Player Reaction: Squad upset, but understanding, of coach’s dismissal
Matt Gamber | Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday’s announcement that Irish coach Charlie Weis would not be retained didn’t come as much of a surprise, but hearing the news from director of athletics Jack Swarbrick still hurt, several Notre Dame players said.
“I’d be lying to say we didn’t hear that it was a possibility,” said senior safety Kyle McCarthy, who was one of five Irish players made available to the media Monday. “Still, it was tough to hear that it’s actually a reality.”
Several players described their close relationship with Weis, who will not return to Notre Dame for a sixth season as head coach.
“It’s hard to lose a family member, and that’s how I see coach Weis,” junior receiver Golden Tate said. “These last weeks have been tough for us.”
Senior center Eric Olsen said Monday in particular was a tough day, especially when he spoke to Weis after hearing word he had been let go.
“He was kind of trying to calm me down when I was talking to him today because I was pretty upset,” Olsen said. “I just want everyone to know I’m indebted to coach Weis. Giving me a scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame, it’s a huge deal. It’s changed my life.”
Indicative of the relationships these players forged with Weis is the fact that Tate, along with junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen, will still consult with the former Irish coach Friday to discuss the possibility of forgoing a senior season to enter the NFL Draft.
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s still a mentor for me,” Tate said. “Every time I’ve talked to Coach I feel like he’s talked to me like I was [Weis’ son] Charlie Jr. And that’s a good thing in my eyes. He’s always told me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not. That’s one thing I really respect about him.”
Olsen said if he could offer Notre Dame’s next head coach some advice, he‘d tell him, “heads up.”
“He’s definitely going to be under the microscope. It’s not an easy job,” Olsen said. “It takes a special kind of man to fill that spot. You have to have your head on right for sure, or else you’ll get swallowed up alive by everything that comes with the coaching job. It takes a Notre Dame guy to be a Notre Dame coach.”
While the decision on who that guy will be ultimately rests with Swarbrick, Olsen said regardless of who is named Weis’ successor, a coach alone will not single-handedly turn the Irish program around. Rather, Olsen said, it will be a combination of the coaches and players working together to improve a Notre Dame team that has finished consecutive regular seasons 6-6.
“Sometimes coaching changes can be a good thing. It kind of breaks up the continuous rituals and stuff that happen in football, and it shakes things up a bit,” Olsen said. “But at the same time, a coach can only do so much with Xs and Os and motivating.”