Notre Dame is America — that is to say, past its prime as a legitimate power, too proud and arrogant to admit it, and picking on the smaller guys as a last desperate attempt to feel important.

Rutgers recently rejected a bid for a six-game series that would have played three in South Bend and three in East Rutherford. Beautiful East Rutherford, home of the Scarlet… wait, something’s not right there.

Notre Dame, as it often does when trying to flex what little muscle it has left, demanded that their away games be played at a neutral site because of it’s larger capacity (in this case, Giants Stadium). And Rutgers’ Athletic Director Bob Mulcahy did what very few have before; he looked the Irish in the eye and said “No.”

Rutgers is currently undergoing a $100 million stadium renovation, turning their humble Piscataway home into a world-class facility with a respectable capacity of 55,000. After three consecutive bowl appearances (including two wins), multiple seasons nationally ranked, and producing widely respected players like Brian Leonard and Ray Rice, Rutgers felt like they deserved to play in their own home, no matter who the opponent was.

Notre Dame’s trajectory has been in a different direction. Last year saw one of the most dramatic collapses in the programs history, as they went 3-9. The season featured (from Wikipedia):

  • The most losses in a single year
  • Two of the ten worst losses ever (38-0 losses to both Michigan and USC)
  • The first 6-game home losing streak
  • The first time Notre Dame has lost to two military academies in the same season since 1944,
  • The first time in the BCS era that Notre Dame went winless against mid-majors.
  • The Naval Academy recorded their first win over the Irish since 1963, breaking the NCAA-record 43-game streak.

Following a season that momentously awful, it would only make sense to remain humble and rebuild the program. If there’s one thing a Rutgers fan can relate to, it’s coping with a bad season.

But Notre Dame didn’t take the high road. They acted as if the season never happened, and it was an honor for poor little Rutgers to bask in the warm glow of Touchdown Jesus. The problem was, to any sane observer, the traditional roles had been swapped. Rutgers — a program on a steady rise — should have been in the position of power, while Notre Dame — struggling to save face after a season that will live in infamy — kowtowed and gave in to their demands..

But of course, Notre Dame would have nothing of the sort. With the bitter arrogance that has created a historical rift between Irish fans and the rest of America, they sneered at Rutgers and scoffed at their puny new stadium. After all, they had just convinced Connecticut to play their “home games” in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

In fact, Notre Dame’s schedule reads more like a Bon Jovi Tour than a football schedule. A home game against Washington State is scheduled to be played in San Antonio, Texas, which Glenn noted “is farther from South Bend than Regina, Saskatchewan.” So, can 100 million Notre Dame fans be wrong?

Notre Dame exists outside the realm of actual college football. They have become an attraction separate from the sport they play. They can afford to play games in strange locations because they trust that they can bring more Catholics to a stadium than a Pope Benedict mass.

But there’s a difference between being a great team and being a great brand. Notre Dame is a brand — look on the back of your NCAA Football ’08 box and you’ll see they have their own seal of approval. People don’t show up at stadiums to see Notre Dame the team. They show up to see Notre Dame the show.

So of course, Notre Dame might be able to fill up Giants Stadium with fans and make a killing. But if they respected the game as much as they respect the dollar, they would have never made such an arrogant offer to a team that’s currently better than them. Lucky for us, Rutgers stood up to the bully and came out of it looking pristine.

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