Ty too good to be great at ND

Jason Dixon and Jason Dixon

During Tyrone Willingham’s brief tenure at Notre Dame, the university’s first ever African-American head coach was good.

He was good for all three years.

Not consistently good, but good.

His players were good.

Always good in the classroom.

Sometimes good on the football field.

“From Sunday through Friday, our football program has exceeded all expectations, in every way,” said Kevin White, Notre Dame’s athletic director, in last Tuesday’s press conference announcing the firing of Willingham. “The academic performance has never been better … We’re just not meeting competitive expectations on Saturday.”

Nevertheless, they were still good.

Good with the media.

Good in their own minds.

Perhaps, good in their fans’ hearts, too.

A bunch of good guys.

Good grief.

The football program hadn’t produced such upstanding gentleman since good old Lou Holtz was roaming the sidelines in 1996–his last of 11 years at Notre Dame.

Willingham took great pride in producing good football players but most of all, good men and he made an art out of it, even going back to his seven-year stint at Stanford.

Starting 8-0 in his first season (2002) and finishing that year at 10-3 might be considered great, if it weren’t so doggone good.

Check his overall record at Notre Dame and the numbers would look good anywhere else for anyone trying to rebuild a program: 21-15.

Willingham was the definition of good.

The embodiment of good.

Good will be his legacy at Notre Dame.

His philosophy was to play good team football.

To execute good.

To play good defense.

To play good on special teams.

To block good.

For his quarterback to deliver passes good, even if it’s grammatically incorrect.

Willingham’s players embraced good.

The few alumni who wanted him at Notre Dame in the first place and his coaching staff even puffed out their chests with pride, because Willingham was promoted as, and expected to be a good guy with a “consistent, intense and stable approach to leadership.”

It was part of his good track record as a football coach.

Willingham would rather lose with good guys than finish No. 1 every year with bad ones.

Good thing.

Because, good heavens, that’s exactly what has happened.

As good as the Fighting Irish have performed at times this year, the end result could have never been great.

Great nearly superseded the good in Willingham and his team after wins over Michigan and Tennessee earlier this year, but it would not, it could not, happen.

Notre Dame didn’t have the goods to finish better than 6-5 and avoid a 41-10 drubbing by the University of Southern California in the final game of the season.

Willingham did a good job coaching the team long before that loss.

He’ll do a good job at his next stop.

Always good.

Forever good.

Only good.

Although, never good enough to satisfy the faithful in South Bend and wake up the echoes, as people at the university like to say in reference to re-living the football programs glorious past.

Good is a double-edged sword, then.

Good is better than crappy.

Good is preferable to being Western Michigan (1-10).

Good is worth hanging your hat on, if nothing better is in sight.

On the other hand, good will never be great, which is what Notre Dame wanted.

Their football coach to be great, not good.

Good will never reach for the stars.

It will not risk its goodness.

Will not swap a chance at greatness because it puts good at great risk.

So, it settles for being good.

Is satisfied with being good.

Helps student-athletes perform well in class, by being good.

Maybe Willingham was just too good for Notre Dame.

Too taken with, too fixated on, being good.

Maybe mediocre, mixed with an occasional great, would be better than just Willingham’s incredible streak of good.

Is anyone sick and tired of good, good, good, good, good?

Willingham’s three seasons of good coaching at Notre Dame and 58 straight sentences without a break illustrate that good is good for whom it’s for, but sometimes, especially at Notre Dame where they feel it’s an inalienable right to finish in the Top 10 every year, it just might be too much of a good thing.