As the curtain was drawn on the ND-UConn game—on yet another late-game collapse by a Charlie Weis-coached team—the sports media talking heads prepared to feast on some pre-Thanksgiving Irish leftovers.
“Coach Charlie Weis’ tenure is all but certain to end after five mercurial seasons of unmet expectations Weis himself was largely responsible for creating,” said Dan McGrath of Sports Illustrated. “A program steeped in lore is at a crossroads, its uncertain future again clashing with its mystical past,” waxed The New York Times. And of course, the ultimate indictment from the ultimate critic: “They are missing physical toughness, mental toughness and discipline,” said Lou Holtz.
Where to go from here? As tempting as it is to add to the emoting cesspool that ND message boards have become over the last several weeks, I’m going to bite my tongue. Weis is as good as gone, and justifiably so. Rest assured I think there are some great Tier-1 candidates, some good Tier-2 candidates, and some ridiculous reaches who would be the exclamation point on ND’s 13-year freefall towards mediocrity. (Let’s just say if Jack Swarbrick uses the phrase “a great institutional fit” in any context whatsoever when introducing Weis’ successor, we are screwed.)
Here’s something to ponder: anyone ever stop to think that, no matter what happens over the next couple weeks, Notre Dame will find a way to right the ship and the media is fundamentally full of shit? No? Okay then, explain to me the following. Notre Dame has had four head coaches in the last 13 years, five if you count O’Leary (and I don’t). The media would have you believe this turnover is a uniquely Notre Dame phenomenon—the scarlet letter we alone bear as the rest of the college football world passes us by. No offense, but people really need to shut the hell up before they hurt themselves.
From 1988 to 1999, it took Oklahoma 12 seasons and five coaches to get to Bob Stoops after its last national championship coach.
Beginning in 1982, Southern Cal burned through six coaches in 20 seasons before an interview process in which they settled for Pete Carroll after their first five or six candidates turned them down.
From 1996 to 2007, it took Alabama 12 seasons and five coaches to get to Nick Saban.
Show of hands: who here can recall editorial-after-editorial about the irrelevance of OU, USC or Bama? Who here can recall every jackass with an opinion grabbing a microphone and screaming to the rooftops that the Sooners, Trojans or Crimson Tide “will never be back again”? Nebraska has had four coaches since 1997. LSU has had seven coaches since 1983. Good programs make bad administrative decisions: IT HAPPENS.
Make no mistake, the current state of Notre Dame football sucks. I wish I had an ounce of confidence in the Administration to get this next hire right. Coach Holtz was absolutely right to call out this year’s team (and by extension all ND teams in the Weis Era) for being soft and undisciplined. But the next time someone seeks to write Notre Dame’s obituary, pat that person on the back, smile, and say, “If that ever happened, my friend, you’d have nothing to write about.”
The irony with all the legion of so-called “haters” is they’ll do whatever they can to knock Notre Dame off its pedestal, but when no one’s looking they’re the first ones to put the Irish right back on that shelf. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men, “You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties you want us on that wall, you need us on that wall.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go light a candle, say a few Hail Mary’s and pray Swarbrick does his best Hesburgh impersonation.