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Football Commentary: Weis’ career more than just this year

Chris Hine | Friday, November 9, 2007

Take yourself back to November 2004. You remember, when all the kids were (regrettably) getting “crunk” thanks to Usher and Lil’ John, everyone and their mom was quoting “Napoleon Dynamite,” and Notre Dame had a mediocre football team.

Imagine a dejected Notre Dame fan from 2007 traveling back in time to tell you that the University would fire Tyrone Willingham at the end of the season, Charlie Weis would replace him and lead the team to two BCS Bowl appearances, recruit as well as anyone in the country, and have one bad season.

You probably would’ve looked at this dejected 2007 fan and said, “Why are you sad? I’d give up my kids if Notre Dame could be that successful again.” Well, maybe you wouldn’t give up your kids, but I can’t be so sure of that after judging the reaction fans had on the radio, Internet and the Viewpoint section of The Observer the past few weeks.

The old football cliché says that a quarterback needs to have short memory to be successful. If Irish quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Evan Sharpley need help developing a short memory, maybe they should turn to the crowd at Notre Dame Stadium and ask for help.

Some of the same fans that speculated how many championships Weis would win during his tenure now “boo” him during the “1812 Overture.” Humans, especially fickle Notre Dame fans, are very good at forgetting the past and losing context in the face of a present crisis. What happened last year and two years ago doesn’t seem to matter to them.

Yes, the team is 1-8, there’s no getting around it. Weis has admitted he hasn’t done a good job this season and that’s a consensus right now among even his staunchest supporters. Some of Notre Dame’s enemies also predicted this could be a down year for the Irish.

“Three years ago, you could see it coming,” USC coach Pete Carroll said after the Trojans defeated the Irish 38-0 on Oct. 20. “They had all the juniors that played and started and they had a really good team and they played all the seniors the next year. They were fortunate to keep a few of those guys around that could have left. It’s just all about recruiting, and if you’re able to restock, but that’s hard to recover from all of those losses from those experienced players.”

This statement is almost more remarkable for what Carroll didn’t say than for what he did. Carroll had an opportunity to kick Weis when he was down and say Weis was doing a terrible job, but he didn’t. He knew it would be hard for Notre Dame to succeed once Quinn and Co. left. Still, some fans couldn’t care less that Weis is trying to fix Notre Dame’s lack of depth by recruiting well – they want to see results now.

During the Georgia Tech game, I stood in the student section by a clearly drunken undergraduate who kept yelling obscenities at the players and Weis. Each obscenity followed the same pattern: “What have you done for me in the past six months, you [expletive followed by name of player or coach].”

Now why this kid only cared about the last six months, I’ll never know, and I didn’t bother to ask him. Maybe this was the full capacity of his inebriated brain and he couldn’t remember beyond last Valentine’s Day.

But six months, or even the last three months is not the correct time frame to judge Weis’ impact on Notre Dame. He made Notre Dame fans believe again, and maybe that’s part of the reason why 1-8 is so hard to take. When signing day rolls around and the recruits sign their letters of intent, you’ll remember why Weis is still at Notre Dame. Soon, the thankful fan of 2009 will look back on that dejected fan of 2007 and say, “What the hell were you thinking?”

Contact Chris Hine at [email protected]

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