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Notre Dame Loses One for the Ages

“I’ve got to go, Rock. It’s all right. I’m not afraid.”

If George Gipp gave that speech to Knute Rockne today, we know where he would have been going.

Not to meet his maker, but to stand with teammates outside a hotel window in the middle of the night watching two Notre Dame cheerleaders in an X-rated routine.

When a coach caught them, they would be ushered to a nearby parking lot for 1 a.m. push-ups.

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Golden Domes are going for plugged nickels these days, what with the fighting, cursing, drinking, smoking, smacking, peeping Irish having just been stuffed on the most foolish fourth-down attempt in school history.

A former line coach named Joe Moore sued Notre Dame for age discrimination after he was fired in 1996 at age 64, and the school shrugged.

Depositions indicated that this could be an ugly trial, and the school shrugged again.

Moore was willing to settle for $1.3 million--about three tuitions--and the school refused.

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So what happens? On Wednesday, two winners emerge, and neither will be seen this fall amid piano music and golden-brown leaves on NBC.

The first winner was Moore, whom a jury awarded $85,870.56 in back pay, nearly $500,000 in legal fees, and potentially more in future earnings.

The second winner was folks everywhere who long suspected the Notre Dame program, despite subtle claims, was no different from any other grass-stained joint where macho men and overgrown children combine to sometimes do really dumb stuff.

Now, thanks to a week’s worth of juicy trial tidbits offered under oath, we know.

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Which makes the Irish and Coach Bob Davie losers like never before.

According to testimony, this is the current state of the most famous football operation in the world:

The head coach has his job only after backstabbing the former coach and accusing him of having mental problems.

At least one assistant coach has beaten players until they were bloody, and at least one university official drank and smoked cigars with them after games.

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The players are so enamored of the situation, this year’s captain, lineman Mike Rosenthal, testified against the university.

After the trial ended, Notre Dame Athletic Director Michael Wadsworth said, “This is not one of our proudest moments.”

To which the sports world gently smiles and says, “Duh.”

It began with Moore claiming that Davie, shortly after he replaced Lou Holtz as head coach at the end of the 1996 season, fired him because he was too old.

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There was testimony, including tape recordings, that Davie gave that exact reasoning to Moore and others.

Davie, who came across like Kato Kaelin with a better haircut, initially denied just about everything. He then protested that Moore was fired because he was, among other things, physically abusive of his players.

Jurors sided with Moore because, well, one said this about the Notre Dame contingent: “They smiled a lot, but it didn’t look real. I think they kissed a lot of butt.”

Considering all the mud that was being thrown, it was amazing the Irish found the time or the target.

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“Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys--tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.”

If George Gipp gave that speech to Knute Rockne today, Rockne would have agreed to pass it along to his struggling team only after a short preamble.

It would have consisted of lining up the sorry suckers in the locker room, ordering them to take off their helmets, and punching them out, one by one.

At today’s Notre Dame, it’s not only the breaks that beat the boys.

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So testified former Notre Dame lineman Chris Clevenger, who said Moore bloodied him twice, but still loves him.

Then there was the testimony about the hotel push-ups during Notre Dame’s trip to Ireland, a recounting that included the exact sort of sex being performed by the two sweatered ones.

And this was part of Notre Dame’s defense.

Notre Dame also claimed that Moore smoked too much, never cleaned his car, doodled during meetings, and referred to Holtz as “that little [expletive] in glasses.”

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Moore’s team countered by claiming Davie cursed student managers and ripped Holtz while he was still Holtz’s assistant.

But what swayed the jurors was Moore’s testimony that when Davie fired him, the head coach said, “The way I see it, at your age, I won’t be able to count on you for five years. I need somebody younger.”

Then, according to testimony, the two men parted with this fabled Irish farewell:

Davie: "[Expletive] you.”

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Moore: "[Expletive] you too.”

“I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”

Wherever George Gipp and Knute Rockne are today, here’s hoping they have their ears covered.

Bob Davie left the courtroom Wednesday saying, “I’m looking forward to getting back to doing what I do best, and that is coach football.”

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Objection, your honor.


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