June 7, 2009

Roundtable: Who is deepest in title bankruptcy?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

Today's question: General Motors filed for bankruptcy last week. At one point, GM was one of the most powerful companies in the world. Which football program do you think most closely mirrors GM once an icon, now struggling?

Tom Dienhart's answer: You could make a strong case for Florida State, but I give the nod to Miami. With five national championships since 1983, "The U" has been college football's elite program for the past 25-plus years. But the 'Canes are wheezing and need some of President Obama's stimulus money. Miami opened the decade as the unquestioned titan of the sport, thanks to Butch Davis rebuilding a probation-ravaged program. The 'Canes teemed with talent, winning the 2001 national championship and coming within an eyelash of another in 2002. And, honestly, Miami deserved to play for the 2000 title. Now, as the decade prepares to close, Miami is on its third coach and missed the postseason in 2007. Another dubious note: Miami had one player picked in the 2009 NFL draft a sixth-rounder breaking its record run of producing a first-round NFL draft choice 14 years in a row. And a symbolic sign that Miami no longer is Miami: The program's move from the gritty Orange Bowl to the hinterlands to play at homogenized Dolphin Stadium (or is it Land Shark Stadium?). Where have you gone, Miami Hurricanes?

David Fox's answer: Miami is on its way to being a legitimate ACC contender, but that's a long way from where "The U" was when it won five national championships from 1983-2001. The Hurricanes may win their league occasionally, and they always will have talent. But their days of being perennial national championship contenders may be gone. If I'm a recruit outside of south Florida, I don't see the allure. Play near the beach? I can do that at USC, and they're winning more games. Play at a sterile NFL stadium that's waaaaay off-campus? A stadium that's not always full, either? I'm not interested. And as long as the arms race for top facilities and Hummer limos continues, Miami doesn't have the alumni base to keep up. Miami is on the right track right now (and compared to Florida and Florida State, "The U" has the fewest off-field issues), but it will take more than 19 seasons for the Hurricanes to win their next five national titles.

Mike Huguenin's answer: Florida State, Miami and Washington are possibilities, but to me, GM's fall from grace as a cultural icon is most closely aligned with Notre Dame's struggles of late. Just as GM was the American carmaker for a long time, the Irish used to be the football program by which all others were measured. Those days are long gone. Notre Dame never will be the juggernaut it was in the Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy days, but there's no reason the Irish - with all their inherent advantages (my goodness, they have their own TV deal) - can't annually be a top-15 or top-20 team. Just as USC never should be as bad as it was for a great portion of the 1980s and '90s, Notre Dame shouldn't be as mediocre as it has been for most of the past 20 years.

Steve Megargee's answer: Notre Dame's NBC contract and independent status show the Irish still have plenty of clout, but for the past dozen years, the Irish haven't been nearly as powerful on the field. The Irish have enjoyed pockets of success since Lou Holtz departed after the 1996 season. They reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2000, won 10 games in 2002 and delivered back-to-back BCS appearances in 2005 and '06. The problem has been sustaining it. Those back-to-back BCS bids in Charlie Weis' first two seasons mark the only time that the Irish have finished in the top 25 in back-to-back years since Holtz's exit. Notre Dame actually has delivered more losing seasons (four) than 10-win seasons (two) since 1997. The easy explanation is to say that Notre Dame never can return to power because college football has changed so much since its heyday, but the Irish's success early in Weis' regime suggests otherwise. Nobody's expecting a return to the dynasty years of the Rockne and Leahy eras, but the Irish ought to be able to finish in the top 25 consistently and reach a BCS game at least once every few years. There's no excuse for this program to be delivering losing seasons more often than top-25 campaigns.


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