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Shepkowski: Why Notre Dame Must Reach A Bowl Game

By Nick Shepkowski-

Two months ago Brian Kelly told a nation of fans he had a five-minute plan that would lead Notre Dame to "multiple national championships". Now, just days after getting blown out by Navy, Kelly's tone has changed.

It seems like a minor accomplishment, if even an accomplishment at all, for Notre Dame to be playing in a post season bowl game. If Kelly fails to lead the Irish so a thirteenth game this year, recent history of college football tells us his ultimate goal at Notre Dame won't likely come to fruition.

Since the BCS was instituted in 1998, ten coaches have combined to win twelve national titles with Nick Saban winning one each at LSU and Alabama while Urban Meyer has won two at Florida.

Of the 11 coach/school combinations to have won a BCS Championship, only one head coach failed to reach a bowl game in their first year at their eventual title winning school: Bobby Bowden, who built the Florida State program from practically nothing beginning in 1976.

No, teams don't have to necessarily be contending or winning national championships in year one under a new coach like Larry Coker did in 2001 with Miami, but a bowl game, no matter its seeming notoriety is a must.

Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Pete Carroll at USC, and Nick Saban at both LSU and Alabama all finished their first season at their eventual championship schools with four or more losses. Despite not playing a major role on the national scene in year one, all of these teams still wound up in bowl games. Stoops and Tressel parlayed the extra weeks of practice into winning their national championships in their second seasons.

It may not be a BCS game that pays millions for an appearance or vaults the Irish to a top 10 finish but the extra practices for a still relatively young team working in a new system can't be debated.

Brian Kelly is right, Notre Dame must qualify for a bowl this season.

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