Wake Up The Echoes 11/25/2009Posted by sportretort in Sports, Uncategorized.
Tags: charlie weis, coaching change, football, football coach, ncaa, notre dame
Word came out of South Bend, Indiana yesterday that Irish head coach Charlie Weis would return with the Notre Dame football team following the game at Stanford instead of staying in California to do some recruiting. The speculation is that this is just the latest sign that Stanford will be the last game for Weis as Notre Dame head coach. If this is the case, Notre Dame will take the field with its fourth coach since Lou Holtz was released after the 1996 season. That number does not include either the O’Leary hire or the Baer bowl game. (George O’Leary was hired in 2001 but never coached a game because of some issues with his resume, Kent Baer was the interim coach for the 2004 Insight Bowl after Tyrone Willingham was fires as Irish coach.) That’s a lot of turnover for a ‘name’ program in 14 years.
Notre Dame is still a ‘name’ program. That can not be argued. After all, how many teams have their own network?
None. Notre Dame has enough clout, enough following to be the only NCAA football team televised on NBC. But the question is, will that continue? The Irish have won 11 national championships in their history. However, they have won only one since 1977 (in 1988). Notre Dame currently has 33 alums on NFL rosters. That is a lot, but not the highest. By comparison, LSU has 50, USC has 43, and Florida has 35. Even Iowa has 32. So, there is still talent at Notre Dame. But they have not been consistent big winners for a while. Lou Holtz had teams that won 12 games in 1988 and 1989, ten wins in 1991, and 1992 and 11 in 1993. Since then, Notre Dame has cracked double diget wins only twice, with 10 victories in 2002 and 2006. So with only 2 ten win seasons in the last 16, what is lacking in South Bend? Could it be continuity? Since Holtz finished at Notre Dame after 11 seasons, Bob Davie was given 5 seasons in South Bend, followed by 3 for Willingham and 4, so far, for Weis.
If Weis is let go after the Stanford game, where does Notre Dame go from here? The last 3 coaches have been on short leashes. The way Notre Dame has fired Davie, Willingham and, perhaps, Weis, what ‘name’ coach will want to leave an established job to take up the standard in South Bend? Why would Bob Stoops leave Oklahoma for the pressure cooker in Indiana? Would Urban Meyer leave the program he built in Florida? I doubt it. If Notre Dame decides to go after the newest ‘up and coming coach’ in, say, Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, will they give him the time he needs? Would he even be interested? The job in South Bend would be a definite step up, but they tried to get Urban Meyer out of Utah four years ago and he chose Florida instead. The question is, would Notre Dame make a commitment to a coach and a direction? Would any potential coach believe that commitment?
Notre Dame finds itself at a crossroads. The Irish demand a winner. There was a time when all Notre Dame had to do was choose what players it wants. Almost everyone
wanted to go to Notre Dame. It was a top five program. Not so any more. The players currently in high school have never known a winner in South Bend. They know USC and Pete Caroll, or Meyer in Florida. Why would they want to go to a small town in the upper Midwest? Notre Dame has an active, vocal and loyal alumni base. But are football players even BMOC on campus anymore? I was in South Bend for the Syracuse game last year when the Irish student body mercilessly pelted their own team with snowballs throughout the entire game. Apparently quarterback Jimmy Clausen was punched in the nose at a restaurant following their latest loss.
If Notre Dame wishes to regain their footing, I am not sure firing Weis is the answer. What is needed in South Bend is some continuity. If Weis goes, the next hire must remain in place long enough to allow his system to take hold. Notre Dame can be a power again. Look at Florida and USC. Both schools had their down times but are riding atop the wave recently. In order for the revival to take hold in South Bend, the coaching revolving door must end.