Irish sticks with Weis for now
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2008 5:53 pm
By: By TOM COYNE, AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Charlie Weis and his boss discussed the future of Notre Dame football for more than two hours, coming up with a plan to make the Fighting Irish great again.
The plan includes having Weis as the coach of the Fighting Irish for at least one more year.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he decided to allow Weis to return for a fifth season because they agreed on what steps need to be taken to restore the luster to the nation’s most storied college football program.
“The question you’re ultimately asking yourself is: Is he in a position to help direct the changes in the program, to help steer it back to where he and I really want it to be?” Swarbrick told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “That really focused on a discussion about a series of very specific things that constitute the plan going forward.”
Swarbrick, who took over as athletic director in August, would not discuss specific changes are necessary under what he called “the plan.” He and Weis found common ground during a two hour, 15 minute meeting in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
“There are pieces of it that will still emerge. There are pieces of it we have to work on. It’s comprehensive. There are a lot of pieces to it because you have to look at every aspect of the program,” he said.
Swarbrick, in a written statement released earlier in the day, said the team fell “short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program.”
He said he also wants the Irish players to participate in helping to set the goals.
Some fans and members of some in the media had speculated that
Swarbrick said after the 38-3 loss at USC on Saturday night that he needed time to evaluate the program, which led to speculation that he was out testing the waters to see if any high-profile coaches were interested in coming to Notre Dame.
Swarbrick denied that, saying neither he, anyone on his staff nor anyone with the university had talked to any coach or considered any coach other than Weis.
“It absolutely didn’t happen,” he said.
Weis has seven years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, but some fans had been clamoring for his firing after the Irish got off to a 4-1 start this season and finished 6-6.
A 24-23 loss to lowly Syracuse, Notre Dame’s first defeat against an 8-loss team, and the blowout against USC left many Fighting Irish fans seething.
The Irish have lost 15 games the past two seasons, the most by Notre Dame in a two-year span.
The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a record of 28-21 in four years, a .571 winning percentage. That’s slightly worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.
Weis, though, also led the Irish to ECS bowls in his initial two seasons at Notre Dame, first to the Fiesta Bowl then to the Sugar Bowl. The Irish are expected to go to a lower-level bowl this year.
Davie got the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl in 2000, Notre Dame’s only ECS appearance in his five years as coach.
The Irish went to the Gator Bowl during Willingham’s first year as coach 2002 and went to the Insight Bowl three weeks after he was fired in 2004.
The decision to keep Weis is the first big decision in Swarbrick’s tenure.
He said he’s aware some fans are upset, but he said people would be upset no matter what he did.
“Decisions about our programs are ones I’m asked to make and I make them in the best interest of the student athletes,” he said.
Swarbrick said it was clear the decision was his to make while consulting with Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins.
“There’s been speculation in the past that hasn’t always been true at Notre Dame,” he said.
He was referring to then-athletic director Kevin White indicating at a news conference in 2004 that the decision to fire Willingham was not his.
Swarbrick declined to talk about the goals for 2009, saying it would only add to the speculation about Weis’ job security. But he said he’s not worried about Weis’ ability to deal with the speculation and pressure.
“I think he’s very good at sort of shutting out external distractions and focusing on what needs to be done,” Swarbrick said. “I think one of his real strengths is that when things don’t work, he’s very willing to examine them and look for alternatives. He’s very flexible.”
A request for a telephone interview with Weis, who was on the road recruiting, was left by The Associated Press with Brian Hardin, the school’s director of football media relations.