Charlie Weis, coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, is presently enduring a 1-6 season. This is bad enough for devoted football fans of the Irish. What is even worse is that this is a big rivalry week for the Irish since USC comes to South Bend. An upset is possible but very unlikely. While Notre Dame has improved a little bit in recent weeks they will likely suffer through one of the worst seasons in school history.
I brought up Charlie Weis in a blog a few weeks ago because I have no respect for him as a coach or as an individual. I explained why in that post. Alumni of the Irish are now engaged in an open war about Weis and more fuel was added to the fire this week when former NFL, and Fighting Irish, lineman Bob Kuechenberg referred to Weis as "rude, curt, and abrasive to his friends and fellow alumni." It appears Kuechenberg said what few are willing to say since Weis has a long-term contract to coach at Notre Dame and fans want him to succeed in the worst way. Weis has defenders, including famous alumni such as Joe Theismann, Mike Golic and Joe Montana. Theissman and Montana are pretty good people to have on your side but Golic is not a class act to my mind.
This debate may be more about style than real substance but I have my suspicions that it is not. Weis refuses, with strong language, to admit that he is in a rebuilding mode this year. (If not, then what is his perception of the reality that is a 1-6 season?) In August Weis said to the South Bend Tribune, "God strike me dead if I use that word (rebuilding)." Well, if Weis is not rebuilding the Irish this year then the only word that comes to my mind is that used by a commentator in my morning paper who says they are "imploding."
The brand name Notre Dame is still good for recruiting but if Weis is as bad a guy as he seems to be even the brand name will not work for long, just look at the trials my own Alabama Crimson Tide endured post-Bear Bryant. Brand doesn’t sell in a world where South Florida is the No. 2 ranked team in college football. No, the Weis issue appears to be a character issue. Weis treats alums and donors as a bother and unless he wins a lot of games this will ruin him in the end. Like it or not this is college football, not the NFL. It is part of the game and I am increasingly sure Weis just doesn’t get it.
Wins can still change things at Notre Dame for Weis. But even wins might not finally overcome this guy’s overbearing and insufferable personality. He has offended enough people to almost guarantee his demise unless he finds a way to grow up soon or win a whole lot of games in the next two years or so. Even a long contract can and will be bought out once Charlie’s act will be seen for what it is by loyal ND people. This is a class school. I hope they soon realize they made a huge mistake in hiring Charlie Weis.
I realized a few weeks ago just how the college football world views Notre Dame. I had lunch with two former stars at the University of Alabama who told me that the greatest moment in their time at Alabama was when they beat Notre Dame, not Auburn. I was shocked by this admission. They then expressed their incredible respect for the football program at Notre Dame and said Alabama had lost four straight games to Notre Dame thus they wanted to be the class that removed the losing streak. That kind of respect is so huge, and means so much to the Irish, but Weis is not going to help this if he continues this act he calls leadership and coaching.
When Nick Saban arrived at Alabama he immediately proposed a home-and-away match-up between the Tide and the Irish. He got a quick "no way." I think I know why. The Notre Dame program is reeling and adding a Saban-coached Alabama game in the foreseeable future would not be so good for the Irish. I hope they change their mind about the offer. One of the finest afternoons of football I ever enjoyed was seeing Alabama play in South Bend even though my Tide got killed that day by a great team and a great performer, Tim Brown. Notre Dame is a classic football environment. Too bad they have to put up with Charlie Weis when they could still have Tyrone Willingham leading them, a fine man and apparently a good coach too.