Source: Irish Likely Won't Play in Bowl
At 6-6, the Irish have an identical record that they did last season when they accepted a bid to play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas eve. Twelve months later, the record may be the same but the circumstances are entirely different, including:
1) The football program does not currently have a head coach.
2) Whereas last year's pilgrimage to Honolulu was seen as a stepping stone to the 2009 season -- most players still referenced the 49-21 victory over Hawaii as their first game of the '09 season as late as mid-September -- for a team that was losing only one or two key players, this year's bowl would be different. Considering that a new coach will bring with him an entirely new playbook and philosophy, any bowl that the Irish would attend this year would be just a holdover of the current regime-without its leader in place.
3) The quarterback situation. Jimmy Clausen's return to South Bend next fall is highly unlikely. His successor, Dayne Crist, will be recuperating from his ACL surgery and would be unavailable to play in a bowl game. A bowl appearance would give Clausen (and perhaps wideout Golden Tate, who was named an AFCA First-team All-America Thursday) a proper sendoff and one last chance to creep closer to Brady Quinn in the school record annals, but it also might be seen as an unnecessary risk.
4) Resources. It will likely be deemed that the best use of time for the assistant coaches remaining on staff will be to continue trodding the recruiting path. Assistants visited at least half a dozen recruits on Wednesday and were expected to visit five more on Thursday, according to Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated.
5) Money. The two bowls most commonly mentioned as being interested in the Irish are the Little Caesar's Bowl, based in Detroit, on Dec. 26th, and the GMAC Bowl, based in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6th. Both bowls have a per-team payout of $750,000, which barely guarantees that the Irish will break even and could mean the Irish would lose money. Considering Notre Dame will have to fork over a hefty eight-figure amount to their outgoing coach, it seems ill-advised for the Irish to add any further expense.
Compound that with the idea that preparation for the former bowl will heavily intrude on study time for final exams -- a factor that senior center and co-captain Eric Olsen alluded to on Monday -- and you get the feeling that the Irish are nowhere near the frame of mind today that they were a year ago.
Olsen noted that upcoming final exams as well as the overall uncertainty that hovers over the program could be a detriment. Five years ago, a rudderless Notre Dame team traveled to Phoenix to face Oregon State in the Insight Bowl less than a month after Ty Willingham had been fired. The Irish looked thoroughly listless in losing 38-21.
"It's kind of tough for me to think about Stanford might be the last football game I ever play in my life," Olsen said. "I'd definitely love to end my football career with a win if at all possible."
If only the future as well as the bowl destination were as sunny as last season. It's one thing to finish exams and board a flight to Honolulu, to spend Christmas day on the sands of Waikiki. It's quite another to hand in your final blue book and fly, or perhaps even bus, to the Motor City for Christmas.
Official word is expected to come Monday -- by which time the Irish may have made a more prominent announcement -- but these Irish will almost certainly not go bowling.