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"Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky.
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory."
When the University of Utah makes a pilgrimage to Notre Dame on Saturday, the Utes won't run into any Heisman Trophy candidates or have a chance to ruin the Fighting Irish's national championship hopes.
That was long-ago Notre Dame, not present-day Notre Dame.
Yes, seven Notre Dame players have won the Heisman, but it hasn't happened since 1987.
Yes, the Fighting Irish have won 11 national championships, but just one since 1977.
This season, Notre Dame is 4-5 under first-year coach Brian Kelly, who came from Cincinnati and took over for Charlie Weis, who replaced Tyrone Willingham, who followed Bob Davie.
"Very, very disappointing season," said Lou Somogyi, editor of Blueandgold.com. "Even though it was a transition year, Brian Kelly came in with head coaching experience and he knew how to win."
After losses to Navy and Tulsa, however, Kelly's team must win two of its final three games against Utah, Army and USC to reach six and qualify for a bowl game any bowl game.
For a program built on the tradition of the Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus and George Gipp, reaching the Champs Sports Bowl causes unrest, not celebration.
"Way, way below where Notre Dame should be," said Somogyi, who believes winning 75 percent of the time and making a periodic run at the national title would be an acceptable standard.
Davie, Willingham and Weis? Not close.
In the last 13 seasons, their teams went a combined 91-67.
"This is a very, very difficult job," Somogyi said. "It is not made for everybody, especially first-time head coaches [like Davie and Weis]. ...
"This just isn't the place for on-the-job training. The microscope on Notre Dame's coach is much, much tougher than almost anyplace else."
Willingham went to Notre Dame from Stanford, "but this job needs experience and a very charismatic, outgoing person," Somogyi said. "After three years, I think, he got the feeling, 'You know, this just isn't for me.'"
Willingham was fired after the 2004 season, and Notre Dame desperately wanted to hire then-Utah coach Urban Meyer.
A former Irish assistant with an upper Midwest upbringing, Meyer previously said Notre Dame was his "dream job." But instead of replacing Willingham, Meyer went to Florida.
Part of his reasoning: Notre Dame's academic standards make it more difficult to win in South Bend than in Gainesville.
"Getting kids in school who are also good players is a potential problem, I suppose, when you go against Florida, LSU and Ohio State and USC," said Somogyi.
"But the frustration here is, what does getting players into school have to do with losing to Navy, Tulsa, Syracuse or Connecticut?"
Somogyi continued: "Look at Stanford. They have some pretty high standards and how are they doing? ... They beat Notre Dame two straight years, I know that."
Despite its strict academic requirements, Notre Dame usually ends up with a top-ranked recruiting class, which adds to the frustration level because it hasn't been translating to on-the-field success.
"Every February, it's the same thing," Somogyi said. "Great recruiting class. But if they are recruiting so well every year, why do you keep going 6-6?"
Today, Kelly has inherited the pressurized job of restoring Notre Dame's past glory something the last three coaches could not do.
"I recognize [scrutiny] comes with this job," Kelly said. "But it doesn't deter me from doing the job I came here to do getting Notre Dame back to the top echelon of college football."
After a long and frustrating absence, why does Kelly think the Irish can rejoin college football's elite?
"I believe all the things are in place, from commitment to the football program to the ability to recruit nationally to an incredibly passionate fan base," he said.
"With the resources and commitment we have, we just need to develop some consistency. I think that's the word I would underline. This program needs consistency."
As long as Notre Dame is consistently 10-2, Kelly will be just fine.
P Utah (8-1) at Notre Dame (4-5), 12:30 p.m.
TV • NBC Channel 5