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Football Commentary: Weis ignores history of loss

Ken Fowler | Monday, November 5, 2007

There was a strange theme for Notre Dame after its most historic loss: No one within the team seemed to care about the history.

“I really don’t care about the streak,” strong safety Tom Zbikowski said.

Charlie Weis – and almost every Notre Dame player who was available for interviews – said Navy’s snapping of college football’s most infamous streak didn’t add to the sting of the triple-overtime loss.

“To me, we lost by two points to a team in triple overtime. It was one hell of a game, and Navy had one more play than we did,” Weis said. “You want to know something? It is really that simple for me.”

And yet, for the 80,000 fans in the stadium, the millions watching on TV and the Navy players (though not their coach), the streak was all they could think about.

But for Weis – who coaches his players to stay on message, to never say anything that could be construed as almost possibly controversial – this is a new level of separation from reality.

Weis insists his job as head coach forces him to think only about the next week. Now, that means trying to beat Air Force next Saturday. But that doesn’t explain why Weis – and the players he coaches so well – would deny the obvious. The stunned silence belied the preposterous notion that none of the Irish were thinking about how the they became the first Notre Dame team since 1963 to lose to the Naval Academy.

(Just think about that for a second. Since the Irish last lost to Navy, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have all been President of the United States. Then again, there’s been only one leader of Cuba in that time.)

One can’t help but wonder if Weis’ public “business” style hasn’t undermined the emotional aspect that is so critical to college football (and evidenced by every SEC game, ever).

Weis used the motto “Tradition never graduates” but doesn’t think about his historic ineptitude?

Yeah, right.

Then again, Navy coach Paul Johnson also said the streak didn’t mean anything to him. He made the claim during the week and reiterated it Saturday.

“I don’t think you can give them credit for what happened from 1963 on,” Johnson said. “I certainly don’t want any of the credit for it.”

The difference between Weis and Johnson, though, is their view of the past. Johnson is trying to break away from it and establish a new legacy in Annapolis; Weis has made a habit of trying to relate with Notre Dame’s history.

And he certainly has shown a wonderful ability to connect with the past. Weis will go down in history as the coach of the Notre Dame team that suffered its worst loss to rival USC. The coach of the Notre Dame team who lost seven straight games. The coach of the Notre Dame team who had the worst start in school history. The coach of the Notre Dame team whose starting quarterback on opening day was benched by halftime of the first game. The coach of the Notre Dame team who was shut out by 38 points twice and entered its final three games with the worst offense in the nation.

And, oh, by the way, the coach of the first Notre Dame team in 44 years to lose to Navy.

In the magnitude of sheer awfulness, Weis has put Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie to shame.

Then again, he probably doesn’t care.

All Charlie Weis cares about is beating Air Force.

The views of this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Ken Fowler at kfowler1@nd.edu