As I went through my usual morning routine – waking up, hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock anywhere from 10 to 15 times, and flipping on the TV to watch the simulcast of ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN 2 – I was surprised that they were discussing Notre Dame football (which, besides the Chicago Bears, is what my life revolves around).
Apparently a topic came up from the plethora of emails the “Mikes” (Mike Greenberg and former Notre Dame and NFL defensive lineman Mike Golic) receive every morning. An emailer asked whether or not Mike and Mike believed newly-inaugurated President Obama should mandate that the Notre Dame football team join a conference. Notre Dame’s status as an “independent” in major college football is a point of contention for many fans. While – even as someone who bleeds blue and gold – I have never really taken a side in this argument, there are many who feel Notre Dame should join a conference like the Big Ten or Big East – the conference to which Notre Dame’s basketball team belongs. Many Notre Dame fans on the other hand, revel in the school’s distinct place outside of the major conferences.
Really though, whether Notre Dame is in a conference or not is a moot point. If Notre Dame eventually decides to join one of the major college football conferences it will make little difference to me as a fan – I know I will still be yelling at my TV during games as if the players can hear me and will play better as a result. The point is to ask: Does our nation have such outsized expectations of the office of the president – and our newly-inaugurated president in particular – that we believe he can, or even should, order a private university’s football team to join a conference. During a pre-election interview with ESPN, then-presidential candidate Obama stated his preference for seeing a playoff in college football instead of its current, antiquated bowl system. This mere statement of preference sent bowl bashers and playoff advocates into the stratosphere, believing there desired championship determining system was on its way via some executive fiat.
This really is not a criticism of the new president. I do not know what, if any, opinion President Obama holds on the issue of Notre Dame’s conference affiliation. This is though, a criticism of the American people. Not all of the American people of course, but certainly those who expect the president – any president – to have or wield the power to reconcile all of the world’s ills with the stroke of a pen; to be Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mother Teresa, the pope, the Dalai Lama, Sigmund Freud, George Washington, and now, apparently, the head of the NCAA, all wrapped in one package.
The Cato Institute’s Gene Healy has written extensively on this subject in his book The Cult of the Presidency, as well as here.Published in