Notre Dame, IN – Saturday’s game against Connecticut could very well be the last game coached in Notre Dame Stadium by current head coach Charlie Weis. Should that turn out to be the case, Notre Dame fans should give their embattled coach a proper send-off. And no, I’m not referring to some sort of public showing of disapproval for the past three seasons of disappointing football. Even with all his faults, Weis deserves a whole lot more than that.
Rumors have been swirling since the Navy loss that Weis is on his way out of town and athletic director Jack Swarbrick hasn’t been quick to give him any semblance of a vote of confidence since they began. The writing certainly does appear to be on the wall at this point and the end of the Weis Era appears to be upon us.
Many thought it was going to come to end and last year, but even then it seemed also surreal considering how the Weis Era started off. Unfortunately, the past three seasons have shown that a change may indeed be what’s best.
Should that change happen after next weekend’s Stanford game, this weekend would be the last home game for Weis as the head coach of his alma mater. If that’s the case, let me be the first to say, thank you for your hard work and dedication over the past five years Coach Weis.
This time around definitely feels different than 2001 or 2004 when Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham were let go. Weis fully embraced the University and worked harder than anyone could have to make it work. It wasn’t from a lack of trying or because he spent too much time on the links. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked out how we all thought it would just a few years ago.
Weis will take his fair share of criticism in the media over the next few weeks. The decided schematic advantage and “9-3 isn’t good enough” type comments will get thrown back in his face. And deservedly so. Still, I hope Notre Dame fans will be a little more reserved in their criticism in the event that he is let go at the end of the season.
While the results might not have been what we were all hoping for, one thing is certain. Weis will leave the program in much, much better condition than he found it. He has done a lot of good in his time at Notre Dame. He’s restocked the talent to the point where Notre Dame is actually right at the NCAA 85 player maximum. He got Notre Dame to start allowing early enrollment recruits. He made Notre Dame a popular destined for skill position offensive players once again. He graduated his players and ran a clean program with very few off the field problems of any serious nature.
In a way, it’s almost sad that it has come to this. A lot of Notre Dame fans, myself included, wanted Weis to succeed. Not just because they wanted to see the Irish among the nation’s elite either, but because Weis was one of us. He loved Notre Dame and this wasn’t just another job for him. It was THE job for him.
Even this week, with questions a plenty about his future at Notre Dame, he’s deflected questions about himself and focused on his team. When asked Thursday if he thought about the possibility of Saturday being his last game in Notre Dame Stadium, he responded, “That would be very, very, very selfish for me to be thinking of anyone other than those fourth- and fifth-year players. I promise you, as far as I could ever tell, I don’t think those thoughts would ever enter my mind.”
Love him or hate him, every Notre Dame fan has to at least give Weis credit for giving it absolutely everything he’s had over the last five years. On Saturday he’ll limp out onto the field on a bum leg that he put off getting fixed until after the season so that he wouldn’t miss any more time in preparing for the 2009 season.
Some will say not to feel sorry for Weis since if he is not retained as head coach he’ll have a nice little severance package as a parting gift thanks to his buyout. That doesn’t mean Notre Dame fans should completely overlook the good he did for Notre Dame while he was here. There will still be plenty of time to debate possible replacements and talk about what the standards of success for the next head coach should be after the game after all.
Win or lose Saturday, leave any angry rhetoric at home and simply thank Weis for his effort and enjoy what could be the final home games for a pair of Notre Dame stars – Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen. Both are two special players who we’ve had the joy of watching for the past three seasons who probably wouldn’t be at Notre Dame if it wasn’t for Weis.
Being thankful for Weis’s efforts doesn’t mean you’re accepting mediocrity or celebrating underachievement. It simply means that you appreciate the effort Weis gave and continues to give as the head coach of Notre Dame.
So I’ll say it again, if this is your last home game coach Weis, thank you for your hard work and dedication over the last five years.