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Keeping Weis the right move

Staff Editorial | Friday, December 5, 2008

After back-to-back disappointing seasons, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and University President Fr. John Jenkins decided to retain Charlie Weis as the head football coach. And they made the right call doing so.

The University has had its name dragged through the mud over the last five years regarding its treatment of Weis, especially after the early firing of Tyrone Willingham (the first coach not to finish five years as coach since Hunk Anderson from 1931-1933). The athletic department is returning to the stability it had before Willingham’s dismissal, thereby avoiding major problems with rebuilding the program from scratch for the second time in five years.

One of the biggest criticisms from the media has been a racial one, that Willingham was fired because he is black and Weis was kept because he is white. The different treatment of the two men has nothing to do with their skin color, but with their abilities. Willingham was a mediocre coach and inept recruiter with Notre Dame’s prestige, money and facilities behind him. He has shown his inability to produce on the field at Washington, resigning midway through a winless season.

Weis has shown some competence as a college football coach, though certainly not as much as what had been expected. While this past season has been subpar according to Notre Dame’s high standards for the football program, the team did show signs of improvement. The offense did not rank dead last in total offense and the defense continued to grow under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.

There are still some holes left to be fixed (such as the offensive line and establishing a solid running game), but these are things that take time. Whoever was the coach of the Irish the last two seasons would have dealt with these issues; it just happened that Weis was the one who did.

Also, college coaching is only half what you are doing this season on the field; the other half is how you are preparing for the future with recruiting. And, according national recruiting Web sites like Scout.com and Rivals.com, Weis and his staff have been among the elite recruiters since his arrival at South Bend.

Some have argued that with these great recruiting classes, there should have been a better product on the field. However, most of Weis’ top recruits are still only freshmen and sophomores (his first class is not indicative of his recruiting since he did not become coach until late in the process that year). With some already beginning to shine – such as Michael Floyd and Ethan Johnson – and many others waiting in the wings, Weis should be able to produce a much better team next year – comprised mostly of his recruits.

But the most important reason, and one that many are drastically overlooking, is the monetary issue. Weis’ buyout, whether it is $5 million or $20 million (the two extremes reported), is money that should not be spent with the economy in the state it is today. With Jenkins pushing every department in the University to be more frugal to save money and jobs, spending $20 million to fire one coach and spending the additional money it would take to hire another would be exorbitant and hypocritical.

By keeping Weis, the University recommitted itself to stability in the football program and its own stated economic policies, while still setting up the football program for a bright future.