Luck of the Irish Run Out for Weis?
Once one of the proudest and winningest traditions in the history of college football, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have seemingly been in tatters the past decade plus. The school is laced with Heisman Trophy winners, seven in all, tied with Ohio State and USC for the most in college football history. However, even that has seemingly fallen on hard times, as wide receiver Tim Brown was the last recipient for the Irish, more than two decades ago.
Saturday may have been the final nail in the coffin of coach Charlie Weis in his five year tenure with the school.
Weis, who when he was hired, stated that 6-5 wouldn’t cut it for the university, watched his team fall to 6-5 with its third consecutive defeat Saturday, on Senior Day to the University of Connecticut, 33-30 in double overtime at Notre Dame Stadium. They’ve struggled to beat quality opponents the entire time that Weis has been with the school. They’ve had chances this season to make that “statement” victory, only to fall short.
There was a game in week two against Michigan, when the Irish led in the final minute before Tate Forcier led the Wolverines to a winning score to give them a 38-34 victory. After three straight wins, the Irish faced USC at Notre Dame Stadium. After falling behind by three scores in the fourth quarter, the Irish scored twice to get within 7 and drove inside the USC 5 in the final seconds. However, Jimmy Clausen couldn’t pull the trigger on the tying touchdown pass. They rebounded to win their next two games to get to 6-2, but have faded, dropping three straight.
That streak started with a 2 point loss to Navy, a school that the Irish had beaten 43 consecutive times before Weis and the Irish lost to them in 2007. They followed that up with a five point defeat at the hands of #8 Pitt and then Saturday’s defeat to UCONN, a team that hadn’t won since the shooting death of one of their players late last month. All told, the Irish lost their five games by a combined 21 points, showing a definitive inability to contend in close games against superior teams. It seems like the end of the line for Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame, at least at Notre Dame Stadium, as well. The Irish have one more road contest, at Stanford, then probably a third tier bowl like last season’s Hawaii Bowl.
One has to think that Clausen was a major disappointment as well. Sure, he put up some decent statistical numbers in his career. He’s thrown for 7,808 yards and 55 scores in his three seasons on campus, but that is nothing compared to the hype and hoopla that surrounded him when he came to Notre Dame and boldly predicted four national titles for the Irish while he was there. Not only have the Irish not come close to even ONE national title in this three year span, he doesn’t even have a winning record as a starter. The Irish were 3-9 in 2007, though Clausen didn’t play in two of those games, including the defeat against Navy that ended that 43 game string. The Irish was 7-6 in 2008, though after starting 5-2, they dropped four of their last five regular season contests before winning the Hawaii Bowl. Including in that mess was a 24-23 Senior Day loss to Syracuse, a team that was 3-9 last year, with one of those wins over Northeastern, a school that this week announced they were dropping football.
This year, as stated, they started 6-2, but have dropped three straight. There’s not enough playmakers to make things happen. The run game is questionable, the playcalling has been bad at times, and ultimately, it comes down to three things in college football: winning, recruiting and coaching. Weis certainly hasn’t been winning as much as the school expected. His 35-26 record, or .573 winning percentage, is lower than the .583 that both Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie posted. The fate of those two coaches? Well, they were both fired. Recruiting can only take you so far: at best, you’re going to have a guy for four years, three if they cut out early. College is not like the pros when you can make a trade or sign a free agent to shore up a weak spot. If you lose someone that is a big time player, you’re stuck with backups or walk ons in order to get through that season.
Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director at the school, said no decision would be made about Weis until after the game against Stanford and that the only two involved would be him and school president John I. Jenkins. It seemed rather clear that it was a BCS or bust type season for Weis, whose contract runs through 2015, and this three game skid derailed that in a hurry. Should Weis get fired, as seemingly every television pundit in the world of sports seems to be advocating, Weis probably won’t be hurting for options to go somewhere. He may not be head coaching material. Perhaps he is better suited as a coordinator, similar to Norm Chow, or Buddy Ryan. That could be where his success lies, instead of trying to oversee an entire team and juggling everything.
It will be interesting to see how it unfolds, and, should Weis be fired, who the Irish look to tab as their new coach. Florida coach Urban Meyer has already stated that he is not interested in the position, taking away one certain big name the school may have targeted. For now it’s wait and see, as the Irish prepare for the Cardinal and attempt to avoid a second consecutive .500 regular season campaign.