Charlie Weis was easily the most scrutinized coach in the country over the last five years. That’s what comes with the territory as head football coach at Notre Dame. And while it’s easy to focus on the negatives of his dynasty, especially over the last three years, I think we should thank Weis for some of the positives he provided for our football program and our University:
Weis has shown us that Notre Dame can still recruit the top high school students in the country, students who live up to all aspects of the term student-athlete. He has kept Notre Dame’s graduation rate up in our football program, which is something we should be proud of at this University. He nurtured a number of walk-on players into downright nasty athletes. He guided us to two straight BCS Bowl appearances, and this improvement in our football program put our school back on the map and attracted many more top students to our University (to see this, all you have to do is look at the jump in admission statistics over this period of time). And I don’t know the exact numbers here, but I think the revenue our first two BCS appearances brought in more than enough to cover the price of his contract, and helped to provide needed funding for academic improvement such as portions of Jordan Science Hall. In fact, Weis has helped carry out an important and recently-lost ideal in college athletics: that your strong academic standing can attract top athletes, and your strong athletic standing can improve your academics. Academics and athletics were working for each other under Weis, and that’s how it should be.
Additionally, Weis has brought a lot of pride to our program with his philanthropy through Hannah and Friends. Weis got our football players, whether in victory or defeat, to sing the Alma Mater with the student section and the band after the games, something lost under Willingham. It was Weis’ own expectations that raised the bar on our expectations of what is required out of the Notre Dame football coach and a football team, and he simply hasn’t been able to keep up with these expectations.
We all agree that it’s time to move on to the next coach, but as we search for the next person to undertake the extremely difficult task of meeting the expectations Weis set up for us, let’s not forget this important lessons Weis has taught us regarding football at Notre Dame. It’s not worth it to become a top football program if it compromises the academic standards we expect from our athletes, if we have to graduate fewer of our athletes, or if we have to see the athletes run up the tunnel without sharing the words “Love thee Notre Dame” with us. But we also don’t have to trade one thing for the other. Our sports teams can be top performers on and off the field.
Thank you Coach Weis for all of your accomplishments over the last five years, and I wish you all the best with whatever you end up doing next.
Class of 2009