaging; that the Irish would never again compete for a national champsionship; that, indeed, "the mystique [was] dead." Then, the rejection by Urban Meyer, a bitter pill that seemed to confirm our worst fears about the future of the program. Notre Dame was done.

Then Charlie walked in the door. He came in with bluster and bravado, saying, in effect [screw] that, we're not dead yet, Notre Dame can still compete. And I'm going to lead the charge. From today's vantage point looking back, Charlie's words might seem empty, nothing but a lot of talk and a badge. And he certainly didn't fulfill his early promises. But at the time, the attitude was critical. Charlie was a shot in the arm that was sorely needed. After being rebuffed and rejected and discounted by everyone, here was somebody -- one of our own, too -- who was willing to take that dead-end Notre Dame job, not make excuses, and try to turn this thing around. That five years later he's fallen short and been replaced doesn't mean we should turn those early statements against him. We were reeling, and his attitude and willingness to lead was exactly what we needed at the time.

If anything, Charlie proved that Notre Dame can still compete. He put the lie to the lazy, armchair conclusions about academic standards being too stringent, or that top-flight recruits wouldn't give South Bend a second look, or that Notre Dame could no longer go up against Southern Cal and Michigan and Florida and steal players out from under them. All of those built-in excuses that were proffered by Bob Davie, calcified via Willingham and lazily adopted by the blinkered national media (and much of their mouth-breathing readership) have been systematically disproven over the last five years. Can Notre Dame recruit? Notre Dame can recruit. Can it win? Notre Dame can win. No excuses, indeed. We can compete. We can win. Charlie might not have accomplished it, but he proved it possible. The failures of Charlie Weis are not endemic to Notre Dame. Today, when looking back on the Weis era, we hold him to his own standard, and can say that he did not get the job done; but proudly so, for without him, there might be no more standard.


For the Fighting Irish of 2010, it's a bit different. The foundation is set. We don't need someone to pull us out of the fire; we need someone who can take us over the top. Hopefully Brian Kelly will be that someone. As we close the book on BGS, Notre Dame is once again gearing up for a new beginning, another "return to glory" with the start of another spring practice. There is a lot to look forward to.

At the same time, the dreaded rumors of conference affiliation are making national headlines, and with every quote that drops from Jack Swarbrick's mouth, Irish fans get restless. Five years ago the media wondered if ND would ever be able to compete for a national championship again. Today, they wonder if Notre Dame would sacrifice its cherished and sacred independence for a slot in a conference somewhere. There could be big changes on the horizon. And it's tough not being able to continue this blog precisely because of all the exciting (and terrifying) possibilities that await Notre Dame Football over the next five years.


If you'll indulge us, we have a number of people to thank. Thanks to Sean P., Teds P., and Mark M., our co-founders and BGS bloggers emeritus; Fightinamish and Irishoutsider of The House Rock Built, and Kelly Green, two of the early Irish blogs who linked us and helped get us going; Spencer Hall of EDSBS, for helping spread the word beyond the Irish blogosphere in the early days of the blog; Warren St. John, author extraordinaire and an early fan of our work (buy his books!); Scott Eden, the author of Touchdown Jesus and the chronicler of the last days of Willingham, who graciously sat for an interview; Gina Vozinelek of Sport Literate, for allowing us to reprint her hilarious (and all too familiar) essay, A Special Reverence; Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel, who featured our work on; Bruins Nation, our brothers in arms against the Trojans; John Walters, Tiffany Simons and Matt Casey of, who hosted us as a regular guest on their weekly ND show during the 2007 season (the season of our discontent); Brian D., for giving us the Blind Oracle of Bristol during the sturm und drang of 2007; Trace Hendrick, for putting together the annual Ticket Collage; T.J. Miles, Irish video archivist non pareil; Nevin O'Donnell, the finest highlight artist on the web; Marc Spitz, Matt Castellan, and Keith from Buckeye Commentary for their essential assistance in pulling together the Four Plays series; John Manier, for contributing a pair of fine posts on Southern Cal and UCLA; Jim Walsh and the rest of the crew at Maple Street Press; Jimmy Egan for lending his photoshop skills for the 2006 recruiting banner; Paul Manoguerra, for his excellent blog Classic Ground and his annual collaboration with BGS on the "Top 10 Plays" rundown; Mike Frank and the rest of the staff at Irish Sports Daily; Will Schmidt, for two of our most beloved posts, Uniformly Excellent and Veteran's Day; long-time reader Nate for his excellent Japan Bowl report; Photographer extraordinaire Andy Altenburger for the use of many of his photos throughout the years; Gerd, of the O-Zone, who contributed to our season previews; George Macor, for his invaluable ND games database; NDMSPaint, for the image of Golden Tate jumping into the MSU band; Golden Tate, for jumping into the MSU band; the Bad Notre Dame Daddy; Pete Thamel, who touted us on the New York Times; Terry Regan and John Schmidt, for their invaluable expertise with the Xs and Os; John L. Smith, for being himself;, for providing a wellspring of college football stats you can't find anywhere else; Dan McConnell, for his account of the unbelievable bye week leading up to the '93 Florida State game; Alan W. of; John, Mike, Mike, and Scott, the proprietors of NDNation, without whom the blog would not exist and would not have been widely read by Irish fans everywhere; all of those countless amateur and professional photographers whose photos we used, mostly without attribution; Father Jenkins, for firing Ty Willingham, and inadvertently kicking off the idea to start a blog in the first place; and of course, thanks to all of the extremely friendly and knowledgeable BGS commenters, for being so warm, witty, and wise over the years. And if you're reading this, you probably know that there are plenty of other great Irish bloggers out there that ought to be part of your daily read: Her Loyal Sons, the Rakes of Mallow, Clashmore Mike, Keith Arnold at, and many more. When we started, there were only a couple, but today the internet is chock full of great Irish blogs.

For our part, we intend to keep the archives here as long as the internet is around, so feel free to take a walk down memory lane whenever you like. There's some good stuff in there. And if you have any questions, comments, or if you just want to say hello and catch up, you can always drop us a line at the BGS mailbox.

Most of all, thanks to all readers of this site. It's been a real privilege to enjoy your readership, and it's frankly amazing the way the site grew. Back in December of '04, I was excited to have a few dozen people check out our scribblings. Five years later, we were topping fifteen thousand visitors a day, mostly due to word of mouth recommendations from all of you.


I was able to track down the very first email that started this blog. Around the beginning of December, 2004, I reached out to Pat and Dylan and Michael and a few other people, proposing a Notre Dame football "scrapbook" of sorts...

Hi all,

Got an idea. With all the craziness surrounding the football search (and the prospect of a very exciting football season-to-come), I thought it might be a good idea to try and preserve whatever pieces of interesting commentary we might come across as we watch the ongoing circus. I thought now would be a great opportunity to start something like this, as I really can't remember a more exciting and uncertain time in ND football...Oftentimes I find myself wanting to go back to something I read somewhere, or preserve a great post from a message board for future reference, or save a newspaper story that made a lot of sense at the time...maybe going forward we can save some of the gems in sort of a ND football 'scrapbook'...what do you think?

I think we accomplished our goal. Thanks for everything, folks. And go Irish.

(P.S. If you're interested, keep an eye on this space for details on how to order your own copy of the "Best of BGS". Details to follow.)