OpEd Columns

Santa's Sleigh Spotted in South Bend (Indianapolis Star 12/05/09)

As reported by Emma Mandell

Notre Dame has selected Santa Claus to replace Charlie Weis as its new head football coach. Sources close to athletic director Jack Swarbrick say an announcement seems imminent.

When asked at his Thursday Food Court luncheon, Claus neither denied nor confirmed the rumors swirling around the Golden Dome that he would soon be arriving on the South Bend, Indiana campus. "I intend on being at the mall. I enjoy it here. I can't really be at two places at one time."

Oh really?

Numerous times in the past week, Claus has been spotted at various malls in the Hoosier state. Tuesday in Ft. Wayne. Wednesday in Indianapolis. Thursday in Kokomo.

Meanwhile, Swarbrick has denied making contact with any potential coaching candidates. However just yesterday, numerous witnesses spotted a young boy wearing an Irish football jersey, handing a wish list to Claus in Valparaiso, just 45 minutes from the Notre Dame campus. When asked about the contents of the list, the boy simply smiled and said, "I hope he comes soon. I can't wait."

Sources indicate Claus has been flying on the Notre Dame radar for months, attractive to the school for many reasons.

First and foremost, his relationship with star quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Many believe Claus has the right last name to woo Clausen back to Notre Dame for his senior season where he would be the front runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

Claus is also quite familiar with the current landscape of college football, annually scouring the country during bowl season. He's been spotted in the stands at many Bowl Championship Series games in the past, as well as at numerous NFL playoff contests. His annual camaraderie with fans nationwide should translate well with the Notre Dame alumni hungry for more cheer next season.

He's a traditional power. There's no denying Claus' record of late season success, a stumbling block for the Irish in recent seasons. He sports an unprecedented 976-0 record in cold weather reindeer games.

Especially keen to Irish eyes, Claus has a proven track record of enforcing strict discipline and tough academic standards. His famous "Naughty or Nice" ultimatum has proven a successful strategy with both young and old.

And although not widely reported, Claus is rumored to be Irish Catholic. Some times referred to as Saint Nicholas.

Claus emerged from a short list of potential candidates presented by Swarbrick to Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins this week. If Jenkins does not believe in Santa Claus, look for the school to move quickly to secure one of the following names as their new head coach.

SpongeBob Square Pants. A proven winner. Indestructible. Can take the heat. Absorbs sweat well. Drawback: Lives in a pineapple under the sea. The ultra popular Sponge is also under a long term contract with cable TV network Nickelodeon. However, an escape clause is believed to allow Square Pants to leave for his dream job in South Bend.

Murray Wiggle. The red one. Has shown great leadership skills as the guitar playing member of the wildly successful Australian musical group The Wiggles. Drawback: The weather. Climate in sultry Sydney tough to leave for snowy South Bend. Also may want to bring other band members on board as assistants, and Jeff, the purple Wiggle, has a propensity to fall asleep. Could be a problem during the game.

Hannah Montana. As a girl, she's a longshot. But she can dance and sing on the sidelines while her dad's calling the formations. Drawback: NCAA does not permit musical performances while the ball is in play. But they can change the rules for Hannah Montana, right? Expensive buyout with Disney potential stumbling block.

Barbie. The dark horse candidate. She's very adaptable. As a recruiter, she can be in many places with different wardrobes, at the same time. Comes complete with her own coaching staff. Assistant Ken is a proven defensive coordinator. Drawback: Barbie's plastic. And she's a girl.

Did I say that already?

Editor's Note: Emma Mandell is an award winning four year-old pre-school blogger/journalist for fanreport.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2009 Ted Mandell