This week’s guest picker brings some much-needed credibility to this project. For 40 years, Tim Bourret worked in the Clemson sports information office, and has been one of the truly great folks to work with in our careers. He retired earlier this year, and he’s now working with NBC on its golf coverage, including a trip to Paris last week for the Ryder Cup.
Not only is Tim among the most knowledgable people you’ll meet in sports, he’s also among the nicest and most passionate — particularly when it comes to Clemson and his alma mater, Notre Dame. So, with the Tigers playing a big game at Wake and Notre Dame heading to Lane Stadium for the first time ever, we figured Tim was the perfect guy to check in with about the Week 6 slate.
Q. So if Notre Dame and Clemson end up facing off in the playoff, where’s your heart?
A. If you’ve worked any time for Dabo Swinney, you can’t help but love the guy, so it would have to be with Clemson, as it was in 2015 [when they played in the regular season].
Q. Both Notre Dame and Clemson have benched QBs who won 10-plus games for them last year, as has Miami and Alabama. You know the history of the sport as well as anyone. How crazy is this?
A. It’s exceedingly crazy. I can’t think of many times in Clemson history where the starting quarterback who has even had a winning season was benched the next year. I’m trying to think — a season where a team had a winning year with one quarterback who got benched the following season?
(Tim runs through a dozen different QBs and seasons, then says he’ll research it further. See addendum at end of post.)
The bottom line, it’s very rare, even for a winning season, let alone a 10-win season.
Q. So how’s life away from college football? How strange has this year been to be on the golf course instead of in the press box?
A. I was the student SID at Notre Dame starting in 1975, so it’s been different. But I love what I’m doing with NBC. Those guys are into it, too. So I come into the trailer at the beginning of the day, and the announcers are all asking me what I think about Clemson or about the game. They’re all big football fans — Dan Hicks and Peter Jacobson. The rest of the year, I’ll be doing games on the radio with Clemson, since I don’t have another golf tournament until December. But the strangest is when there’s home games. I hadn’t missed a home game since 1977. I’d been to 230 straight games in Death Valley. So when the Furman game was played, and I was in Boston, and I couldn’t even follow it because we were on the air with a golf tournament at the same time the game was on. Now, in Paris, I was able to listen to the game on my computer when I got back to the hotel. But that’s been the strangest.
Q. Seems crazy that Notre Dame has never played a game at Lane Stadium before, but the Irish head there to take on Virginia Tech this week. What do you make of this game?
A. Everybody will look at it as Virginia Tech just lost to Old Dominion, and Notre Dame just beat a seventh-ranked, traditionally good Stanford team. But I know what Lane Stadium can be like, especially at night. And this is a game Virginia Tech has been pointing to. I can see it, just from when Notre Dame came to Clemson for the first time since 1977, ACC teams really get fired up when Notre Dame comes to town. And one thing that’s neat about how they’ve done the schedule is, the games Notre Dame plays against other ACC teams are spaced out enough that it still creates a special atmosphere when Notre Dame comes to your place. But that’ll especially be the case at Lane Stadium. So I think it’ll be a close game.
Q. OK, so what are the odds, in your mind, that Notre Dame will be a full-time ACC member in the next 10 years?
A. I’ll go 60-40 that they will.
Q. What makes you say that?
A. I think, if you’d asked me this about Notre Dame basketball in 1985 — we’re in a little bit of the same situation. Digger [Phelps], before he left, he was pushing for Notre Dame to join a conference in basketball. He sensed the advantages of being in a conference. And I think over the next 10 years, the playoff structure could change, and it would be to Notre Dame’s advantage to join a conference. So I could see it happening.
Q. As a longtime Notre Dame fan, would that be OK with you?
A. I’d be OK with it because I think it would be easier for Notre Dame to get to the playoff if they were in the ACC as opposed to being independent. So if Notre Dame was in the ACC, they could probably lose a game and still get into the playoff. Right now, I think they’re in the situation where they have to go undefeated. Not just this year, but pretty much any year.
ADDENDUM: Tim did the research and here are the results: No Clemson QB has ever had a winning season and then been benched the following year. So the Kelly Bryant/Trevor Lawrence situation is really crazy.
At Notre Dame? ” I have every Notre Dame football guide since 1964 so I was able to get more details,” Tim wrote after our interview.
And sure enough, he’s got lots of details. (Editor’s note: I consider this a career highlight that I was able to find a research project for Tim.)
1971-72—Cliff Brown, Notre Dame’s first African American quarterback, started the last six games of the 1971 season and the Irish finished 8-2. So he is considered the season starter because he started the most games at quarterback, And they were the last six games of the season.
Brown’s bio in 1972 media guide said he was the “man to beat in the quarterback scramble,” going into the fall. But Tom Clements, a sophomore (first year of eligibility, freshmen could not play in 1971) beat out Brown and started every game in 1972. ND finished 8-3 in 1972. Clements then quarterbacked every game in the 1973 National Championship season.
1982-83—Blair Kiel was starter in 1982 as a junior and took Irish to a 6-4-1 record. His bio in 1983 media guide, his senior year, says, “destined to become the first-four year starter at quarterback in Notre Dame history. “
Kiel started the first three games of 1983, then Steve Beuerlein took over for the fourth game and started last nine games of the season. Notre Dame finished 1983 with a 7-5 record.
2000-01—In 2000, Matt Lovecchio, a freshman, started the last eight games of the season and took Irish to a 9-3 season and a BCS bowl game. His bio in 2001 press guide says, “Notre Dame’s No. 1 quarterback heading into the 2001 season.” Was 7-1 as the starter in those last eight games of the 2000 season with only loss in bowl game.
In 2001, Carlyle Holiday beat out Lovecchio and became the starter in the third game of the year. Started the last eight games of the season and took Irish to 5-6 record. Bob Davie was fired at end of the year.
2002-03—In 2002 Holiday took ND to a 10-3 record in Tyrone Williamgham’s first year as head coach. He started 12 of the 13 games, missing one start due to injury. In 2003, Holiday started the first three games at quarterback, then Brady Quinn, a freshman, took over. Holiday finished 2003 as backup quarterback, but also played some wide receiver. Quinn started last nine games of 2003 as a freshman. ND finished with 5-7 record that 2003 season. Quinn went on to start in 2004-05-06.
2011-12—In 2011, Tommy Rees took ND to an 8-5 record. He started 12 of the 13 games. In 2012 Everett Golson beat out Rees and led ND to National Championship game and a 12-1 record where it lost to Alabama. He started 11 of the 13 games that year. Rees started other two, but changes were for injury to Golson.