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Football: Lewis retires, former G-Tech coordinator Tenuta joins staff

Ken Fowler | Friday, February 1, 2008

Notre Dame has hired Georgia Tech’s widely respected defensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta, as assistant head coach for defense.

“Jon’s track record speaks for itself,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said in a statement Thursday. “He is a coach with an immense amount of defensive knowledge and will undoubtedly help our program.”

Tenuta, who will replace Bill Lewis, has been a hot free-agent commodity on the college coaching market since Georgia Tech replaced Chan Gailey with former Navy coach Paul Johnson.

“Two things attracted me to this job, Coach Weis and Notre Dame,” Tenuta said in the statement. “It’s an opportunity to coach at one of the greatest traditional powerhouse programs in college football and to work with one of the brightest minds in the game.”

Tenuta said he is looking forward to working with Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, who is entering his second year with the team. The pair of Tenuta and Brown gives Weis flexibility with his defensive staff.

Prior to becoming Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator a year ago, Brown was an NFL safety from 1993-2000 and coached defensive backs for the New York Jets for three years. But he and Irish assistant Brian Polian were the position coaches for linebackers in 2007.

Tenuta, whose defenses were known for their aggressive zone blitzes that utilized linebackers’ ability to get to the opposing quarterback, served as Ohio State’s defensive backs coach from 1996-99.

Lewis, 66, is retiring from coaching because he needs to have both of his hips replaced. He coached the Irish secondary from 2005-07 and will now join the University’s athletics community relations staff.

Lewis told Irish coach Charlie Weis in January that his impending surgeries might require him to leave the coaching staff. In the meantime, Lewis said in the statement, Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White asked him if he was interested in leaving the coaching staff and filling a new position in the department as a community relations representative.

“This job opportunity gives me a chance to stay very close to the football team, coaches, players and everyone else in this great place,” Lewis said in the statement. “It also gives me a chance to stay involved with this wonderful university and great community.”

Weis said he and Brown began discussing the possibility of hiring Tenuta after Lewis mentioned the possibility of stepping down but before the final decision was made.

“I spent time with Corwin Brown in January discussing possible replacements for Bill in case this situation arose,” Weis said in the statement. “Corwin and I talked to a few candidates and agreed that Jon was the best person for the job. Corwin and Jon had numerous conversations on how they would work together and they both agreed this would be a great fit.”

IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Rivals.com network of Web site, first reported the hiring. The Atlanta Journal Constitution and The Sporting News also reported the deal Thursday before Notre Dame sent out a news release confirming the deal.

In his statement, Weis said he had planned to announce the staff changes next week, presumably on Wednesday, when recruits can sign binding letters of intent.

Tenuta will begin his tenure at Notre Dame on Feb. 18, nearly two weeks after National Signing Day. Recruiting analysts expect Notre Dame’s class to be one of the top in the nation – four top linebackers have orally committed to signing with the Irish.

Dean Buchan, Georgia Tech’s assistant athletic director for media relations and primary football spokesman, said he did not know if assistant coaches’ deals there expire on or around National Signing Day.