Irish Stick With A Real Weis Guy

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - December 10, 2008
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USC coach Pete Carroll offers Notre Dame condolences after a devastating Trojans win last week

For Notre Dame’s nation of loyal fans, the struggles of Charlie Weis have been a two-year odyssey of frustration and disbelief.

For everyone else, the demise of college football’s most polarizing program and its self-proclaimed greatest offensive mind has provided nothing but sheer entertainment.

But while the Irish faithful rub their rosary beads in the hopes that the next football messiah will soon come riding in beneath the blue-gray October sky, they need to stow their snowballs and grudgingly admit the school made the correct decision in retaining the embattled coach.

Notre Dame’s options are limited. When the school made Ty Willingham the program’s first fire - and more importantly when it offered Weis the decade-long extension after only five games into his Notre Dame career - the school became just another football whore guided by a disconnected pimp more committed to his own ego than taking responsibility for the mess he helped create.

But I digress.


Currently, there are no coaches available who fit the school’s new level of unrealistic expectation. After the embarrassment of George O’Leary and the mediocrity of Bob Davie, Gerry Faust and Willingham, just any old hire will not do. Notre Dame needs a star and right now, for better or for worse, the biggest celebrity is the one who has recorded the school’s lowest two-season win total since 1962-63.

By most recent reports, the buyout on Weis’ contract was of little concern to the school financed by a $7 billion endowment and its own television deal, which has not paid its expected dividends to NBC as the Irish’s poor play has meant lower ratings and refunds to advertisers.

Money had little to do with Weis’ continued tenure in South Bend, and going on a third coaching search in seven years does-n’t exactly hint at the job security top coaches look for. Had a hotshot been available and interested, Weis may have already been given the OK to seek other employment.

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly has been a popular candidate for a number of schools in recent years, but has in effect thumbed his nose at Notre Dame by declaring his allegiance to his current employer.

Kirk Ferentz, always a favorite to leave Iowa for greener pastures in both college and the NFL, will have to win a lot more than 55 percent of his games to calm the ire of Irish faithful.

Skip Holtz? Sure, he coached under his slurring father at Notre Dame and has turned East Carolina from a joke to a conference contender, but living in his father’s shadow would be tough, as would convincing Irish fans their best hope lies in the hands of a coach who averaged seven wins a season in Conference USA.

Mike Leach has shown a willingness to talk about new employment but already makes $1.7 million per, and has an AD who is committed to adding to Leach’s wallet before the bowl season ends.

Boise State’s Chris Peterson, who pulled a reverse Charlie Weis, succeeding after parting with his former successful superior, would be a great hire if they could get him. Peterson has won 35 of 38 games, but he’s a quality-of-life guy who may not be convinced that the honor of coaching the Irish trumps the pressures of academic requirement and national expectation.

Had it been anyone else but Charlie Weis, the three-game improvement for a team dominated by freshman and sophomore talent would have been palpable - especially when any complaints regarding talent could be blamed on his predecessor. But when a new coach comes in blind drunk from the corn squeezings of his own ego and self-professed intellect, any stumble on the road to immortality will be met with an equal level of disdain.

Perhaps no coach ever has been greeted with greater adoration than Charlie Weis. After being spurned by Urban Meyer, Weis and his four Super Bowl rings were greeted upon the Notre Dame campus like Odysseus returning to Ithaca while pronouncing, “The whole world talks of my stratagems, and my fame has reached the heavens.”

Weis was supposed to follow in the hallowed footsteps of Leahy, Parseghian and, dare we dream, the great Norwegian himself, Knute Rockne. Instead, his .571 winning percentage has put him in line with Davie (.583), Faust (.535), and dare we say, Willingham (.583).

The Irish are loaded with youth, but that doesn’t excuse Weis for not making progress. In fact, the team has regressed. Critics and fans were split on whether the school’s 4-1 start was a prelude for a return to greatness or a mirage built on sub-par competition. After losing to Pittsburgh in overtime, being blanked by Boston College, barely scraping by Navy and coming up short to a god-awful Syracuse team, the only remaining argument was about how badly they would lose to Southern Cal. Pete Carroll showed kindness, holding the line to 35 points.

Not even the Commander in Chief’s Trophy has been safe under Weis. The academies, which for years had been fodder for easy Notre Dame victories, have suddenly become contenders for the crown, with victories over college football’s most holy organization by both Navy and Air Force.

Notre Dame will be better next year. For all the hype, Weis is a talented coach, and the Irish will get their fair share of talented recruits. But if we can take one lesson from these last two years, it is that college coaching is not just a job for those who can’t cut it in the NFL. It is an entirely different type of employment that calls for skills unique to the job.


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