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Weis makes recruiting his first main focus

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series detailing the recruiting methods and policies under new head football coach Charlie Weis.

It has been just over three months since Notre Dame named Charlie Weis its new head football coach. It has been only 38 days since Weis’ former team, the New England Patriots, won Super Bowl XXXIX and gave the offensive coordinator-turned-head coach an opportunity to give full attention to the Irish football program.

With that minimal time window, however, Weis has hit hard on what he believes to be the foremost concern of the team he is inheriting from Tyrone Willingham.

“The bottom line for us is that recruiting for next year is very well underway,” he said.

Weis believes the success of any college football program begins with its ability to recruit. On Feb. 27, he demonstrated the concern to improve that essential effort at Notre Dame.

Weis and his new staff had 80 junior recruits visit the campus that Sunday, coordinating meetings between players, parents and the entire coaching staff and later dividing players up between specific position coaches.

The players attended a Notre Dame-UCLA basketball game at the Joyce Center, a storied series between two basketball programs that would bring an advantageous atmosphere and experience to the recruits’ visits.

“I think that every time someone steps foot on campus, an impression is being made,” Weis said. “Notre Dame shouldn’t be about weather, it should be about the place.”

Weis pointed to past recruit complaints about the characteristically overcast weather of South Bend as unfortunate but existing reasons – among others – for why players have not chosen Notre Dame. Weis said he thinks the recruits should receive a more thorough experience of the school and program before making surface decisions, exhibiting a developing understanding of the college recruiting process new to the first-time head coach.

“I have a passion for recruiting, as much as I like to coach,” Weis said. “Now, that confuses some people [who ask] ‘How can somebody who’s been in the NFL for the last 15 years and hasn’t had to recruit be a guy that has a passion for recruiting?’

“It’s because I look at recruiting like a game with wins and losses and setbacks and small steps.”

Weis has been on four Super Bowl-winning staffs over his NFL career, and though he is not used to losing the big game, he understands the feeling and has applied his disdain for that experience to recruiting.

“When you go after a guy and you don’t get him, sometimes it’s a setback, and sometimes it feels like you just got punched in the mouth,” he said.

Weis’ competitive approach to recruiting is a testament to his roots in the NFL with head coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, a place Weis knows is the destination of many of the talented players he seeks.

“These kids all think they are going to play in the NFL,” he said. “Everyone who goes to a Division-I school thinks that’s where they’re going to end up. So all of a sudden, that’s what winning is all about right there.”

So, along with attractive weekend visits and meetings with assistant coaches, Weis has the perfect marketing tool.

“I don’t wear it because it fits so well on my finger,” Weis said, reluctantly removing a Super Bowl ring from his finger.

“It’s because it makes an impression. You can make an impression verbally. Well, you can also make an impression non-verbally – it’s tough not to notice.”

Weis plans to make recruiting efforts and – eventually, recruiting success – just as difficult to ignore.