What these BE fans portray as a grand association is actually holding them back. BE leadership is a Notre Dame agent and there is a conflict-of-interest when it comes to fb. Certain current BE fb schools need to come to terms with this. No wonder the once strong profiles of Syracuse and Pittsburgh have been tarnished and will impact WVU as well.
SU and Pitt were down not because of the association with ND in the BE - if that is what you meant in your post.
The reason Pitt was down is because of the lack of support from the administration from the late 80s to the mid 90s which erroded the program. The program never had a lot of fans and never has the support of PSU, OSU, or even South Carolina to withstand a decade of 'terrible' teams.
Only with the change to Mark Nordenburg and a committment to athletic, new AD, new stadium and facilites was the program able to 'turn it around'. As you can see though, if the team isnt doing well the program will struggle for fans.
I cannot speak for SU but maybe they didnt put the money into facilities like they should have - maybe they got complacent.
As to your first point - how is having ND 'holding the BE back'? If you would have said this in 2003 before the raid, then you would be correct. But now?