With a deafening silence emanating from the athletics department this week, I have to believe that Jack Swarbrick is quietly and quickly attempting to determine whether there is a viable replacement for Coach Weis before he meets with him on Monday.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Brian Kelly announced this week that he is not interested in leaving Cinci, which coincided with the announcement of a major renovation/expansion of Nippert Stadium. Like many hot coaching prospects, Kelly used the mention of his name for several open jobs to leverage against his athletics director to get what he needs for his program.
Also, some rumors from Weis' recruiting trip are trickling in as well. Rumors have it that Weis is telling the recruits that he will be roaming the Notre Dame sidelines next year. Also, he is apparently being as effective as ever despite the firestorm of media criticism.
While using such little information that is out there to make guesses at what is going on behind the scenes is shaky at best, I have faith that Swarbrick is doing the right thing for this program. He is probably conducting preliminary interviews outside the public view, probably via telephone, to determine whether there is a coach interested that he could hire.
Kelly effectively taking his name out of the running tells me (if Swarbrick is doing his due diligence) that Swarbrick has looked at Kelly, perhaps talked to him, and has moved on with the search. If true, this would tell me one of two things - either that there is a bigger fish on the hook (Urban Meyer, anyone?), or that Swarbrick has swung and missed on the top end coaches.
Therefore, at this point, I have to believe that Weis will either be retained due to the unavailability of a suitable replacement, or that Swarbrick is engineering a coup worthy of the Golden Dome.
It looks like, either way, we won't have an answer until at least Monday. Also, don't be incredibly surprised if nothing at all happens on Monday. No sweeping pronouncements of support for Weis, and no announcements of a coaching change.
If Swarbrick is really talking to someone like Urban Meyer about the position, he will likely have to wait until after that team's bowl game to make the announcement.
Of course, everything I type here is the worst kind of speculation and conjecture, but my hope is that we'll see a timeframe something like this:
Monday - Weis and Swarbrick meet, ND releases a press release stating that the irish have accepted (insert bowl bid here). No mention of firing Weis, and no mention of Weis being retained for next season, just that there will be no coaching changes at this time.
Bowl game week - Weis is asked repeatedly about his future at ND, and he continues to say that he is the head football coach at Notre Dame. He continues to say that, as far as he knows, he will be coaching the Irish next year. And as far as he knows, he will.
After the bowl game, Weis and Swarbrick will schedule another meeting after the holiday season (early new year), to give everyone a chance to go home for the holidays.
Very shortly after the championship game (first week in January), Notre Dame has a press conference announcing Coach Weis' resignation and the hiring of the new coach - Urban Meyer.
Maybe Weis will even be retained in some capacity, maybe in a Director of Football Operations/Recruiting Director type of position. On paper, this would be a promotion, and could save face for everyone involved. Weis can remain on the sidelines and be welcome at his alma mater (and not to have lied to the recruits during his recruiting trip this week). That would also take care of the buyout issue, as Weis would simply renegotiate a contract for his new position. And keeping Weis on staff guarantees that the players committed to the Irish (Wood, Evans, etc.) at this point have no reason to waver on their commitments.
Urban Meyer puts together his staff, retaining some of the existing staff (Rob Ianello and Tenuta have earned an opportunity to stay on the new staff). Weis continues the recruiting effort while Meyer gets settled in, and the Irish make a late surge, inking the #1 class in the country.
Meyer comes in and wins a National Championship in year 1, with Dayne Crist at QB. Weis gets a championship ring and much of the credit for getting this program back on track, and the Irish are back where they belong.
At this point, all of this is wishful thinking, and for all I know, nothing will happen and Weis will be given his 5th year. Or maybe we will fire coach on Monday, name an interim coach (Corwin, probably, to help with his chances at Eastern Michigan), and then do the whole protracted coaching search, complete with snubs by the usual candidates for the job (Gruden, Stoops, Meyer, Kelly, etc.) and hire another mediocre candidate with lots of "potential." Nobody at this point knows anything but Swarbrick and Jenkins.
And they aren't talking.