Commentary

Demoting Notre Dame

Updated: August 16, 2012, 2:06 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

I once loved Notre Dame football.

My dad went to Notre Dame and flunked out and I still loved Notre Dame football. I loved Lindsey Nelson telling me "neither team advanced the ball so we move to further action in the fourth quarter" while my mom was yelling, "Get ready for mass!"

But I grew up.

I don't love Notre Dame football anymore. Notre Dame football has been living a lie, as Lou Holtz likes to say. Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, nothing happened. The echoes are in REM sleep. It has failed to advance the ball.

If I told you about a team that had lost 10 of its last 12 bowl games, had dropped nine of its last 10 to USC, had led the nation only in disappointment, you'd figure that team would be halfway down the Mountain West standings. But Notre Dame still gets perks and love from the NCAA and BCS as though the year is 1946.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
AP Photo/Joe RaymondBrian Kelly confers with one of his QB candidates, Everett Golson.

I'm declaring an end to all that.

In Europe, if you play too much bad soccer for too many years, you get "relegated" to a lower division, moved down, demoted. It just happened to the Blackburn Rovers.

It needs to happen to Notre Dame football.

If Notre Dame isn't a factor this season -- and it hasn't been a factor in almost 20 years -- it's time to take it down a literal peg.

We can't demote Notre Dame from its conference -- since it is far too noble to belong to any piddling conference -- but we can demote it in stature.

From now on:
• Notre Dame no longer gets its own television deal with NBC.
• Notre Dame no longer gets to be the only school in the country with an inexplicable seat at the BCS decisions-making table.
• Notre Dame no longer gets its yearly undeserved hellahype in preseason rankings and preseason All-America teams.

In short, until Notre Dame football starts winning again, it's Rice to me.

That hurts your feelings? Watch "Rudy" 'til you feel better.

Can you explain to me how a team that hasn't won a national championship since 1988, a Heisman since 1987, or more than eight games its last five seasons still gets treated like the 1967 Green Bay Packers?

Notre Dame has won 86 games since the turn of this century. Oregon has won 111 games since then. TCU has won 119. Boise State has won 136. Do they have their own TV deals? Do they get to be the only school that sits with the BCS conference commissioners, deciding how a playoff is going to work?

Somebody needs to stick a pin in the still-inflated Golden Dome. Look, the ACC wants Notre Dame. Would die to have it. But word is, Notre Dame won't go if it has to share TV and gate revenue with the rest of the conference, like everybody else. The Irish people love to share. The Irish athletic department? Not so much.

If college football won't put its foot down and force Notre Dame to join a conference -- as every other sport at Notre Dame has -- then the least it can do is stop paying it a bowl bonus of $1.3 million when it DOESN'T go to a bowl game. That's right: Notre Dame gets a $1.3 million bowl bonus simply for dressing up the stupid leprechaun.

I hear what the Domers are saying. They're saying, "Notre Dame doesn't have to be in a conference. Notre Dame is unlike any other football power. Notre Dame is a national brand."

Sure, and girls are still wearing leg warmers.

Notre Dame is not a national brand any more than USC, Alabama or Stanford. A national brand? What would its slogan be, "Dominating Navy just about every year"? What kind of national brand loses to freaking Tulsa (2010)?

Please, NCAA and BCS, stop leaping to attention every time caller ID says it's Notre Dame. The Irish haven't finished in the top 20 in any poll in five years. They can leave a message.

When did I quit on Notre Dame? When it quit on itself.

Last season, against USC, the Irish were trailing by only two touchdowns, 31-17, with about seven minutes left when USC got the ball. But Notre Dame didn't use any of its timeouts, and it had a hatful of them. It let USC waste as much time as it wanted and never got the ball back. Good job. Good effort.

"They did give up," USC quarterback Matt Barkley told ESPN 710 radio in L.A. "I wouldn't have wanted to be on that sideline."

You are not royalty anymore, Notre Dame. Turn in your tiara.

When your NBC contract expires in 2015, do the right thing and don't renew. Lower some expectations until you can turn this thing around. And you're a Mars Rover trip from turning it around.

Wait, what? Coach Brian Kelly is the savior? Really? Because he looks to me like he's doing a very good impression of Bob Davie so far. He's opened with back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Wow. Give him a sitting ovation.

And with Kelly throwing the QB job up for grabs again, instead of just handing it to Tommy Rees once his one-game suspension is up, this season looks like 7-5 to me, with Ls to Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and you don't even want to know what USC will do to the Irish in the Coliseum. Cue the DentDoctor.com Bowl.

Somebody needs to make Notre Dame play by the same rules as everybody else. If there's anything we've learned from the Penn State mess, it's that nobody gets to live on a pedestal anymore.

You flunked, Notre Dame. Go back a grade.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com