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Baer discusses team’s preparation for bowl

Justin Schuver | Friday, December 3, 2004

Irish interim coach Kent Baer conducted an informal press conference Thursday from Tyrone Willingham’s normal seat, a brown metal folding chair in the Football Auditorium of the Joyce Center. But Baer only sat there because he had to.”[It’s] real strange [to have a coach meeting without Willingham],” Baer said. “When we walked into that staff room today and somebody said, ‘Sit up at the head of the table.’ I’m not even going to approach that seat. I have talked to coach Willingham a handful of times and I’m going to continue to do that, but it’s very, very strange. I mean, coach has been so good. He’s been tremendous to work for.”Baer answered questions about the team’s preparation for the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 and discussed events surrounding the firing of Willingham. The former defensive coordinator also confirmed reports that he was out looking for a job.”I met with some people from Utah State but that’s as far as it’s gone,” Baer said. “It was within this past week.”Baer, who served as Willingham’s defensive coordinator, will coach the team at its upcoming bowl game in Tempe, Ariz.After serving 10 seasons as a member of Willingham’s staffs at Stanford and Notre Dame, Baer was noticeably shaken when fielding questions from the media about Willingham.”I don’t know how to describe it,” Baer said. “This is sometimes a tough business and I don’t know of people who really understand how many people’s lives it affects and that’s the thing you deal with the most.”As a coach you’ve been through it before,” he said. “But you still deal with personal issues more than anything else. I don’t think anyone can really imagine what it’s like.”Baer was selected by the players to serve as interim coach at the Insight Bowl, which will be either against Arizona State, Oregon State or UCLA. He acknowledged that it might be difficult to get the team prepared in light of the recent events.”I have loyalties to Tyrone Willingham. I’ve been with Tyrone for 10 years. He still certainly has loyalties to this team and this staff and Notre Dame, so that’s the reason we’re doing it,” Baer said. “We want to do it as an entire group, united as an entire group. We’ll move forward and I think it’s going to work out for the best.”As defensive coordinator under Willingham, Baer consistently put together a team that was capable of stopping the run and typically took advantage of opportunities to create turnovers and score. As of today, the Irish are ranked eighth in the season in rushing defense, having only allowed 94.4 yards per game.Baer fueled reports that he is a top candidate for the Utah State head coaching position with his comments Thursday. “It’s difficult,” Baer said of trying to coach a game and figuring out what will come next in his career. “There are a lot of things that are going on with the entire staff. Everybody’s out of a job after, basically, the 28th. You certainly have to take care of yourself and yourfamilies and move forward. So, you have to kind of balance all this. “I’ve never gone through it quite like this before so I’m not quite sure how that balancing act will work, but we’ve just got to work through it and, hopefully, this will all work out.”