If experience is really the great teacher, then Notre Dame's Gerry Faust can look forward to next fall. Faust learned a lot this season as the beleaguered rookie coach of a 5-6 team, the worst Irish squad in almost 20 years.
To avoid a similar embarrassment next season, Faust must keep on recruiting top players. He had a batch of them on the latest team, which was one reason why Irish hopes were so high. Some experts even felt Notre Dame would contend for a national championship, despite having a coach fresh out of the high school ranks.
Portrayed by the media as a leader of incredible energy and charisma when he arrived in South Bend, Faust soon discovered that exuberance does not alone win games, nor does pure talent. The right combination of factors is the key, and Gerry must certainly unlock the secret soon or it could mean his job. Notre Dame's many followers won't suffer a loser very long, nor will the school.
As far as recruiting is concerned, the cloud hanging over Notre Dame football could work either of two ways. On one hand, it could scare away high school players concerned about a possible upheaval. On the other, newcomers looking for a chance to play could suddenly see one at Notre Dame.
Herschel and the Heisman Georgia fans are disappointed Herschel Walker didn't win the Heisman Trophy, but there could be a hidden benefit. A quest to capture the Heisman might keep Walker in college.
He probably could use the incentive. Hardly anyone doubts he's capable of playing pro football right now, and for very big money. The Montreal Alouettes tried to lure him north of the border last spring, but Herschel is obviously more interested in playing in the National Football League. But when?
Theoretically, no player can enter the NFL until his four years of college eligibility are up. Herschel, a sophomore, might be willing to challenge that NFL dictum.
Though Walker remains in college, his family has taken out an insurance policy that covers his potential loss in market value due to injury.
Winning the Heisman could enhance Herschel's bargaining power, but mainly it would be a source of personal satisfaction. He finished second this year and third last, and seems the obvious choice for '82 and maybe '83 as well. Of course, there are never any guarantees. Just ask Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter, who was a preseason choice to win a year ago, yet is completing his career Heismanless.
If Herschel sticks around for two more years, voters would be inclined to honor him for past deeds if not present ones. UCLA's Gary Beban readily admits that when he won as a senior in 1967, O. J. Simpson probably deserved the trophy , but voters were rewarding him for the season he'd had two years earlier.
Iowa's super foot In football, nothing draws as many oohs and ahs as a high-arcing punt, knifed through the air. A spiraling kick is a thing of beauty , and no collegian has mastered its technique as well as Iowa's Reggie Roby, who will be applying foot to pigskin in the Rose Bowl come New Year's Day.
A junior All-America, Roby became the longest punter in NCAA history this season with a 49.8-yard average. That breaks the previous record of 49.3 yards set by UCLA's Kirk Wilson in 1956 on just 30 kicks. Roby booted the ball 44 times.
Ray Guy, the player generally regarded as the premier punter in all of football, won the 1972 college punting title at Southern Mississippi with a 46.2 -yard average, then was made a first-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders.
Joe Kapp back at Cal Most fans will probably remember Joe Kapp as the man who made ''machismo'' a household word. More a courageous and inspirational leader than a slick quarterback, Kapp flutter-balled the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl in the late 1960s. Just last week he emerged as the new head football coach at his alma mater, the University of California.
Many people probably wondered whatever happened to him, his absence from football almost complete since 1971, when he walked out of the New England Patriots training camp rather than sign a standard pro contract. A court battle ensued and eventually Joe turned to work in movies and TV.
This will be his first attempt at coaching, yet he sees no problems. ''Howard Cosell coaches 28 NFL teams every week,'' he told the Boston Globe, ''so I figure I can coach one college team.''
It should be a challenge, though, judging from the 2-9 record this year's team compiled under Roger Theder. Of course, if anybody can light a fire under the team it could be Kapp, who quarterbacked Cal's last Rose Bowl team in 1959 before heading for the Canadian Football League. Since then, the Golden Bears have never risen to the top of the Pacific-10 Conference, despite producing such outstanding quarterbacks as Craig Morton, Steve Bartkowski, Joe Roth, and Rich Campbell.
Odds and ends
* Wouldn't it be ironic if Alabama, the only team to lose to Georgia Tech, goes on to win the national championship? That would support the old theory that it's better to lose early (Alabama's lone setback occurred in the season opener), then finish strong.
* Navy obviously is doing a good job of scheduling. The Middies have now had four winning seasons in a row, the first time that's happened in 20 years, and will meet Ohio State in the Liberty Bowl Dec. 30. Army spoiled things a bit last Saturday, though, by tying Navy 3-3 in a major ''upset.''