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Good morning, coach Weis

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, February 15, 2005

To start his first full day on the job, new Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis received a standing ovation, seven months before even stepping on the football field.

Weis met with Notre Dame students at 6 a.m. Monday in the Joyce Center to talk about his aspirations for the football program.

“Everything for me is Notre Dame,” Weis, who comes to Notre Dame full-time after winning the Super Bowl Feb. 6 as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, told the group of students gathered in the Joyce Center. “Now I’m here, and all my energies are here.”

Weis briefly touched on the coaching change, saying the only reason former coach and current Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham was fired was because he didn’t win.

“Anytime there’s a change, there’s a change for a reason,” Weis said as one of his gaudy Super Bowl rings stuck out on his right hand that held a cup of coffee. “Usually the change is made because expectations weren’t met. So, when the [players] are whining to the administration well, ‘You let the head coach go,’ I said ‘Well, fellas, if you weren’t 6-6 they wouldn’t have let the head coach go.'”

In his first interactions with the Notre Dame campus, Weis entertained the crowd with a combination of his humor and a no-nonsense attitude that he first introduced when he was hired Dec. 12.

“It’s easy as the student body to say ‘This is what we’re looking for,’ but here’s what I can tell you,” Weis said. “I’ve never been in a program that’s lost. I’m 48 years old. I’ve never been in a program that’s lost. Everywhere I’ve been, we’ve won. It hasn’t been because of me, but I’ve been part of the reason we’ve won.”

Weis briefly talked about his past coaching experiences for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Weis also said he only really wanted two other jobs besides the one at Notre Dame – the head coaching job of the New York Giants, for which he interviewed last year and didn’t get, and the head coaching job at South Carolina, where he coached previously.

“There were only a couple jobs in this country that I really coveted,” he said. “[When I didn’t get the Giants head coaching job], that kind of crushed me at the time.”

Weis also said he had an opportunity to take an NFL job this year – the Miami Dolphins were interested, as was an undisclosed team who called the night he flew into South Bend to accept the Notre Dame job to tell him they were interested in hiring him.

But Weis, a 1978 Notre Dame graduate, said he is where he wants to be.

“I intend to be here a long time,” he said. “I’m not three and out. I’m not taking a job in the NFL, because I could have this year, but I wanted to be here … [I’m] here with only one goal in mind – leave this campus on my own terms about a decade from now with everyone saying, ‘God, I’m glad we hired that guy'”

Weis also refused to make excuses for losing. When he talked about next year’s schedule, one that has the Irish opening up with four of their first five games on the road, including Pittsburgh, Michigan, Washington and Purdue, he said it was no reason not to win.

“Everyone says you start off with four of five on the road, Aw,” he said sarcastically. “You don’t make a whole lot of excuses. There’s too many excuses – excuses about the coaching change, recruiting, coaching itself, classes.”

On the heels of the Feb. 2 signing day, Weis also touched on recruiting. Two big-name recruits, defensive end Lawrence Wilson and wide receiver David Nelson chose Ohio State and Florida, respectively, over the Irish. Weis said the athletes offered scholarships by Notre Dame who decided to go to other schools are the ones missing out.

“We didn’t lose them,” Weis said. “They didn’t want to come here, and that’s their loss as far as I’m concerned.”

Weis also referred to a comment he made about Southern California, which he said is a better team than Notre Dame at this point. At halftime of the Notre Dame men’s basketball game against Villanova Jan. 8, Weis told the crowd he hoped the Trojans, who have beaten the Irish by 31 points in each of the past three years, were undefeated when they come to Notre Dame Oct. 15.

“[USC head coach] Pete Carroll is a friend of mine, but he’s never done very well against me,” Weis said. “Right now USC is a better team than us. You watch them play and you watch us play. Now if you were gonna pick one group of gusy to play for you on Saturday, which group would you be picking right now. You’d be picking them, and that’s the problem.”

As far as on-the-field performance, Weis reiterated he would bring the students a prepared football team each week, including improvement in different areas, especially special teams.

“I thought special teams here stunk,” he said. “So all the front-line players, they’re all playing special teams.

“Here’s what you’re gonna get. We are always going to be prepared. Each week will be its own separate entity.”

After answering six questions, including one about former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, whom Weis said does not have a current role in the football office, and about which Super Bowl ring he will wear on Saturdays, (he will wear his wedding ring), Weis thanked the students for coming out so early.

And with that, Weis departed to another standing ovation for a 7 a.m. staff meeting.

His first full day had begun.