Is Notre Dame football suffering from a weakening Catholic community?

I’ve got two football-related items:

1. Driving in today, I was listening to an interview on ESPN Radio with Bob Knight, the controversial but very intelligent and always provocative former college basketball coach. He was asked about the poor play in recent years of Notre Dame’s football team, and he suggested several factors.

I don’t have his exact words — I was driving and couldn’t take notes — but one factor he offered is that the American Catholic community is not as strong as it once was. Knight said that during the Notre Dame heyday, which lasted for decades, Catholic families wanted their football-playing boys to play for the Fighting Irish. This is no longer a given, he said.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, but it sounds like an interesting subject for a sports writer to explore.

And I don’t know what Knight’s faith is. I can’t find any clues on the Web.

2. Football fans who go back to the 1980s surely remember Mike Singletary’s eyes.

He played middle linebacker for the great Chicago Bears defenses of those years, and TV cameras loved to show his wide, ridiculously intense eyes as each play started.

Now he may become known for something else: A large wooden cross that hangs around his neck as he coaches the San Francisco 49ers.

Singletary became interim head coach of the Niners a few weeks back, and wears the large cross over his Niners shirt each Sunday. You can’t miss it.

He told the SF Chronicle:

If it were not for God, I would not be here. God is the role in my life. That is the No. 1 thing in my life. I start my day with him and I end my day with him in prayer.

From the first day I started coaching, I decided to wear the cross as a reminder of who I am and not lose my mind on the field and not become somebody else.

If Singletary keeps the job next year — and I would say it’s looking good for him — all of America may soon come to know him as the coach with the cross.

Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy is also a committed Christian who wrote about his faith in his best-selling book Quiet Strength.

But Singletary wears his faith on his sleeve. Or make that — you know what’s coming — his chest.

(Photo by Lacy Atkins / The San Francisco Chronicle)