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Football First-Person Commentary: Charlie Jr. earns his keep

Chris Hine | Tuesday, September 16, 2008

There was a lot to harp on during last year’s 3-9 season, but there was one criticism of Charlie Weis that still persists now, even despite a 2-0 start, that I never could understand – why it makes certain Notre Dame fans so mad that Charlie Weis Jr. is on the sidelines assisting the coaching staff.

My befuddlement stems from a similar experience I had in high school with my father. He was the basketball coach at my high school near Scranton, Pa., for 33 years, so I grew up with basketball. When I was in grade school, I went to every game and somewhere along the way, I began taking statistics for my dad.

At first, it was just for fun; he didn’t actually rely on them. But then he realized that my stats were just as accurate as the ones his assistants were taking.

Taking stats distracted his assistants from watching the game and giving him advice concerning strategy. So, when I was about 11 years old, I became the statistician for the team and did it up until the time I was on the varsity squad. It freed my dad’s assistants to focus on the game.

And there was nothing I took more seriously than making sure those stats were correct.

I didn’t want to let my dad down.

When you’re a coach’s son, there’s nothing that gives you more pride than to see your father be a successful coach and you’ll do everything you can to pitch in. You’ll work as hard as you can, obsess over the smallest of things, just so you can help out your dad in any way.

Dad looked at those stats at halftime and periodically throughout games and I wanted to make sure he had all the right information he needed to do his job.

And I’m sure Charlie Jr. feels similarly.

I’m sure there’s no one on the Notre Dame sideline who is working harder than Charlie Jr. is at his job to make sure Notre Dame has a successful football team, and I’m sure Charlie Jr. is excellent at what he does – otherwise I’m just as sure that his father would take the headset off of him.

And what exactly does Charlie Jr. do?

According to Notre Dame’s director of football media relations Brian Hardin, he relays the opposing offense’s personnel groups to the defensive huddle. Charlie Jr. wears the headset so he can hear the assistant coaches in the press box when they tell him how many running backs, tight ends and wide receivers are in the game. Then Charlie Jr. relays that information to the huddle.

Hardin said it’s a job someone on the staff would normally have to do anyway, but since Charlie Jr. does it, it frees up a member of the staff to focus on something else during the game.

But to listen to some people, you would think Weis had handed over play-calling duties to his son. Charlie Jr. is not a distraction, he just facilitates communication between the players and the assistants.

Does the job carry a lot of responsibility? Yes it does.

But it’s a job that a smart kid could handle – especially one that’s a coach’s son.

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

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu.