In the last month, it's become quite fashionable to criticize Rick Reilly. The anti-Reilly tidal wave has been building ever since he began his highly paid, highly panned tenure at ESPN, but reached its crest in the wake of his "had it first on Twitter" faux pas a few weeks ago. Heck, even former emplyoer Sports Illustrated named him one of their Turkeys of the Year last week along with Lance Armstrong, the Alabama Teabagger, and other esteemed individuals.
But let's travel back in time briefly to this past August where the 11 Time Sportswriter of the Year was largely flying under the radar and wrote a column totally burying Notre Dame football. The column was so harsh it took much of the college football and greater sports world by surprise with Reilly saying Notre Dame should be relegated ala a European soccer team, had been "living a lie," and instructed them to "turn in your tiara." At the time, it created a nice little news cycle for ESPN where Reilly's column and the reactions of ND alum Mike Golic and others who have supported Reilly became a story in and of itself.
Of course, what happened once Rick Reilly said Notre Dame had quit on itself? Naturally, the Fighting Irish just completed a 12-0 regular season, are the undisputed #1 team in the country, and will play in their first BCS Championship Game come January. Not bad for a team Rick Reilly unfavorably compared to Rice. Life is all about timing, and Rick Reilly is finding that out the hard way this year.
Sure, everyone makes wrong predictions and missteps from time to time, but this one from Rick Reilly brutalizing Notre Dame right before their 12-0 season should take its place in sportswriting lore. Just for fun, let's take a further look back at Rick Reilly's prophecies and proclamations putting Notre Dame in the grave just as they began their resurrection…
"We can't demote Notre Dame from its conference — since it is far too noble to belong to any piddling conference — but we can demote it in stature. From now on:
• Notre Dame no longer gets its own television deal with NBC.
• Notre Dame no longer gets to be the only school in the country with an inexplicable seat at the BCS decisions-making table.
• Notre Dame no longer gets its yearly undeserved hellahype in preseason rankings and preseason All-America teams."
While Reilly still has a point with Notre Dame's exclusive seat at the BCS table being something of a misnomer, it's that last bulletpoint that was and is the headscratcher. In truth, Notre Dame had zero hype before the season began when Reilly wrote this column about how overhyped Notre Dame was. In fact, Notre Dame is the first team to start the season unranked in the AP Poll and play in the BCS title game. Compare that to a team like Georgia that can start the season ranked #6, beat all of 1 ranked team during the season, and end up with a shot at the title game.
"In short, until Notre Dame football starts winning again, it's Rice to me.
That hurts your feelings? Watch "Rudy" 'til you feel better."
Rudy jokes. Ouch.
"You are not royalty anymore, Notre Dame. Turn in your tiara.
When your NBC contract expires in 2015, do the right thing and don't renew. Lower some expectations until you can turn this thing around. And you're a Mars Rover trip from turning it around.
Wait, what? Coach Brian Kelly is the savior? Really? Because he looks to me like he's doing a very good impression of Bob Davie so far. He's opened with back-to-back 8-5 seasons. Wow. Give him a sitting ovation."
That must have been a short Mars Rover trip. Also, it's worth noting that while Brian Kelly went 12-0 this year, Bob Davie's New Mexico team went 4-8 this season. And, it's worth noting that Reilly's parent company televised all 4 of the Notre Dame games they had the rights to on network primetime television this year. In fact, Notre Dame gave Reilly's parent company their highest rating of the season by far Saturday night. So, maybe once Notre Dame turns in their NBC contract, they should also turn down ESPN and ABC putting them in primetime at every opportunity.
"And with Kelly throwing the QB job up for grabs again, instead of just handing it to Tommy Rees once his one-game suspension is up, this season looks like 7-5 to me, with Ls to Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and you don't even want to know what USC will do to the Irish in the Coliseum. Cue the DentDoctor.com Bowl.
Somebody needs to make Notre Dame play by the same rules as everybody else. If there's anything we've learned from the Penn State mess, it's that nobody gets to live on a pedestal anymore.
You flunked, Notre Dame. Go back a grade."
If only Brian Kelly had listened to Rick Reilly and handed the keys back to Tommy Rees! In fairness though, yea, they should have lost that game to Pitt.
But give Rick Reilly credit. At least he stuck to his guns for the entire season. He tweeted this Saturday night before Notre Dame defeated USC to complete their perfect regular season.
No way Notre Dame beats USC tonight. If I'm wrong, I'll come to South Bend + polish every freaking helmet. I can't be wrong ALL year, can I?
— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 24, 2012
Turns out, you can.
Congratulations to Notre Dame. Unranked to the BCS title game. Proved everybody wrong, nobody more than me. Wax on. Wax off.
— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 25, 2012