Then it hit me. He'd been told to dance.
And this is why I loathe Notre Dame.
It wasn't enough that Willingham completely invested himself in the job, visited the dorms and spoke passionately about the program to the J. Crew-wearing yuppie larvae who supposedly support the team -- many of whom would later call for his head. It wasn't enough that he helped to increase minority enrollment, or that he coaxed one of the school's most famous alumni, Joe Montana, back onto campus.
It wasn't enough that, during that sterling 2002 season, he made folks who had never given a damn about Notre Dame actually give a damn about Notre Dame. The Domers still wanted Willingham to dance. They had a humble, always-professional man who was dedicated to their university. Yet they insisted: Hey, could you do a little soft shoe, just to make us feel even more powerful?
This tells me something. It tells me they were just begging to be exposed for what they really are.
But let's not kid ourselves, friends. The good folks at Notre Dame aren't the least bit ashamed of their greed, their hypocrisy, and their false god of a football program.
That's the thing about people caught up in their own relevance. They have their noses too far up where they shouldn't be to smell any shame in their game. My best guess about the future at Notre Dame? It will become like any other big-time university football factory now, complete with every problem and every sort of "incident" associated with that sort of emphasis.
But at Notre Dame, the faithful will turn away from all of that.
Oh, and Notre Dame will win again. Eventually, the Irish will get National Title No. 12.
Will it matter? Of course it will.
But not to me.
Alan Grant is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He is a former NFL defensive back who played college football at Stanford.