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.