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UConn Further Tarnishes the Golden Dome On Weis’ Watch

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You can hear it thundering across every corner of the campus in South Bend.

It emanates from the shining Golden Dome, descends from the Touchdown Jesus, and rings out from the stands of the great stadium every Saturday. Pounding away like the militant rhythm of the drums of war, one might even say the sound "echoes" throughout the crisp fall air that whips through the old brick, ivy covered buildings and crackles and rustles with the orange and red leaves that litter the rolling landscape.

But these are not those echoes. The sound is the resonance of the cries that have reached an angered fever pitch after 15 years of constantly disappointing football futility with no improvement in sight to end the unyielding misery.

For many years a Notre Dame football season was considered a failure if the team did not make it to a major bowl game. With 11 national championships and a lineage that includes some of the greatest players and coaches to ever strap on the pads or roam the sidelines at the college level, the watermark was annually high to say the least. And aside from a few periods of struggle in their lengthy history, the Irish usually met or exceeded expectations. And most importantly, those aforementioned periods of struggle were always short-lived and successfully corrected.

But 15 years after Bob Davie replaced the legendary Lou Holtz at the helm of the Irish, the struggles continue, worsen, and show no signs of being corrected or letting up.

Calling for the firing of Charlie Weis is not a novel concept. Much in the same way Davie and Tyrone Willingham were under fire for a large portion of the their time in South Bend, the glow from the honeymoon period and his two BCS appearances in his first two seasons has long worn off Coach Weis. After Saturday's home loss to UConn, and on Senior Day no less, the degeneration of this once proud program has hit its gruesome crescendo and Weis' time has come to its inevitable end.

Losing to an absolutely horrible Michigan team crushed the lofty hopes of another season far too early. Falling to an inferior (in comparison to years past) USC team reminded the faithful that despite the prolific offensive talent nothing has really changed in South Bend. Getting smacked by Navy for the second time in three years caused explosive embarrassment, even given the futility of the recent years. But losing to a 4-5 UConn team on Notre Dame's senior day simply elicited mass anger and disgust. The fans, alumni, and boosters are beyond embarrassment, beyond disappointment. They are simply pissed and fed up.

The team features the best quarterback in the nation and two of the best receivers, all of whom have put up stellar statistics, even in defeat. Saturday Jimmy Clausen once again went off, racking up 329 yards and 2 TDs with no picks. All-World wideouts Golden Tate and Michael Floyd also turned in excellent performances, putting up 123 and 104 yards respectively, with a touchdown catch each. Even Armando Allen was proficient on the ground, grinding out 106 yards. And yet somehow Notre Dame once again found itself beaten (in double overtime) by a greatly inferior opponent that posted statistics that paled in comparison (except on the ground) to those of the Irish offensive machine.

It's no secret that the defense is the weak link of this team. The Huskies had two backs top 100 yards rushing with both scoring a touchdown. The team averaged 4.8 yards per carry on the ground. But the college football landscape this year is without a team that is completely dominant. There are high powered offenses and ruthless defenses but aside from Florida, Alabama, and Texas there are very few teams that are elite on both sides of the ball. And while there are some very refined offensive attacks atop the rankings one could easily make the argument that the Irish's own offensive unit is superior to them all… except in the red zone that is.

The Irish are sixth in the nation in passing (behind Houston, Texas Tech. Hawaii, Troy and Bowling Green), 10th in total offense (six spots ahead of Florida, 23 ahead of Alabama, and eight ahead of Texas) and yet are 45th in points per game (29.4). The team is a disaster in the red zone, consistently failing to score and leaving their sub-par defense totally unsupported and exposed. And the result has been another disastrous season — more painful because of the large amount of talent present on this season's squad — that will result in a minor bowl appearance if the Irish are lucky. More than likely, the team who couldn't beat Navy or UConn will lose to a very good Stanford squad next week, rendering them 6-6, and left hoping that their past laurels and marketability will garner them a minor bowl invite because their play on the field sure will not.

The obvious has been stated, restated, and overstated. Charlie Weis is a good man and an excellent recruiter but he just cannot get his talented team to perform on the field. The tools are all there, and their excellence shows up in the boxscores, even in defeat. Obviously the old adage that a coach can only coach and it is the players who must win the game on the field is true even at Notre Dame. But the players are putting up the numbers (with Clausen and Tate both very viable Heisman candidates) and yet the embarrassing defeats continue to stack up regardless, indicating the cause must obviously be elsewhere.

Everyone involved with or that has an affection for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish wanted the Charlie Weis tenure to be a successful one. A Notre Dame alumni with a strong sense of the tradition and values of the program and a Super Bowl winning, NFL pedigree, Charlie seemed poised as the perfect figure to bring the program back to its winning tradition. He had the brains, the street cred, and the swagger. Unfortunately, he has lacked the execution. And the most basic axiom of football is that without execution there can be no victory, and such has been the case in Weis' five years under the dome.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said that he will wait until after next week's matchup at Stanford before deciding on Weis' future. Charlie also has stated that he believes his fate is yet to be decided (although some of that confidence was undoubtedly diminished after Saturday's loss). But statistically Weis (.573) is the worst coach in Notre Dame history to have served there for any significant amount of time.

And while the Irish have had their share of great coaches they have also made a few well publicized mistakes along the way. But none worse than Charlie Weis. If there were still some supporters/skeptics out there who doubted whether a move is necessarily, Saturday's loss should make the necessity of the action abundantly clear.

Charlie will be fine, probably going back to the NFL as a well paid offensive coordinator. But Notre Dame will not be alright with Weis at the helm any longer. The Irish are now stocked with long-term talent (unlike when Charlie initially took over) and should have no trouble signing a quality replacement like Brian Kelly from Cincinnati or Bob Stoops from Oklahoma.

The team has finally recovered from the recruiting damage done by Davie and Willingham. Now the Irish need a coach that can tie it all together and turn the wealth of high-end recruits into a wealth of victories.

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About Anthony Tobis

  • Jack

    If the cupboard was so bare when Charlie took over, if Willingham was so poor at attracting talent, how did Weis get to Bowl games with Ty’s players, but not with his own, supposedly superior, talent?

  • Tony

    Because they problem wasn’t with the seniors like Quinn and those guys. It was his inability to reccruit lineman and the rest of the underclassmen. Who did Weis have for a QB after Ty left? Oh yeah….Even Sharpley.

  • Tony

    I meant after Quinn left, sorry.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I’m not a great ND fan, but as I am a Hoosier, I’ve always had at least a passing interest in the fortunes of Irish football.

    As you aptly not the shining light of the “Golden Dome” went out sometime ago. Frankly, it’s been years since Notre Dame fielded a truly top rate team. The lustre is long gone. The paradigm has shifted.

    All in all, northern tier schools are finding it more and more difficult to attract blue chip players including ND. The south and west have had far more success in skimming off the cream of high school players.

    I’m in my 60s. When I was of college age and some years since, only a smattering of southern schools were considered perennial national power houses – Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma. Of course USC has always been a power in the west.

    If a really top notch high school player has a choice of Florida, Michigan, or Northern Indiana to go play and live, Florida wins hands down. UF, Miami and Florida State seem to have their pick. Likewise, other southern schools usually haul in a load of good freshmen every year. There’s just no glamour to be had in the mid-west. It gets cold up here.

    While this has obviously been an off year for Michigan, the Wolverines and Ohio State along with Penn State, I guess, remain the usual teams to beat in the Big Ten. Yet they more often than not get whupped in bowl games, usually by southern or western teams.

    But, ND hasn’t even been in their league over the past few years at least. It may be the coach’s fault, but I just think the tide has turned away from schools like ND.

    I can’t imagine that they’ll give Weis another season. He has proved incapable of fielding a truly competitive team. Personally, it’s not a job I’d want. They hang losing coaches in effigy up there. Another year of Weis could produce the real thing.

    BTW – I went to IU. I know a lot about losing football.

    B

  • Tony

    Michigan is just starting to feel the downfall but they are feeling it much harder than ND this season. And I would say ND has far better talent than any of the Big 10 Schools.

    You are very right that UofM and the Irish can’t recruit like they use to but I don’t think the reason is just the weather.

    Since you’re in your 60s you’ll remember that back then schools like VA Tech, Boise State, or Marshall could never recruit big players because those teams got no exposure.

    Now, with multiple ESPNs to showcase even small school a player would rather start for 4 years at Central Michigan than sit for 3 years at UofM. And he’ll have just as good of a shot to make the pros. If it was simply the weather Florida State wouldn’t be terrible right now.

    But Notre Dame does have top flight talent this season. Clausen, Floyd, and Tate are good as anyone in the nation. Maybe that doesn’t mean they should march to a National Championship but it does mean they should beat UConn and Navy.

    Weis recuited well because players felt he gave them a good shot to go to the pros. That is another key. Players do not play for the love or tradition of a program, they play to get that NFL paycheck.

  • Tony

    Also sir, I envy the college football you saw in your lifetime thus far. The sport on that level more resembles a minor leagues as many of the great rivalries and traditions have faded. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Well, don’t envy my having experienced more than 40 years of frustration (with a couple of exceptions) watching IU football.

    I have in recent years become less involved in college football. I guess I’m being spoiled by the luxury of having the Colts to watch. Perhaps that will change whenever Peyton hangs it up. He is, afterall THE franchise.

    Likewise, I loved watching the Pacers during Reggie Miller’s tenure. Even without the Detroit brawl, the Pacers have not been, nor are they now, the team they once were when Reggie was trash talking and popping 3s.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that weather is the ONLY factor in the recruiting wars. U. Florida and many other southern schools have been able to parlay their good weather fortune to build programs which, in turn, draw more top flight players. At UF, I don’t know if this is common, but they have a hotel built into the football stadium.

    It’s not just the caliber of the first team and skill players that counts as I’m sure you all know. What matters, perhaps more, is depth. The perennially good schools pretty much always manage to snare a good share of the blue chippers, but they also are able to maintain good depth pretty much across the board.

    But, as you say, with even the smallest of schools getting at least some national and regional TV coverage, more players from such schools are being tabbed by the NFL than in the past. It’s the old big fish/small pond thing. It’s obviously easier to scout from one’s living room than getting on planes and flying to podunk to see if rumours about a down lineman or hot to trot corner back playing at Small Beans Community College is worth a look.

    Hell, recently even IU seems to have put together fairly potent offenses – even going back to Randal-El. But, for the most part, they have no defense. They can’t stop anybody. And, in any given year they have had little depth at any position. At the have-not schools, if they lose a starter, more often than not, they’re screwed.

    Frankly, whether it’s with Weis or someone else, I’d love to see ND regain its former stature among the college football elite. It’ll be tough for whoever is next in line.

    B