The Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered the season with several questions, both on the field and off, chief among them whether or not an independent school not part of a power conference could be a nationally relevant program in this era.
By going undefeated and earning a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Jan. 7, the Irish more than answered those questions. Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com recently wrote about Notre Dame's return to relevance, including a quote from defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.
"A school with the magnitude of the following that we have, with an expectation of national championships and national dominance, to take over the program where Coach Kelly took it over, which was really -- as has been quoted many times by people -- almost nationally irrelevant, to turn that back into something that is relevant is really an awesome thing," Diaco told Fortuna. "The cheering never went away. Notre Dame Nation continued to cheer, when they really didn't have much to cheer about. Which is awesome. Now it's got to be a great feeling for the players in particular, that those people have something to cheer about. They put their interlocking ND on, and can proudly walk down the street and through the hallways of their workplaces. It's fun."