Scott Haynes, College Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Mediocrity is simply not accepted in
elite college towns across the nation and nowhere is it more abhorred than in
South Bend. That is why Notre Dame dismissed Tyrone Willingham this past
season, despite harsh criticism that it was premature to do so.
Some say that South Bend is college football Nirvana, that the aura
surrounding the town and the history of gridiron glory, from Knute Rockne, to
the Four Horsemen, to Touchdown Jesus, makes it the toughest place in the
country to coach. Notre Dame has chewed up coaches like Gerry Faust, Bob Davie
and most recently, Willingham, but the school has also made gods of
Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz to name a few.
However, in today's game, the chips are stacked against Notre Dame. Despite
having its own network package with NBC, the Irish are simply losing the
premiere athletes to schools like USC, Miami, Florida, Florida State, Texas,
Oklahoma and many, many more.
Academic standards certainly play a role, as Notre Dame despises mediocrity in
the classroom probably more than on the football field. Another reason for the
decline is a lack of vision when it comes to highlighting elite talents.
From coaching high school football in 1979 to winning four Super Bowls, Charlie Weis has the know how to recruit, cultivate and prepare star athletes for the next level.
Enter Charlie Weis. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator
will be the first alum (1978) to take over the reins in South Bend since Hugh
Devore (interim coach in 1963) and the first graduate to serve full-time since
Joe Kuharich (1959-62).
One look at Weis' resume and it is easy to see why the Notre Dame brass made
him the 28th head football coach.
In Weis, the Irish have a man that can serve as a bridge from the high school
level through college and into the NFL. From coaching high school football in
1979 to winning four Super Bowls (one with the New York Giants and three with
New England), Weis has the know how to recruit, cultivate and prepare star
athletes for the next level. In addition, having gone to Notre Dame, he is
more than aware of the atmosphere in South Bend and what it takes to succeed
He is a disciple of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, serving under Parcells
in New York (both with the Giants and Jets) and in New England (1993-96) and
under Belichick with the Patriots (2000-04) as well. It simply doesn't get
any better than that in terms of mentors.
Known as an offensive guru, Weis is just the type of coach to restore some
luster to the Notre Dame program. It is all about scoring points and winning
football games, and Weis has certainly done both. Take one of his most
celebrated pupils of late. Current New England quarterback Tom Brady was a
sixth-round pick in 2000 out of Michigan. Plenty of QBs went before him in the
draft, but Weis helped Brady become the star he is today, with three Super
Bowl rings and pair of Super Bowl MVPs, all in the first five years of his
career. Another star that Weis had a hand in molding is Curtis Martin (third-
round pick in 1995, winning Rookie of the Year honors), who is destined for
the Hall of Fame.
Never being a head coach in the college ranks may be his only flaw, but there
are plenty of successful coaches right now that had the same flaw (if you can
call it that) heading into their first job. USC's Pete Carroll (was a head
coach in the NFL but not at the Division I level) and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops
are perhaps the biggest names here, but Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, Miami's Larry
Coker, Michigan's Lloyd Carr and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez were all in the
In Weis, the Irish now have a leader with strong coaching lines, offensive
creativity, the ability to relate to recruits and players alike, and an inside
knowledge of South Bend and the political game that comes with it.
It won't happen overnight, but Notre Dame could be headed back in the right
direction if the powers that be can learn to keep their hands off and allow
Weis to do things his way and make the Irish his team.