Our Lady Catches a Weasel.

by Jeffrey Polet on December 8, 2009 · 39 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

I have long thought there was no more corrupt person in college football than Jim Tressel, but I am conceding the honor to Brian Kelly, the new head football coach at Notre Dame. It’s not just that the most visible position at Notre Dame is now occupied by a man whose views on abortion are suspect (this despite the claim by many that such considerations ought to be irrelevant). Nor is it that he made some racially incendiary comments while the head football coach at CMU. Beyond all that, there is the simple fact that Kelly’s whole career has been nothing but ambition masked in hypocrisy. Upon leaving his current job at the University of Cincinnati, where he is under contract, Kelly took the time to thank his players for “making this opportunity possible.” It’s as if he were on a date, met a more attractive woman, left with her, and then sent a thank-you to the first woman for making the meeting with the more attractive one possible. It’s difficult to see much honor in that, and the UC players were properly irate. When, in the past, Kelly had been mentioned as a candidate for higher-profile positions, he typically retorted that his children and wife were very happy being in Cincinnati, that it was a great environment for his family, and that he had no intention of leaving, saying that he wanted “to beat the 39-year record” for tenure as head coach. At his introductory press conference at Notre Dame, Kelly used his family as accessories in this upward mobility, even going as far as noting that his children had acknowledged that this was his dream, but they were sad for themselves. In other words, his children are fully cognizant of the fact he had put his desires above their well-being, and he somehow made this seem like a good thing.

Defenders of Kelly have pointed out that “a man has to take care of his family.” Well. Kelly had a five-year $6.3 million contract at UC. He couldn’t take care of his family on that? Kelly has moved his wife and children 4 times in the past 7 years. Is such status-seeking and ambulation consistent with taking care of one’s own? Permit me to be highly skeptical. Kelly’s abandonment of his players at UC, his disregard for his family’s rootedness, and his public concession that his dream was more important than his children’s happiness – and then to make them complicit in it by trotting them out at the press conference to make it appear as if he genuinely cared for his family – all testify to his total absence of honor, made even more reprehensible by his gall in stating at the press conference that he had behaved honorably. This is a dark day for Notre Dame.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jason Peters December 12, 2009 at 11:45 am

Our Lady is a very fine huntress. But give the monkeys time to think ’tis all in fun–and suddenly Pop! goes the weasel. A Bowling Green will gobble him up, or East Slippery Rock State Teachers’ College.

Today’s itinerant coach could no more last thirty-nine years than identify the thirty-nine articles.

avatar James Matthew Wilson December 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

Hey! I was hoping to write on this next week.

I’ll give him this: after leaving that God foresaken shoal of Boston, he at least has had the decency to move only within the Great Lakes states.

I don’t think it is due to my growing cynical with the years that I found the effort to paint Kelly’s appointment as a sentimental triumph crude and unbelievable. Charlie clearly loved Notre Dame, knew it, and — most likely — took a job above his abilities in order to fulfill a dream. Kelly? I’m confident he’ll be a better coach and will improve the football program considerably, but I would agree that such an outcome, however desirable, does not come with the bonus prize of a loyal son coming home.

avatar Matt Killen December 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I really thought this post was a joke, but I read it again and I guess you’re serious.

Beyond all that, there is the simple fact that Kelly’s whole career has been nothing but ambition masked in hypocrisy.

Yikes, that’s a pretty tough charge! Let’s see your evidence:

. . .where he is under contract . . .

Yes, Brian Kelly left UC before his contract expired. Charlie Weis left New England before his contract expired, and Tyrone Willingham did the same with Stanford. So did, I would estimate, 85% of coaches who leave their school for another job.

Kelly took the time to thank his players for “making this opportunity possible.”

Thanking your players for playing well — what a jerk! And your scored lover analogy is inapt. The players committed to play at Cincinnati, not Brian Kelly. Coaches leave all the time, and there’s never a guarantee. If Brian Kelly had gone 0-12, they would have fired him (before his contract expired!) and forced him to uproot his family. I’m sure we’d then see a post from Jeffrey Polet bemoaning UC for being so anti-family.

When, in the past, Kelly had been mentioned as a candidate for higher-profile positions, he typically retorted that his children and wife were very happy being in Cincinnati, that it was a great environment for his family, and that he had no intention of leaving, saying that he wanted “to beat the 39-year record” for tenure as head coach.

What do you expect him to say? “Yes, I’d probably take a more attractive job if it came up”? Good luck recruiting. Kelly sad what any other coach would say; and he didn’t lie, either. It’s a necessary aspect of the profession.

Kelly has moved his wife and children 4 times in the past 7 years. Is such status-seeking and ambulation consistent with taking care of one’s own? Permit me to be highly skeptical.

Yes, moving around a lot is definitely one of the downsides to the coaching profession. Maybe he should have stayed at GVSU, instead of uprooting everyone to CMU. And shame on Cincy for causing him to drag his family away from Michigan! And that jerk Weis dragged his family halfway across the country, when he was quite comfortable at NE. But it’s Brian Kelly who is uniquely selfish in the world of college football coaches for, uh, taking another job.

Kelly did the same as any other coach, including several previously employed by Notre Dame. Maybe that’s your point. Maybe ND should hire only single coaches, without children. Or maybe just hire a priest to coach the team. Either way, it’s pretty rich to describe Kelly’s behavior as making him the “mo[st] corrupt person in college football” when his behavior is decidedly unexceptional compared to his peers.

In fact, Kelly was more honest than most; at least he admitted that he was willing to talk with ND and listen to what they had to say. That’s more than you can say about most coaching candidates. Absolutely nothing about his behavior can fairly be characterized as “weasel[y].”

Anyway, your post is pretty stupid.

avatar Ross Jallo December 12, 2009 at 1:45 pm

A true curmudgeon might ask what football has to do with the mission of Catholic education, to begin with.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

avatar Roger Bennett December 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Well said, Ross.

This Reminds me of when Jerry Falwell was starting Liberty University, and promising to build a great football team: “I think it’s time for a Christian University to have a first-class football program.” I don’t recall whether anyone asked then about Notre Dame, but they sure giggled about it later.

avatar Matt Killen December 12, 2009 at 4:55 pm

A true curmudgeon might ask what football has to do with the mission of Catholic education, to begin with.

A true curmudgeon might ask that. He might also ask what fencing or women’s soccer has to do with the mission of a Catholic education. Or, say, a chess club. But ND supports all of these, too.

And rightly so. Because athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education. Specifically, college football at ND brings in a lot of money, which is used to fund other sports and provide the University with financial stability. It provides scholarships to its players, permitting hundreds to attend ND whom might otherwise not have the means to do so. It raises the profile of the University, and welcomes thousands of fans each year to enjoy the campus and experience, in however small of a way, the hospitality and graciousness of a Catholic institution.

And it also happens to have been around for over a hundred years, far longer than any true curmudgeon questioning its propriety. It’s gotten the school through a world war or two, and has earned it a place as a historically preeminent institution for college athletics.

Curmudgeons are free to ask all the questions they want. But they don’t seem to have an actual argument. Notre Dame isn’t a seminary, and it shouldn’t be; college football is, and should remain, a cornerstone of the school.

avatar Bob Cheeks December 13, 2009 at 10:01 am

Jeff, you tell us that Kelly’s “views on abortion are suspect,” and that he made “racially incendiary comments at CMU.” Can you reveal where you came by this information? I’m sure you “heard” it somewhere but unfounded rumors are, indeed, a nasty business and I don’t think it’s your intent to unfairly attack the coach’s reputation.
The coaching business has changed quite a bit since 1964 when ND picked up that Armenian Presbyterian, non ND alum, Ara Raoul Parseghian…though he worked out pretty well!

avatar Matt Killen December 13, 2009 at 11:38 am

I don’t think it’s your intent to unfairly attack the coach’s reputation.

The poster called Kelly “the mo[st] corrupt person in college football” for moving his family several times over several years, and you don’t think he “inten[ded] to unfairly attack the coach’s reputation”?

I think that’s exactly his intent. What I haven’t figured out is whether Polet’s intent is driven by personal animosity toward Kelly, Notre Dame, or both.

avatar Jeffrey Polet December 13, 2009 at 11:42 am

Matt,

Let me see if I have this straight. Your argument might go something like this:

The business of college football is not corrupt.
Brian Kelly is in the business of college football.
Therefore, Brian Kelly is not corrupt

This argument would hold if a) there were no equivocation on the predicate in the minor premise; and, b)the major premise were true. The equivocation occurs when we consider that as subject in the major premise “the business of college football” is a general, systemic term, while in the minor premise it obscures the particularity of Kelly’s role. If, for example, I said “The church is not corrupt” and “Brian Kelly is in the church” I am comparing individual membership in an institution to a normative standard or principle. The equivocation would obscure, in these instances, the relationship between the general and the particular. Membership in a group doesn’t confer all the qualities of that group.

More importantly, your note doesn’t indicate you actually believe the major premise. In fact, you concede that major college athletics is rife with self-serving behavior on the part of both coaches and institutions, with your defense of Kelly amounting to “He behaves just like everyone else.” Let’s examine that.

First, this would turn your syllogism to:

The business of college football is corrupt.
Brian Kelly is in the business of college football.
Therefore, Brian Kelly is not corrupt.

But this is clearly nonsense, and you obviously wouldn’t be arguing nonsense. So perhaps it goes more like this:

Everyone in the business of college football is equally corrupt.
Brian Kelly is in the business of college football.
Therefore, Brian Kelly is no more corrupt than anyone else.

This does seem to be your argument, and this conclusion requires once again the acceptance of the major premise. I understand that the premise is asserted as a rejoinder to my claim that he is “the most” corrupt man in college football. You argue that you demolished that claim (dismissing it as stupid) by demonstrating that Kelly is, in fact, no more corrupt than anyone else. If the weakness of my position is that I overstated the level of Kelly’s corruption, I’m not sure that renders the argument itself “stupid.” Nonetheless, I’m not so willing to give up quickly on the suggestion, although I’ll freely acknowledge some rhetorical hyperbole in the claim.

First, Notre Dame has consistently, or at least consistently claimed, to hold itself to a higher standard than other schools. Part of that, I would think, would mean not stealing coaches who are under contract to other schools. Perhaps that’s the nature of the game, but ND is under no obligation to play it that way, and it’s disappointing the Irish chose to do so. You would argue that’s no reflection on Kelly, but if he genuinely loved ND the way he claimed to at his press conference, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to be complicit in their unethical behavior.

Second, Kelly has been, among contemporary coaches, particularly itinerant. This website is dedicated, in part, to the idea of being rooted in a place, and his behavior has been the antinomy of such a principle. Given the high-profile nature of the ND job, this makes him a particularly inviting target.

Third, it’s not exactly true that athletes play for universities and not coaches. Universities don’t recruit, coaches do. Universities don’t stand on the sidelines, coaches do. Universities don’t run players through two-a-days, coaches do. Universities don’t given inspirational locker room speeches, coaches do. Players seek to please their coaches, not their university presidents. So when, after years of giving their bodies and all to this man, he turns to them and says (I would say, in essence, and this seems to be how the UC players interpreted it) “By the way, your sacrifices were in the service of making my upward mobility possible, and I thank you for that” – yeah, I think that makes him “a jerk.”

Fourth, he did indeed lie. He signed that contract and said he wanted to spend the rest of his career at UC. That he said that because recruiting would have been difficult if he hadn’t, a point you make, doesn’t make it any less of a lie. It’s cold and calculating. Call it if you like a “necessary aspect of the profession,” but as Eric Voegelin said, no man is obligated to participate in the corruption of his age. Kelly did it well.

Fifth, his press conference and his interviews since he was hired by ND have been a nausea-inducing exercise in self-congratulation. He has consistently drawn attention to how much integrity and honesty and loyalty he has. Not even Bobby Petrino was that audacious. When someone goes around talking about how virtuous they are, they draw even more scrutiny to their actions. Furthermore, honesty is only a second-order virtue, for it tells us nothing about the ends being pursued. Kelly has been trying to make his disputable honesty do the heavy-lifting for all the other virtues.

Sixth, the most distasteful part of all this, and that which elevated him to supreme weasel status, was not only his apparent disregard for the well-being of his children by moving them four times in seven years, but his dragging them before the public and making a spectacle of their pain as evidence for how much he wanted this job. He pointed at his daughter during his press conference, talked about how she cried for two days, and offered this up as a worthy sacrifice for him having reached the pinnacle he did. I found it revolting, and I can hardly think of a comparable public instance where a man has traded so callously on his child’s suffering. He even went so far as noting that his daughter said this was good for him but bad for her – and he said this without a hint of regret or irony.

The Kelly story is interesting to me because it draws attention to two dominant factors, one might say pathologies, of our age: the elevation of parental interests above those of the child, and the high costs of social mobility. Perhaps the business of college football has become a concentrated microcosm of competitive large-scale economics. I’m a Michigan fan, and I’ve been uncomfortable with some of the weaselly behavior of Rich Rodriguez. But I expect better from Notre Dame, and the people who work there. For better or for worse, ND football is perhaps the most visible Catholic institution in America today, and has an obligation to do things the right way, with the right people.

James: please don’t let me dissuade you from writing about this. I have little doubt but that you could produce a superior reflection. I suspect Matt has little doubt also.

Bob: this issue of race become a big one for Kelly when there was talk about him being considered for the Michigan job. The report of the incident, and his comments, can be found here:

http://www.cm-life.com/2005/09/23/kellyraceplayedroleinsilence/

Kelly was subsequently reprimanded for his remarks by CMU President Michael Rao.

The abortion thing is more guilt-by-association, as I understand it, dating back to the ’84 presidential campaign. We can argue what it actually means, but watch his response to the question here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsKBeqv9EQI

I regard that as a weaselly response. All he had to do is say “I affirm the church’s teaching on life issues.” His response is pretty evasive, I think. Whether his position on this issue does or ought to matter is a separate question.

avatar Jeffrey Polet December 13, 2009 at 11:45 am

Matt,

For what it’s worth, I have no personal animosity toward Kelly. And that opening sentence does have some tongue-in-cheek, which I would have thought was obvious.

avatar Matt Killen December 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The business of college football is not corrupt.
Brian Kelly is in the business of college football.
Therefore, Brian Kelly is not corrupt

You don’t have it straight. That’s not my argument.

More importantly, your note doesn’t indicate you actually believe the major premise.

Well, you’re conflating things. I reject the notion that moving one’s family around the country is “corrupt,” not that there’s no corruption in college football.

In fact, you concede that major college athletics is rife with self-serving behavior on the part of both coaches and institutions, with your defense of Kelly amounting to “He behaves just like everyone else.”

I’m sure college football is “rife with self-serving behavior,” but I don’t see how moving your family a few hundred miles because you’ve taken a better job opportunity is an inherently bad thing or even self-serving.

Everyone in the business of college football is equally corrupt.
Brian Kelly is in the business of college football.
Therefore, Brian Kelly is no more corrupt than anyone else.

Not quite, but closer. My response goes something like this:

1) There is nothing ‘corrupt’ about moving one’s family around the country and taking one job that is more favorable than another.
2) Even if this behavior can be fairly characterized as ‘corrupt,’ the behavior is engaged in routinely by the vast majority of college football coaches.
3) Kelly engaged in behavior that is engaged in routinely by the vast majority of college football coaches.
4) Kelly is not the “mo[st] corrupt person in college football.”

If the weakness of my position is that I overstated the level of Kelly’s corruption, I’m not sure that renders the argument itself “stupid.”

I found your argument to be facially absurd, and the tone and specific target to suggest disingenuity. Thus, “stupid.” I stand by that judgment.

First, Notre Dame has consistently, or at least consistently claimed, to hold itself to a higher standard than other schools. Part of that, I would think, would mean not stealing coaches who are under contract to other schools.

I don’t think you understand contracts. Notre Dame has never “st[olen]” a coach who was under contract with another school. (Interesting that you limit it to schools — was it okay for Notre Dame to “steal” Weis from the Patriots?) Contracts have buyouts. No coach at Notre Dame has ever been sued for breach of contract, because the contracts typically contemplate that possibility and plan for it, on both sides. Typically, the contract contemplates the coach being fired by the school or leaving voluntarily. Terms are agreed to ahead of time, should such a contingency materialize. Notre Dame has, by my understanding, abided by these terms when hiring coaches.

Second, Kelly has been, among contemporary coaches, particularly itinerant. This website is dedicated, in part, to the idea of being rooted in a place, and his behavior has been the antinomy of such a principle. Given the high-profile nature of the ND job, this makes him a particularly inviting target.

I reject your characterization that Kelly has been “particularly itinerant” compared to other coaches. Kelly’s career track is unexceptional for a rising coach. He’s moved less often over the last several years than many assistance coaches out there. Anyway, how many times can someone move his family before doing so makes him a “corrupt” individual? And an “inviting target” for what? If you want to make a point about how the college football system uproots families too often (it’s definitely a downside, I’ll agree), make that point. Notre Dame essentially did this to a dozen families when they fired Weis. It’s really unpleasant. Not sure why you feel a need to suggest that a specific coach doesn’t care about his family in order to make a broader point that sometimes the coaching profession can be disruptive.

Players seek to please their coaches, not their university presidents. So when, after years of giving their bodies and all to this man, he turns to them and says (I would say, in essence, and this seems to be how the UC players interpreted it) “By the way, your sacrifices were in the service of making my upward mobility possible, and I thank you for that” – yeah, I think that makes him “a jerk.”

Their ‘sacrifices’ did help Kelly, but they weren’t in service to Kelly’s coaching status. They’re still a 12-0 team. They get to go to their bowl game. Nothing has been taken away from them, other than their coach. Ironically, some of the UC players who were upset were recruited by UC’s former coach, Mark Dantonio, who left the school for Michigan State (another lowlife, I’m sure).

Fourth, he did indeed lie. He signed that contract and said he wanted to spend the rest of his career at UC.

You don’t know what the contract says, so you don’t know if he breached it. And how do you know he was lying? Maybe at the time he said that statement he did intend to spend the rest of his career at UC. Maybe that changed. I guess you know the mind of Brian Kelly, though, because you’ve also divined that he steps on his own children in fealty to his personal glory.

Fifth, his press conference and his interviews since he was hired by ND have been a nausea-inducing exercise in self-congratulation. He has consistently drawn attention to how much integrity and honesty and loyalty he has.

I watched his press conference, and don’t really recall specifically what Kelly said in regard to his integrity. Can you provide the actual quotes that induced your nausea?

Sixth, the most distasteful part of all this, and that which elevated him to supreme weasel status, was not only his apparent disregard for the well-being of his children by moving them four times in seven years, but his dragging them before the public and making a spectacle of their pain as evidence for how much he wanted this job. He pointed at his daughter during his press conference, talked about how she cried for two days, and offered this up as a worthy sacrifice for him having reached the pinnacle he did. I found it revolting . . .

I found it to be a sweet moment that kind of humanized him and the situation that coaches face. We obviously have very, very different viewpoints as to whether moving a family to different cities for different jobs constitutes “disregard[ing] [their] well-being.” In any regard, I think it’s ridiculous to characterize this as “trad[ing] so callously on his child’s suffering.” He recognized that his choices affected his family; that sort of honesty strikes me as refreshing. When he introduced his daughter, Grace, I saw a man who has genuine affection for them. I don’t think he was wallowing in it; but it obviously pissed you off. Well, okay, but this speaks more to your bugbear regarding geographic mobility than it does to any level of corruptness Kelly has.

And that opening sentence does have some tongue-in-cheek, which I would have thought was obvious.

I don’t see what’s “obvious” about your unseriousness in your first sentence when you go on to accuse the man of not caring about the well-being of his family because he moved them around.

avatar Bob Cheeks December 13, 2009 at 1:20 pm

My personal opinion is that because ND invited our undocumented, supporter of baby killing, Kenyan president to speak and honored him with a pretend diploma, the Lord God of the Universe has put the kibosh on the football team and ended the career of ND alum, Charlie Weis…and I’m only partially kidding here!
Jeff, re: Kelly’s alleged racial insensitivity I disagree. I think he was telling the politically incorrect truth, as he knew it, and in this instance, he knew it…you’re just not supposed to speak the truth in certain matters (it’s a Democrat thing), that way it’ll go away.
Re: his “abortion” equivocating, my stupid computer has dial up so I can forget about seeing/hearing his comments. Consequently, I’ll happily take your word that in this instance Kelly is either a supporter of abortion, and therefore a Catholic (I’m assuming he’s a Catholic) destined to spend eternity in hell or he’s a gutless wonder and hasn’t the courage to stand up for defenseless human beings in the womb (my guess is its very hard to find collegiate coaching positions if you’re anti-abortion?). Either case is inexcusable for a “Christian,” so maybe Kelly needs a “come to Jesus moment?’ But then, don’t we all?
Sadly, there’s not a whole lot of Ara Parseghians running around.

avatar Steven Williams December 13, 2009 at 7:30 pm

Lame. Keep your arrogant hotair out of the college football world. man thought only here.

avatar Chris December 14, 2009 at 9:11 am

Mr Pollet,

Matt has said the majority of what I’d like to say and said it more systematically and carefully than I would or probably could have. That said, I’d like to make four additional points.

First, regarding “trading in child suffering” and putting his own interests before the children. I am not yet a parent, and I hope to be someday soon. That said, I understand the difference between making my children momentarily unhappy and actually disregarding their wellbeing. Kelly’s daughter didn’t want to move, that doesn’t mean that, in the end, the move won’t actually be the best thing for her. That said, I probably concede to you, more than Matt, that constant moving for upward mobility is indicative of our culture’s lack of rootedness. With regard to football coaching, at both the college and professional levels (and even to a degree at the high school level) it seems inevitable, which brings me to point two.

Second, the nature of coaching is such that it is all but impossible to stay rooted in one place for long, simply because multiple jobs do not exist in the same location. There is only one college football team in South Bend, and, in order to fill the vacant coaching position, Notre Dame could either recruit someone entirely unqualified for the position (like a current assistant on the failed regime or a South Bend area high school coach) or ask someone to move. This isn’t necessarily corrupt, its just the nature of a highly specialized job – not many exist, and good people to do them are even rarer, so those people are apt to move for them. Your beloved Michigan did the exact same thing when it took Rich Rodriguez out of not only his adopted home, but his home from birth. Glass houses and all.

Third, regarding behaving honestly and with integrity – it may be that Kelly’s dealings and behavior were less than totally honest, but he was still more honest than most coaches are when contemplating another job. Nick Saban emphatically and explicitly denied that he would take the Alabama job up until the point he was announced as their coach. Rodriguez told his players that he wouldn’t even interview with Michigan, but then secretly flew out to Ann Arbor. Kelly, on the other hand, refused to interview with ND unless he was allowed to keep his players in the loop about what he was considering, much to the chagrin of many ND fans, who hoped the search would take on a more private character until the coach was finally announced.

Finally, regarding abortion, in an ideal world the head football coach at ND would be publicly pro-life and lend the unique support he can provide to the pro-life movement. That said, it is difficult to see the current “what if Kelly is pro-choice” meme as anything other than a witchhunt; he has never publicly stated that he is pro-choice, but instead his comments have been parsed to suggest that he might possibly be privately pro-choice. While not ideal, his job description does not involve political activism with regard to abortion, one way or another. If he is content to keep his views private and declines from using his position to further a pro-choice agenda and it does not impede his ability to coach his players, then I cannot see the purpose in requiring a loyalty oath to the pro-life movement from him. Frankly, for all we know, the last 4 ND coaches were pro-choice (Davie, Willingham, O’Leary, and Weis) as none of them has ever publicly commented on the topic one way or another.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 9:14 am

“Because athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education.”

Anyone who claims that Catholic liberal arts education still has anything to do with A) Catholicism or B) the liberal arts is either A) a liar or B) a fool.

What this comes down to is that for Mr. Williams and Mr. Killen, the intellectual heritage of Western civilization exists so that they may indulge their adultescent fixation in a *ing GAME.

Enjoy your bread & circuses, gentlemen.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 9:31 am

Allen Tate described Vanderbilt as an institution “which combines the qualities of a whorehouse and a graveyard.”

Apropos of Notre Dame? And its supporters?

I love how for decades English departments can get taken over by leftist ideologues who decide to replace Shakespeare with Michel Foucault, how the theology departments get taken over by anti-Christian Marxists, etc., etc., — and there’s nary a peep from these clowns. Duhhh, whatever…

But by God, nobody better threaten our precious sports programs.

avatar Matt Killen December 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

Anyone who claims that Catholic liberal arts education still has anything to do with A) Catholicism or B) the liberal arts is either A) a liar or B) a fool.

I’m not sure how that’s responsive to my statement that “athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education,” but your statement is facially nonsensical regardless, and doesn’t merit additional reply.

What this comes down to is that for Mr. Williams and Mr. Killen, the intellectual heritage of Western civilization exists so that they may indulge their adultescent fixation in a *ing GAME.

Of course this is a gross mischaracterization; no doubt intentional. I never have said, no do I believe, that a school should place college football as a sole priority to the detriment of everything else, let alone that “the intellectual heritage of Western civilization exists” solely for football. I’m not even sure what that means.

But surely you know this. You don’t wish to actually argue my point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education; so instead you erect a ridiculous strawman, and gripe about how it’s all a “*ing GAME” (I assume that was an expletive). I guess you don’t see inherent value in athleticism and competition. I disagree. And I’m pretty sure I’m right about it.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 10:58 am

Maybe we should clarify everybody’s position here.

Do you actually claim that Notre Dame can be considered a Catholic liberal arts institution — in any terms other than those of marketing lip-service?

This question — which you believed “doesn’t merit additional reply” — actually IS exceedingly pertinent to your “point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education”.

Namely, if Catholic schools have prostituted their historical mission down the toilet in the past several decades … obviously college athletics cannot have added all that much value, now can they?

At the moment, the only Catholic schools which have not become cesspools are in fact the ones with extremely modest sports programs — such as Christendom & Thomas Aquinas College.

Probably your notion of fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and mine are somewhat different.

Mine does not include, say, a campus where the “Vagina Monologues” are performed, nor an administration which funds students’ participation in a rally on behalf of same-sex marriage.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 11:49 am

Say, here’s a winner of an essay from one of the teachers at Notre Dame’s philosophy department, deconstructing and critiquing what he calls “a paradox or inconsistency in Roman Catholic teaching concerning sexual morality.”

http://www.nd.edu/~amanier/perverse.html

So this guy WORKS FOR a “Catholic” school while simultaneously trying to undermine longstanding Catholic convictions.

It is only thanks to the Church that he has a nice fat office and tenure…. and meanwhile he URINATES ALL OVER Church teachings.

But hey, don’t worry, Matt ol’ buddy — no doubt the Fightin’ Irish will have the winningest team next year, by golly!

Athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education!

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 11:54 am

My point — to forestall any attempts to play dumb — is that most people devote a whole lot more attention to who is going to be the next quarterback than they do to who is doing the teaching in the classroom.

avatar Chris December 14, 2009 at 12:35 pm

JD,

I’m afraid its my turn to be obtuse and fail to understand your point. Are you arguing that being good at football requires hiring unorthodox professors? Because it sure seems like that is your point, but it seems so nonsensical that I’m convinced it cannot be.

The fact is that ND couldn’t and wouldn’t be the world’s most prominent Catholic University without football. Historically, it was football and a willingness to play (and beat) anyone, anywhere, that brought ND to national prominence, paving the way for better academics. Moreover, the prominence of a Catholic school’s football team at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry was mainstream did a lot to galvanize the mostly immigrant Catholic population (in fact, it was a brawl with the Catholic-protesting KKK that gave the fighting Irish their name)(also, ironically, ND only started playing a national schedule when Michigan, in its own act of anti-catholic bigotry, refused to play them and urged other schools in the region to follow suit). The fact is, having a good football team does a lot of good and nicely compliments the school’s catholic educational mission, and shouldn’t in any way serve as a detriment to it.

Now, you might be arguing that it would be a good thing if ND wasn’t the world’s most prominent Catholic University (that it might be better if a school like Christendom were), and that therefore their having a good football team is a detriment to Catholicism, since they wouldn’t be so prominent absent their football team. Now that is a pretty roundabout argument. It is also, I think, wrong – a school like ND can do far more to transform the culture than a school like Christendom has a snowball’s chance in hell of doing. That mission requires them to walk a finer line than many other schools have to walk, and sometimes they walk on the wrong side of it. But it is a worthwhile mission, and one that I think will well serve both the nation and Catholicism in the long run.

avatar Chris December 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Also, if you’re interested in the historical role that ND played with regard to galvanizing US Catholics at a time of anti-Catholic bigotry, I’d suggest Notre Dame v. The Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the KKK by Todd Tucker.

avatar Matt Killen December 14, 2009 at 1:20 pm

This question — which you believed “doesn’t merit additional reply” — actually IS exceedingly pertinent to your “point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education”.

Namely, if Catholic schools have prostituted their historical mission down the toilet in the past several decades … obviously college athletics cannot have added all that much value, now can they?

There are two problems with this, without even addressing the merits. First, my statement that collegiate athletics enhances a Catholic education was normative, not descriptive. But I’m guessing you don’t understand that distinction, so I’m happy to adopt it descriptively and state the following: College football at Notre Dame has, on balance, enhanced the Catholic education provided by the school over the last 100 years or so, for many of the reasons Chris has outlined.

Second, you’re conflating correlation and causation. Even if I accept your delightful premise (that Notre Dame has “prostituted [its] historical mission down the toilet in the past several decades”) it doesn’t at all mean that college athletics is responsible for it, let alone hasn’t added value. Something can add value to another thing even though, overall, the value of that second thing drops.

But hey, don’t worry, Matt ol’ buddy — no doubt the Fightin’ Irish will have the winningest team next year, by golly!

Athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education!

See above. Even if I agree with your premise that the professor should not be at Notre Dame (and I cannot disclaim enough that I have no opinion on that, except that I don’t share your opinion), how is that relevant to football? How did college athletics cause that to happen?

What you’ve decided to argue is that too much attention is being paid to college football as opposed to your perceived (or imagined, or some might say delusional) understanding of Notre Dame’s failure to live up to its mission. I’m not interested in that debate, and nothing I’ve written can fairly be characterized as having expressed an opinion on that subject. But you’ve not made an argument that coherently states a position on how college athletics harms your perception of Notre Dame’s mission. You’ve just asserted it.

My point — to forestall any attempts to play dumb — is that most people devote a whole lot more attention to who is going to be the next quarterback than they do to who is doing the teaching in the classroom.

Who cares? I didn’t start this post. I responded to Jeff’s post, which was about football. Seems logical that all the talk should subsequently be about football, as opposed to J.D. Salyer’s Addled Thoughts On Notre Dame’s Perceived Shortcomings. I’m not playing dumb; I’m just not interested in you forcing me into a debate with you over topic Z, when I’ve been discussing topic X and Y. Especially when your choice of words (“prostitute,” “toilet,” “urinate”) indicates that you’re not very bright.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I say again, for possible penetration:

“most people devote a whole lot more attention to who is going to be the next quarterback than they do to who is doing the teaching in the classroom.”

Is this in dispute?

Or perhaps the relevance is what is disputed?

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm

You claim:

“You don’t wish to actually argue my point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education;”

THEN when I emphasize how I DO wish to actually argue your point, you go on to harumph:

“I’m just not interested in you forcing me into a debate with you over topic Z, when I’ve been discussing topic X and Y”

Who is not very bright, here?

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

“What you’ve decided to argue is that too much attention is being paid to college football as opposed to your perceived (or imagined, or some might say delusional) understanding of Notre Dame’s failure to live up to its mission.”

Yes, I think this is the central point of contention. As I said previously:

“Probably your notion of fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and mine are somewhat different.

Mine does not include, say, a campus where the “Vagina Monologues” are performed, nor an administration which funds students’ participation in a rally on behalf of same-sex marriage.”

From your point of view, I would be one of those kooks who gets carried too far, and allows Catholicism to interfere with fitting in with the trends of politically-correct fashion.

avatar Matt Killen December 14, 2009 at 2:23 pm

“You don’t wish to actually argue my point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education;”

THEN when I emphasize how I DO wish to actually argue your point, you go on to harumph:

“I’m just not interested in you forcing me into a debate with you over topic Z, when I’ve been discussing topic X and Y”

Who is not very bright, here?

Probably the person who mixes metaphors (e.g., “prostituting” something down a “toilet”). But I’m guessing your question is rhetorical.

As I noted when I said,

But you’ve not made an argument that coherently states a position on how college athletics harms your perception of Notre Dame’s mission. You’ve just asserted it.

You’ve not argued anything. You’ve made an assertion you believe to be true. So, again: what is your argument that college athletics harms what you understand to be Notre Dame’s mission? Complaining that too many people focus on football isn’t responsive.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm

“Probably the person who mixes metaphors (e.g., ‘prostituting’ something down a “toilet”). But I’m guessing your question is rhetorical.”

Uh, no. The cover-up-with-a-comeback technique is not going to work.

You said:

“You don’t wish to actually argue my point that collegiate athletics adds value to a Catholic education”

And then you said:

“I’m just not interested in you forcing me into a debate with you over topic Z, when I’ve been discussing topic X and Y.”

I did indeed mix metaphors.

But you’re being dishonest.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 2:36 pm

“So, again: what is your argument that college athletics harms what you understand to be Notre Dame’s mission? Complaining that too many people focus on football isn’t responsive.”

Here it is, broken down into digestible bite-sized chunks:

A) Catholics should not support an ostensibly-Catholic institution which flouts the teachings of the Church.

B) Notre Dame is an ostensibly-Catholic institution which flouts the teachings of the Church.

C) Ergo, Catholics should not support Notre Dame.

Question: What might happen if many Catholics withdrew support from Notre Dame for having flouted teachings of the Church? And, instead, gave that support to more observant institutions?

Possible answer: Notre Dame might shape up. Or maybe more observant institutions would thrive.

Question: Why do many Catholics continue to support Notre Dame, an ostensibly-Catholic institution which flouts the teachings of the Church?

Partial answer: Football.

avatar Matt Killen December 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm

But you’re being dishonest.

Please. You’re the one that skipped over the key sentence between the two that you selectively pulled.

But thanks for confirming that your argument is completely nonresponsive to anything discussed in this post, or the subsequent comments.

avatar Chris December 14, 2009 at 2:51 pm

JD,

I’m a little surprised by your extremely simplistic assertion as to why people continue to support Notre Dame, though I am grateful that you’ve finally made an argument I can understand.

To claim that it is because of football is to ignore both the obvious good that Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, does for both the world and Catholic higher education, the job ND does in educating its students with a truly Catholic understanding of the world, for the most part, and the fact that Notre Dame is the best shot we have of a genuinely great, Catholic University. I support ND because I believe in its mission and because I believe that for all its faults (which you are ready to point out) it does the best job of achieving that mission of any higher educational institution in the US. There are other (and better) ways to work to change an institution than by withholding support, and certainly than by withholding support from the football team.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

“But thanks for confirming that your argument is completely nonresponsive to anything discussed in this post, or the subsequent comments.”

My first post was in response to your claim “athletic excellence is perfectly consistent with, and arguably enhances, a Catholic education”.

A claim which was — regardless of snotty sophist cracks about my not knowing the difference between “normative” vs. “descriptive” — clearly in the context of athletics being “specifically” of benefit to Notre Dame’s mission writ large.

avatar J.D. Salyer December 14, 2009 at 3:07 pm

“I’m a little surprised by your extremely simplistic assertion as to why people continue to support Notre Dame”

I say again, for possible penetration:

“PARTIAL answer: Football.”

How can you all claim that football is such a great PR boon for the school on one hand, football built Notre Dame and made Catholicism more acceptable in the US, etc. etc…. and yet on the other declare that it’s so absurd to suggest that the football is a significant factor in the loyalty many folks have for the school?

Football is a force which can ONLY be directed for the good?

avatar Tom Piatak December 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Rooting for the Fighting Irish on Saturdays is part of the American Catholic identity, as is well documented in the book “Touchdown Jesus,” which I reviewed in Chronicles a few years ago.

Disparaging Notre Dame is part of the Michigan athletic tradition, which has its roots in the anti-Catholicism of Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler, as is well documented here: http://www.ndnation.com/boards/showpost.php?b=football;pid=30253;d=this

avatar Marion Miner December 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Chris:

“To claim that [support of Notre Dame] is because of football is to ignore both the obvious good that Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, does for both the world and Catholic higher education, the job ND does in educating its students with a truly Catholic understanding of the world, for the most part, and the fact that Notre Dame is the best shot we have of a genuinely great, Catholic University.”

False.

Notre Dame, along with other “Catholic” institutions (see Boston College, Georgetown, and others) that have indeed prostituted themselves in the name of academic “freedom” – which, in this case, means washing their hands of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church when they deem it convenient – do not do any good for Catholic higher education, but undermine, damage and pervert it. Period. To follow on that point, undermining and damaging the mission of Catholic higher education does not do good for the world.

I am a big college football fan and an Irish Roman Catholic that hopes Notre Dame gets embarrassed every week on the football field. The university they represent is not flat-out anti-Catholic – such institutions I can at least respect as an honest enemy. But Notre Dame dishonestly (and reluctantly) pays lip service to the Catholic Church while teaching concepts that actually lead young Catholics away from the Faith. Fact.

Football (and athletics in general) can indeed do a great deal to gain a national stage for genuinely good institutions. I played basketball at a college that I passionately wished would upgrade the athletic programs. The problem with Notre Dame is that the football program does indeed gain a national stage – for an institution that is solid in its academic requirements but in its Catholicity is a disgrace.

No Catholic should want Notre Dame to represent American Catholicism. If Notre Dame is “the best shot we have of a genuinely great, Catholic University,” then we are screwed. Game over.

avatar Marion Miner December 14, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Also, in response to Jim Tressel and Brian Kelly being corrupt: I won’t disagree with that, but where the real dirty goes down is in the SEC. That conference is as dirty as it gets, and no one is immune.

avatar Jeffrey Polet December 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

A man ought to think twice about entering a profession that is going to exact such high personal costs. The fact that he may have done little more than satisfy the requirements of his profession hardly makes him honorable. Matt found Kelly’s press conference charming, and an expression of genuine affection. Evidently he’s a better mind-reader than he accuses me of being, or else I’m not sure how he can be so sure it’s genuine. Nonetheless, I don’t doubt he has affection for his children. That is different than love, however. What Matt found charming I found cringe-inducing. A more honorable man would have kept his family’s sorrow private. He made it public for apparently exculpatory purposes, and by parading his family before the public like that he made his paternalism fair game.

I’m less interested in whether intercollegiate athletics is inherently corrupt than whether, on the whole, it is a plus or a minus for the school. Without going into details, I would say that universities would be better off without them. This without gainsaying their obvious appeal, or some of the benefits they produce. What role Notre Dame football has played in the putative corruption of the school is far from obvious. That some people care more about football than they do philosophy or spirituality is, alas, a sign of the times.

As to my Michigan connections: I have already acknowledged that both the University and Rich Rodriguez behaved dishonorably. Michigan’s guilt doesn’t expiate Notre Dame’s. Furthermore, as a Catholic, my motivations are unlikely to be out of anti-Catholic bias. Trotting out Fielding Yost’s views are an interesting historical fact, but a logical fallacy as regards my post.

avatar Mike December 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Marion,

Sorry to post a comment which is topic, but I can’t help but put up a defense for Notre Dame. I stand firm with Chris on his point about the good that Notre Dame does in the world, and it has been recently recognized by Pope Benedict and Bishop Darcy. Sure, there are issues with some of the adminsitrators as was clearly demonstrated this past spring. Sure there are a few loose cannons, but you cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Below are a few recent devlopments you may not heard about. And these don’t even start to chronicle the enormous good that the student body carries out each and every day.

-Professor John Cavadini, Ph.D., chair of the theology department at Notre Dame, was hand-selected by Pope Benedict XVI to become a member of the International Theological Commission. He is one of 30 theologians worldwide on the board which advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and only the second American.

-Cavadini was also recently knighted into the Order of St. Gregory by Bishop Darcy.

http://www.todayscatholicnews.org/2009/12/the-appointment-of-professor-cavadini-to-the-international-theological-commission/

-Monsingeur Michael Heinz was also just recently appointed as the head of the Notre Dame’s Master of Divinity program.

Notre Dame is far from becoming a Georgetown or a Boston College.

avatar Marion Miner December 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Mike,

I’m not sure that Notre Dame is so far from BC or G’town as you think, but I do acknowledge that there is some good going on there. Notre Dame fell as hard as anyone in the ’60s and ’70s; they are showing some signs of bringing the institution back. However, the ills that Notre Dame still has (and encourages) keep it from being a truly Catholic university. I know several people that have attended Notre Dame. Young people who go into the school as strong, convinced Catholics tend to do fine there. What is discouraging is the number of agnostics it turns out due to the confusion over the university’s true identity. Notre Dame tries to cover all bases – the place has some great people, but over the years they have quietly condoned or explicitly encouraged atrocities that should never take place at a Catholic college. The Vagina Monologues are one example; beer and pizza “Masses” are another. Awarding an honorary law degree (and that it is a LAW degree is significant) to a blatantly pro-abortion politician just topped it all off. In doing so, Notre Dame condones the killing of pre-born children. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether or not that was their primary intention in that instance. They knew exactly what they were doing. You cannot water that down or sweeten it up; it’s simply the way it is.

Notre Dame has got to decide whether they wish to be a Catholic university or a secular one. As of now, they appear to be nothing better than apostates making certain calculated concessions in order to retain the image of a Catholic institution. They can do better than that, and they must. At the present I have no confidence in Notre Dame.

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