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Silence by Weis says it all

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David Haugh
November 30, 2009
— No matter how embarrassing the losses were, Bob Davie always showed up afterward to discuss them. No coach in Notre Dame football history faced the music with any more grace than Tyrone Willingham, even amid the chorus of boos.

Charlie Weis?


After the final game of his Notre Dame tenure, a gut-wrenching 45-38 loss to Stanford that finished the Irish season at 6-6, Weis hid behind the words of his players. For the first time a Notre Dame spokesman could recall, the football coach declined to comment to reporters other than one from the university’s radio network.


If anybody needed further evidence of the type of leadership this once-proud program has lacked, this was it. Weis’ silence said everything: Fire me. Now.


It was the second symbol Saturday night of how badly Notre Dame needs to part ways with Weis, which it will do as soon as the next couple of days.


The first came with 1 minute, 3 seconds left and the game tied 38-38 with Stanford at the Notre Dame 4. During a timeout, Weis told his players to let the Cardinal score to get the ball back with enough time to drive. On the next play, Toby Gerhart walked in untouched as one Irish defender didn’t even move his hands off his knees.


Even if the call could be defended strategically, any time a coach of a bunch of 18- to 22-year-olds tells his team to lie down—to quit—it offends the sportsman in all of us. Weis first quit on his players last Sunday when he publicly acknowledged athletic director Jack Swarbrick had reason to fire him and again Saturday night with the game on the line.


What happened to the fight in Fighting Irish?


It will take a guy like Bob Stoops to restore it. Now there’s a proven leader of young men who has emerged as the university’s No. 1 choice for good reason.


With a friendly schedule and talent in place, Stoops could promise his next class of Irish recruits they will play in a national title game, and it wouldn’t sound like blarney.


A pregame broadcast report speculated Stoops would be on his way to South Bend as early as Sunday. The only confirmation Irish fans wanted to hear was the time to meet Stoops’ jet at the airport.


“We haven’t talked to anybody, we haven’t authorized anybody to talk to anybody. You don’t have to ask me about A, B, C or D—not one of them is true,” Swarbrick said.


The truth?


It was hard to come by after Notre Dame spent a tumultuous week in the bunker.


Weis banned players and coaches from the media after Jimmy Clausen sustained a black eye in a bar fight that only made it harder for the program to look in the mirror.


The truth is that Notre Dame wasted a BCS bowl opportunity this season with the best quarterback-receiver combination in America in Clausen and Golden Tate, whose 28-yard, zig-zag-across-the-field touchdown catch should be the first play on his Heisman highlight reel.


The truth is Notre Dame needs to stop making other programs’ recruiting videos.


The truth is Notre Dame needs a coach who understands both sides of the ball, not just one.


The truth is Weis was exposed one final time as not being that guy.


Based on conversations with people who have spoken to either Weis or Swarbrick or members of their staffs, Swarbrick made it clear to Weis in a frank discussion last week that he thought it was best the coach and university part ways. A report on ProFootballTalk.com said he already had cleaned out his office.


Whenever the search for a head coach begins, Swarbrick has been given complete authority and encouraged by board of trustee members to be ambitious. That means no pocket is too deep and the university learned from its last meddling experience post-Willingham to let the athletic director do his job without trustee intervention.


That also means pursuing Stoops. He is said to be building a home in Norman, Okla., and is content. But Stoops also is coming off a blase 7-5 record, and Sooners fans remind him too often that he is 1-3 in Bowl Championship Series title games for “Choke-lahoma.”


If Stoops took Notre Dame to four national title games in 11 years, they wouldn’t ask why he’s 1-3. They would ask where he wants to put his statue.


The only danger in chasing Stoops is if he says no, forcing Notre Dame to hire Plan B. But it’s a risk Swarbrick must take. Especially if Plan B is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, another guy who might be ready to go somewhere that appreciates him more than his current employer.


Then there’s Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, the safe choice whose success in building three programs and witty, Irish Catholic background make him George O’Leary with a cleaner resume.


After the lack of accountability shown after Notre Dame’s fourth straight defeat, resolving the coaching mess is as easy as ABC—Anybody But Charlie.


David Haugh writes for the Chicago Tribune.



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