Pat Haden gets it. That is essential with the former USC quarterback having been on the job as AD all of three months.
He inherited a coach (Lane Kiffin), a probation (three years, 30 scholarships, two bowls gone) and an awesome responsibility. Nurturing football through one of its most torturous times. We know all isn't well heading into Saturday's game against No. 1 Oregon, but things could be worse. USC is 5-2 and ranked, its only two losses coming from walk-off field goals at the hands of Washington and Stanford.
Off the field, USC is still waiting for the results of an appeal to the NCAA that it likely will not win.
Haden: "We're kind of guessing [when the decision will come down]. We haven't had our appeal yet. That will affect the recruiting cycle for us, how many scholarships we will have. What I do know is, ultimately we're going to lose some scholarships. Then it's going to depend on how well we evaluate and recruit guys."
Me: Will USC be able to stay relatively competitive while it gets through the probation?
Haden: "We have a very big recruiting base here in Southern California. They grow up here, they want to play at USC, so we have some built in advantages ...Our staff is pretty adept at recruiting and evaluating high school talent. We're going to get good athletes. Will we have enough to compete with the Oregons and Stanfords, and whoever else is on the rise? Who knows? I know we're going to have good players."
Me: What is your opinion of Lane Kiffin to this point?
Haden: "I think Lane has done really, really well. I didn't hire Lane, obviously, but the more time I spend around Lane the more impressed I am with him. He's a young man but long in the tooth as a coach. He's made 17 moves, I think, he told me. He knows the trials and tribulations as a coach. I think I have street cred in saying this he's a very, very good play caller. I've been around game plans for 40 years. I've called plays myself. I've been in a zillion meetings with coaches. The way he sequences plays is pretty darn good. Our offense has scored a lot of points on everybody."
Me: What about him hiring Kennedy Pola as offensive coordinator away from the Titans? The Tennessee Titans sued after that.
Haden: "We didn't sue the NFL when Pete Carroll went to Seattle. Nor did we sue the Titans when Norm Chow went from here to there. That is, what it is. It's in litigation. It will work itself out one way or another."
On to the mailbag and reaction from Wednesday's story about Notre Dame's latest woes ...
Dennis , pretty good column you wrote about the Notre Dame football program but I disagree about what you said about play-by-play announcer Don Criqui . He has a great voice and is very descriptive and colorful but not negative . I turn down the sound on the TV and listen to the radio broadcast as I watch .
Some hospitals use Don Criqui instead of anesthesia. Don Criqui is a known cure for insomnia. Don Criqui last changed his tone of voice in 1972. Psychiatrists use Don Criqui to show wild, crazy, insane people, "See, that's the opposite of you."
When networks don't want to offend anyone, they hire Don Criqui. He's the closest thing to dead air since the power outage. Don Criqui used to do voiceovers for mop commercials. Don Criqui has a fine collection of Hagar slacks. Don Criqui wows them at parties with his dead-on impression of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. If he is feeling randy on a Friday night, Don Criqui dusts. Don Criqui's into heavy petting -- llamas. If you really want to get wild with a dude sometime, call up Don Criqui and ask him about some of his best Monte Hall stories. Don Criqui is known to brag about his trips to Paris ... Texas.
Don Criqui was his fraternity's rush chairman in college and he was damn glad to meet you. Don Criqui's other car is a Segway. Don Criqui secretly wants to host Family Feud. When mothers want their toddlers to sleep, they tell them to take a "Criqui." Don Criqui thinks BCS means Believe in Circus Stunts. After games, Don Criqui rushes home to watch C-Span. Don Criqui is the Sega Genesis of cool.
Easy (Notre Dame) schedule? Please explain that claim, Dennis.
You didn't read close. I didn't say it was an easy schedule, I said the schedule had been softened. Notre AD Kevin White attempted to soften the schedule as Notre Dame got further and further away from championship contention. That's why you've seen the likes of Nevada, Western Michigan, Tulsa, even Washington State on the schedule the last two years.
For better or worse, that's going to change. Current AD Jack Swarbrick has actively pursued series with Oklahoma, Miami and BYU, among others, in future years. It's really not that hard to see the easier schedule, it you just open up a media guide. The story is that ND hasn't gotten any better even with the more manageable schedule.
Couldn't agree more on your Notre Dame article. So how much longer are we gonna be stuck with ND games on NBC every week? How about a team that actually matters cause, as you pointed out, ND certainly doesn't?
NBC isn't the problem. In fact, NBC is a gold mine for ND. Even if it joins a conference, I suspect the Irish will have some television exclusivity.
As I've said for a while, the problem at ND isn't just the coach or football, it's institutional. As long the leaders continue to believe that the program can make it as an independent things will stay the same. With the upcoming schedule getting tougher, that means recruiting has to get better. And recruiting doesn't get better unless you win. It's a vicious circle, one that will round and round until Notre Dame joins a conference.
Hi Dennis, I'm a longtime reader of CBSSports.com and love the work you guys do. As it relates to your article today on the struggles of Notre Dame, I'm a lifelong Irish fan but my question is: Is anyone really surprised? Lost in the hoopla of Notre Dame luring Brian Kelly to South Bend is the fact that this team has finished (below par) the last two seasons and appear to be headed that way again this season.
Does Kelly have a track record of building winning programs? Yes. Did Kelly turn any of his previous programs around in his first year? Not to my knowledge. He took Cincinnati to the BCS in his second year, not his first. Also, Notre Dame was without their three top-pass catchers against Navy and lost their three-year starting quarterback to the NFL and had to wait for Dayne Crist to fully recover from his torn ACL before integrating him in a brand-new offense that he is obviously still learning. I understand that Notre Dame fans by and large are an impatient bunch. But this team has been .500 for the last two seasons and they pretty much have the same players who were on those teams.
Excuses R Us:
Every team has injuries. You should always Navy, and what exactly did you do with that three-year starting quarterback? Oh, I remember. Win a Hawaii Bowl.
Dennis Dodd hasn't a clue about Navy football. The stats are in the details. Let's talk about a few. 1 Lost to Ohio State last year on the last play. 2 Lead the Nation in rushing for the last three years. 3. Beat Utah last year in their bowl game. Do I need to go on?
Yeah, you need to go on over to a college football encyclopedia. Navy beat Missouri last year in the Texas Bowl.
Oh, and the story wasn't about how bad Navy football is. On the contrary, it's great. It's about how Notre Dame should beat Navy every year. No shame in that.
Auburn realizes that Alabama is the toughest team left on their schedule. That doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out. However, their biggest threat at this time is complacency.
I make complacency a 3 1/2-point favorite.