It’s no secret that it has been a tough autumn for Notre Dame football.
A devastating overtime loss at Texas in the season opener was a mere harbinger of bad times to come for the Irish as they later lost shockers to the likes of Duke and NC State on their way to a 4-6 start.
Brian Kelly’s squad now must knock off a pair of 7-3 teams in Virginia Tech and Southern Cal to finish the season .500. Lose to both the Hokies and Trojans, however, and the Irish finish 4-8, out of bowl eligibility for the first time under Kelly.
Going back to the turn of the century, the program has endured just five non-winning seasons. Notre Dame went 6-6 in 2004 and 2009, and had losing seasons in 2001, 2003 and 2007.
The Fighting Irish made head-coaching changes following three of those subpar seasons.
Notre Dame replaced Tyrone Willingham in 2004 and Charlie Weis in 2009, while parting ways with Bob Davie after a 5-6 season in 2001.
Both Willingham and Weis were given additional time after Willingham went 5-7 in 2003 and Weis went 3-9 in 2007, but neither was given a third strike following the disappointing campaigns in 2004 and 2009. Willingham produced a winning regular-season record of 6-5 in ’04, but the Irish lost the Insight Bowl under interim coach Kent Baer to finish 6-6.
The moral of the story for Brian Kelly?
Notre Dame’s leadership will give him a pass this fall regardless of the team’s finish — though it will be a reluctant one on the part of much of the fanbase.
But don’t expect the school to be so charitable if another non-winning season comes in the near future.