"Even though we're similar academically, we're in a little different boat as Stanford and Notre Dame. We've been consistently winning since 1995. They're still saying they can do it, but we're doing it."
It took me a whopping five minutes to confirm that Fitzgerald's claim is utter bunk. Yes, Pat, Northwestern has been "consistently winning" in a time period in which the program is under .500. And the Wildcats are doing SO much better than Notre Dame over that time period, as evidenced by the fact that the Irish are a mere 37 places higher than Northwestern in the winning percentage rankings. Good lord, Mandel, you're basing an entire piece on a claim by your alma mater's head coach that is verifiably false!
Leaving history aside and just looking at this year, Fitzgerald cannot make the case that the Wildcats are on par with the Irish. Superficially, the teams have close records, but they have played wildly different schedules. Northwestern lined up the murderer's row of Syracuse, Towson State, Eastern Michigan, and Miami (OH). The Wildcats are the only team against whom Eastern Michigan stayed within single digits. Northwestern joins Maine and Akron as Syracuse's only victims this season. Northwestern doesn't play Ohio State, they played a colossally overrated Iowa team without its quarterback for most of the game, and they were dominated by Penn State. The Sagarin Predictor puts Northwestern a mere 58 spots behind Notre Dame and would make the Irish a two touchdown favorite on a neutral field. Is this what parity looks like?
And then let's tackle your central thesis, Mandel, which is that "Notre Dame is no longer different than other programs of its type." If you're reading this, I'd like to propose a little wager: Notre Dame will have a better average ranking over the next five years than Stanford or Northwestern. I'm so certain that the Irish's massive advantages in exposure, recruiting, and financial resources will matter that I'll give you 3:1 odds on the bet. If gambling makes you uncomfortable, then we can agree that the winner will donate his booty to the charity of his choosing. I'm not much of a betting man myself, but I'm so confident that you are overreacting in a massive fashion to the events of one weekend (not to mention using a chance to plug your team) that I'm willing to do something new. Good gracious, I'm so confident that I'm willing to put money on Charlie Weis.