Nov. 10, 1999

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – There has been some discussion that Notre Dame and Tennessee have reversed roles in the football world. That is a valid point if you are only considering the won-loss record.

There is no question that Tennessee has won more games than the Irish in recent years and has become one of the dominant programs in the country. However, there are additional factors, such as graduation rates, that help define our program here at the University of Notre Dame.

Over the past two seasons, Tennessee and Michigan have won more college football games than any other programs in the nation. These two programs are definitely at the top if you define them by wins, however, if you are looking at the big picture, these programs may not be the strongest.

We are proud of what we have accomplished. No one wants to admit it, but we are in a rebuilding mode.

We knew heading into the Tennessee game that we might have to refocus following the game. Obviously, that game got our players’ attention. You cannot help being challenged by the type of players they have. Tennessee has six players ranked in Mel Kiper’s top 50 NFL draft prospects.

We are now faced with another challenge — we are 5-4 with the opportunity to finish the regular season 8-4. When you look at it on paper, you can see that moving from Tennessee to Pittsburgh presents different challenges for our team. We have some players hurt right now, but that allows others an opportunity to step up and contribute. Week-in and week-out, college football is a new challenge.

Refocusing on this game is somewhat of a concern, but we realize there is a lot riding on the outcome of this game. It is the last college football game to ever be played in Pitt Stadium. In college football it is always about the next game, and with only twelve games each year, every one is significant.

Our football team plans on finishing what we started, and that applies to everything we do. I talk to our players about arriving as freshmen and staying through graduation, because Notre Dame is not easy. In the short-term, it is all about finishing this season with the same enthusiasm we had on August 28th when we lined up against Kansas.

For us it is about trying to improve each week. As I said before, it is not easy because you are presented with new challenges each week. As the season progresses, you lose players to injury and the depth at some positions becomes thin.

We started this season strong and we are going to finish it strong.