The cult following of the SEC

As Notre Dame clinched a spot in the BCS national championship game, Twitter exploded with jealousy, rage and mockery aimed at the Fighting Irish.

It’s really hard to understand exactly why there is so much venom toward the university in South Bend, Ind. It would be understandable if it were the early 1990s, but not today.

Notre Dame fans have been about as in your face with their success as a Cubs fan since Notre Dame got hosed out of the 1993 national championship.

While some Fighting Irish fans tend to borderline on self righteous, most of us had no choice but to root for Notre Dame. This is probably as true in Butte and Anaconda as anywhere in the country.

Like many Mining City families, Notre Dame football is the one team that everybody in my family agrees on. My brothers and I could pick any NFL or baseball team we wanted. Wearing a Michigan, Miami or USC hat, however, was something that would have landed us in a foster home.

My job covering Montana Tech’s football team and other local sports has kept me away from watching the Irish on most Saturdays for the better part of the last two decades, so my enthusiasm kind of waned. I always hoped the Fighting Irish would win over that time, but I didn’t lose any sleep when they didn’t.

That’s a good thing, too, because from Bob Davey to Charlie Weis, the Irish have given their faithful tons to toss and turn about.

Sure, it’s fun to see Notre Dame back on the national stage. More than anything, though, I’m happy for the die-hard Irish fans I know. I’m thrilled for guys like my buddy Mick McGrath, who once worried out loud that he’d never see another successful ND team when he heard that Davey signed a contract extension.

I’m also happy that the Notre Dame haters have to deal with seeing the Irish lead off SportsCenter.

Unfortunately, I know a lot of them. Generally, they’re the guys who cheer for the teams in the Southeastern Conference, which is the most overrated, over-hyped group since Milli Vanilli.

The SEC schedules have more cupcakes than a bakery, yet the league somehow enjoys the same status as the United States in the Little League World Series. That is to say the SEC basically has an automatic bid into the BCS championship game.

The league is pushed by the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports, which has a financial interest in SEC success, and people truly bought into that line of bull.

You remember that line they gave us about Boise State? The Broncos shouldn’t be considered for national title contention because the Broncos didn’t play anybody, the line went. When Boise shot back by saying “anybody, anywhere, anytime,” the SEC said, “Why would we play you? We can make just as much money playing the mighty Towson Tigers at home.”

Last year we were treated to a title-game rematch between LSU and Alabama after the Tigers and Crimson Tide cured insomnia with their first game. Led by ESPN, the college football world followed along like it was wearing black-and-white Nike shoes and waiting for a comet to carry it to heaven.

It was perfect for the fans and media who boost an SEC team after a conference loss, yet laugh at Oregon when it loses to a formidable conference foe.

That way, no teams were even allowed to try to prove that bogus SEC greatness theory wrong. In two years, we will have a four-team “playoffs” coming into play. That was only passed after SEC presidents agreed to it and, presumably, found a way to make sure all four playoff teams are from the SEC.

Oh how I wish Ohio State players would have paid for their own tattoos and the Buckeyes didn’t face sanctions that keep them out of postseason play. I’d love to see how they’d rationalize bumping one of the two remaining undefeated teams out of the “championship game” for a one-loss SEC champion.

You know they would, too.

Instead, the SEC champ is guaranteed a spot opposite Notre Dame in the championship game, even though one-loss Oregon and Kansas State should have just as much claim to the No. 2 spot.

What really gets me about the anti-Notre Dame push is the attacks on the Irish for their schedule.

For the record, the Irish played the brave men of the Navy in Ireland before playing Purdue, at Michigan State, Michigan, Miami (in Chicago), Stanford, BYU, at Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest and at USC.

Phil Steele’s College Football Preview ranked Notre Dame’s 2012 schedule as the toughest in the nation. I have no idea who the heck Phil Steele is, but he sounds like he knows college football.

Now, let’s take a peek at some SEC schedules.

Georgia played Buffalo (no, not the Bills), Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern. Florida played powerhouses Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.

South Carolina played East Carolina, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Wofford.

Alabama took on Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina, while LSU played North Texas, Idaho and, seriously, Towson. They played those games with a straight face, too.

Raise your hand if you never heard of most of these schools. If the top SEC teams ever lose a non-conference game, David Anspaugh will make a movie about it.

There’s five or six darn good teams — out of 14 — in the SEC, but they don’t all play each other. (By the way, if the SEC is so tough, why did it take a move to the super conference for Texas A&M to finally be a major player after years of mediocrity in the Big 12?)

Seriously, going into Saturday’s SEC championship game, Alabama played two games that it wouldn’t take a Hollywood script for the Crimson Tide to lose, and they lost one of them. The same could be said for their opponent, Georgia.

That’s why everybody knew a ‘Bama-LSU rematch was inevitable by late September last year. Their schedules were so creampuff that they knew nobody else would beat them.

Still, the bashing of Notre Dame and the Irish schedule continues.

Even my buddy Davey, who is normally one of the smartest football fans I know, got in on the act. Notre Dame would be a .500 team if the Irish played in the SEC, Davey tweeted as Notre Dame closed out USC, The Associated Press preseason No. 1.

Really? Ole Miss went .500 in the SEC, and the Rebels struggled against Central Arkansas. Would you like a minute to rethink that tweet?

You can’t really blame Davey for such a nonsensical thought, however.  He doesn’t really hate Notre Dame, and he certainly isn’t rooting for any SEC teams. Like I said, he’s usually a pretty smart football fan.

Davey has just been listening to the expert line of bull so long that he too has become brainwashed.

Hopefully we can save him before he gets in line for that comet.

— Sportswriter Bill Foley, who is looking to start his own cult, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays.