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Football: After meeting, Weis, Swarbrick and Jenkins discuss changes

Bill Brink | Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Charlie’s back, and he’s got a plan to rejuvenate a Fighting Irish team that lacked some fight down the stretch.

He said in his press conference on Dec. 5 that his views of how to fix the program closely mirrored those of athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and that helped him keep his job.

“I think when I sat down with him on Tuesday, it wasn’t everything eye to eye, but our perspectives were married very closely,” Weis said. “Most of that list was covered on both lists. I think that if our discrepancies were more, they could have gone in another direction.”

Weis said he understood what both the University and people who follow the team wanted: BCS consideration.

“I think it’s important that you’re moving towards the BCS discussion,” he said. “I’m not saying you’re playing in the national championship every year, but you have to be in the discussion.”

Weis and Swarbrick met in San Jose, Calif. last Tuesday to discuss the future of the program and the changes required to improve it. Swarbrick also said Weis’ views mirrored his.

Weis said Swarbrick and University President Fr. John Jenkins asked Weis three things in relation to the future of the football team, which finished 6-6 this year. They asked him: 1) Would he like to be here? 2) What would be his commitment to come back? and 3) Would you be accountable?

Weis said he and Swarbrick had a plan in place.

The unsure nature of his job status didn’t affect Weis’ recruiting, although he said he lost sleep after the 38-3 loss to USC on Nov. 29. “You deal with the negative, and live off the positive,” Weis said.

Weis was recruiting on the west coast and in Hawaii and said he used that attitude when talking to recruits and their families.

“When I went into those homes on Sunday, and they asked me if I was the head coach of Notre Dame, I said, ‘I’m sitting in your house,'” Weis said. “‘What do you think, I’m recruiting for the next head coach?’ That’s the perspective you had to have. And if something happens and you’re not the guy, then you’re not the guy.”

The perceived insecurity of his job took the hardest toll, Weis said, on the coaches, players and recruits and their families.

Former Irish quarterback Joe Theismann, who was the guest speaker at Friday’s football banquet, said he believed Weis should return.

“I believe Charlie can build this program back to where we can compete on a BCS level,” Theismann said. “I’m not just blowing smoke. I do believe in Charlie Weis, and I’m glad he has the opportunity to come back and work with this program. I don’t think a change at this point would have been good for Notre Dame.”

Weis and Theismann both separated the first two seasons, where Weis took the team to BCS bowls, and the last two, where Weis’ team lost 15 games. The senior leadership on Weis’ first two teams, Theismann said, gave the teams stability that helped them succeed.

Theismann also highlighted the significance of Notre Dame’s loss to Syracuse, who before the game had two wins, on Nov. 22, and that the team needed to work on finishing games.

“We wouldn’t be in the state that we’re in, to be honest with you, if we had beaten Syracuse,” Theismann said. “A play at the end of the Navy game, a play at the end of the Syracuse game. We have to learn to finish. You don’t put it off and say it’s a lot of young kids. They were young a year ago.”

Weis had a similar outlook on the close losses this season and the effect wins in those games might have had.

“You win one more game, you’re 7-5, and you’re going to the Gator Bowl,” he said. “Not finishing those games out and closing out the year, if you’re sitting here 9-3 right now, people are saying, that’s not great, but it’s a pretty good turnaround.”