It is easy to look at Notre Dame's 14-37 setback at home against Stanford with a growing sense of uneasyness. In fact, many Irish fans are already panicking, calling for the resignation or firing of first year coach Brian Kelly. Yet Notre Dame is beginning to win where it matters most: in the moral category.
No, I am not talking about a moral victory from the outcome of the game, such as Manti Te'o getting 20 tackles or Dayne Crist throwing for 304 yards and only 1 interception in 44 attempts.
I am talking about moral victories. Period.
Notre Dame is supposed to be the premiere Catholic university in the nation, yet there have been over 100 incidents of students getting caught drinking and partying this semester alone. The Irish student body is more convict than Catholic, a far cry from the proud past of this once glorious institution.
Irish fans under former coach Weiss got into a habit of following his unethical lead of blaming everyone but himself and his players. The refusal to accept personal responsibility largely accounted for many of the problems facing the program to this day.
Everything the university stands for is now tarnished by arrogance, ignorance, and a general lack of accountability.
Kelly has taken some big steps towards overcoming those flaws. He did not back away from the pre-season drinking scandal that enveloped his team. He refused to blame officials for his team's loss at Michigan State. He has been honest about his team. He is changing the culture for the better. He is winning the only battle that ultimately matters.
Championships will come with time. But champions of life need to be nurtured and taught the moral lessons to become truly great men and women. These victories may go unnoticed by most fans, but they should be respected above any other victories. They are the gains and the promises and the outcomes that matter most.
And Kelly uses his leadership to teach these students how to win these battles which arise in daily life. Kelly is coaching champions off the field, even if the team struggles to win on the field. In my book, he has already won.