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updated: 10/16/2012 11:31 AM

Notre Dame success important for college football

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  • Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, left, celebrates with defensive end Justin Utupo (53) after Notre Dame defeated Stanford 20-13 in overtime Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

    Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, left, celebrates with defensive end Justin Utupo (53) after Notre Dame defeated Stanford 20-13 in overtime Saturday in South Bend, Ind.
    Associated Press


All those arrogant Notre Dame supporters and obnoxious Fighting Irish detractors are either back or on their way.

Good for them, good for us, and good for everyone who values college football.

The conversation concerning Notre Dame has shifted from what it had become in recent years.

Talk about the Irish had started to center on whether this iconic football program ever could be an iconic football program again. They were in the news as much for scandal, controversy, tragedy and failed coaches Bob Davie, Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis.

Universities of thought included that Notre Dame had become a basketball school, the school's academics were too strict to assemble an elite football team, and entire conferences had blown past the Irish.

Then there were these: Get in a dang conference already and, oh, yeah, stop Coach Kelly from screaming at his players on the sideline?

It sounded like Notre Dame, of all schools, was just another premier academic university with a lower football ceiling than in the past.

The Irish hadn't plunged to the level of, say, Tulane, but they were being mentioned in the same sentence as, say, Northwestern.

Notre Dame football had become so unlike Notre Dame football that even the school's critics felt a void.

Now the chatter has changed because Notre Dame is 6-0, ranked fifth nationally and contending for a BCS postseason game.

Are the Irish that good? Will they fall back like the last time they started fast like this? Are they undefeated only because they have shamrocks hanging from their behinds?

No answers are definitive at this point of the season, but at least the debate no longer is whether Notre Dame should drop football and permanently freeze over its stadium for outdoor hockey.

The only thing for sure is that Notre Dame -- merely for now or really for a while -- is relevant again for more than just having home games on NBC.

The Irish are good enough to give the haters a reason to hate them and the Kiss-Me-I'm-Irish contingent the fortitude to publicly hate the haters.

This is terrific for college football because like politics, all college football is local … except for Notre Dame.

Gamblers aside, fans in Arizona don't care about Alabama and fans in Virginia don't care about Oregon.

But pockets everywhere care about Notre Dame. When the Irish are championship nominees, votes are cast in high schools, corner saloons and VFW halls.

Every place has at least some fans interested in whether the Irish are winning or losing and how they're winning or losing.

Notre Dame's latest victory, over Stanford, had radio and TV talk shows buzzing over questionable officiating calls.

If that's an Ohio State-Kansas State game, fans in Ohio and Kansas care. If it's Notre Dame against anybody, every region of America has myriad fans who care.

The conversation is whether the Irish won because of a conspiracy or because God wanted them to win or whether they deserved to win.

Nobody is declaring yet that Brian Kelly is the next in Notre Dame's national championship line of head coaches graced with Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine and Holtz. But at 6-0 in his third season, Kelly is sure to begin attracting attention.

That's Notre Dame football -- extreme extremes and exaggerated exaggerations.

Fans of this sport should enjoy the rantings of the arrogant and railings of the obnoxious however long Notre Dame makes them last.

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