Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weiss was the white man for the job

The collegiate bowl games were recently announced. The once proud Fighting Irish of Notre Dame certainly won’t be participating. Unlike last season Weiss’s team will be home for the holidays. The Irish are no longer the “gold” standard they once were-the season was a disaster-they’ve sunk to an all-time low epitomized by losing to Navy, a team they’d beaten for 43 straight years. I guess there’s always next year.

Remember when Notre Dame football really meant something? Gone are the days of Knute Rockne winning one for the Gipper. Lost is the legacy of winning championships like the Frank Leahy, Ara Parsegian, and Lou Holtz did. I find this year’s Irish team to be similar to the 1956 squad that went 2-8 after going 8-2 the previous year. At least that team played hard produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Paul Hornung who would later lead the Green Bay Packers to prominence in 1960's. No Heisman hopefuls on this years’ 3-9 squad that’s for sure.

Three years ago Charlie Weiss, the offensive guru who helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, was hired to right the ship Tyrone Willingham was abruptly thrown overboard from. Weiss was given a ton of money to work his magic he crafted in the NFL as offensive coordinator and show the kids how it’s done. This year he hasn’t shown much.

Plain and simple the Irish suck and so does Weiss. The Irish suck so bad NBC cancelled their last two televised games. Following a loss to Air Force NBC head Jeffery Zucker stated, “The Irish aren’t a good fit for lineup right now.” Pretty sad considering Notre Dame football has traditionally produced high ratings for the peacock network.

The bottom line is delivering victories. Neither Weiss nor his guys are got it done. First of all, Weiss wasn’t the right man for the job. He wasn’t the head coach of those Patriot teams that won Super Bowls-he was just a coordinator. Weiss didn’t have any head coaching experience on any level. Weiss can be viewed as the bridesmaid of coaches-he’s great as a side-kick but hasn’t handled being “the” guy very well up to this point. Yes, Weiss had some success last year but those were Willingham's players not his.

Speaking of Willingham I think he got a raw deal to begin with: he was the only coach in Notre Dame history to not finish out the remaining years on his contract. Even the likes of Jerry Faust and Bob Davie were not let go until their five-year contracts expired. Willingham compiled a 21-15 record during his three-year stint at Notre Dame. After three years Faust had an 18-15-1 record while Davie was 21-16 after three years.

As you can see Willingham, Faust, and Davie share similar records but Faust and Davie got to finish what they started and Willingham didn’t. Weiss is currently 22-16 and looking forward to next year while his predecessor was forced out. What’s the deal? I feel Willingham was held to a higher standard because of skin color. The expectations for him were high as the sky and the leash was certainly short. How else can one logically explain how the coaches share nearly identical records to date yet Willingham was not allowed to finish what he started?

Irish officials could have hired Willingham from the jump but they didn’t want to. Remember George O’Leary? He’s the guy the Irish really wanted and what they got was a fraud. Five days after the Irish hired him O’Leary resigned because he lied about his athletic and academic accomplishments. Many felt Willingham was a better fit for the job even if O’Leary hadn’t lied. Days later the desperate Irish hired the guy (Willingham) they really didn’t want.

Willingham was the first African American head coach in any sport at Notre Dame. In his inaugural season Willingham became the only head coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games in his first year. Pretty good stuff considering icons like Rockne, Leahy, Parsegian, and Holtz never did better in their first year on the side lines.

After going 6-5 the in the third year of five-year deal the ride was over for Willingham. The athletic department informed Willingham they needed to go in a different direction because the team wasn’t performing well. If 6-5 isn’t going in the right direction what do you call Weiss’s 3-9? Willingham was held to a higher standard and let go for the same reason-skin color. Willingham motivated his players, had a great inaugural season, and he didn’t lie about his credentials like O’Leary. But I guess Willingham couldn’t make the connection because of his complexion.

Willingham didn't have a season like Weiss is completed yet I don't hear anyone clamoring for Weiss to be ousted. I’m not hearing the infamous “we need to move in another direction” speech from anyone at Notre Dame.

Gee, I wonder why.

In my opinion Weiss isn’t doing a better than job than the man he replaced (Willingham) nor is he facing the type of scrutiny his predecessor did. Time will tell whether Weiss will turn things around: looks like he’ll get the chance that Willingham wasn’t allowed to have.

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