Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

With the completion of the 2008 campaign, it's time for this program to turn their sights ahead to the new year, and focus our energies on a successful 2009.

With that in mind, here are some New Year's resolutions for the coaching staff, the players, and us, the fans.

Coaching Resolutions

1. Run the damn ball.

Under Weis, I am resigned to this being a pass-first offense, and if we are as effective through the air as we were against Hawaii, I have no problem with that approach.

That said, a strong running game is necessary to create a threat that opens up the passing game. Keeping the safeties near the line of scrimmage opens more opportunities for Tate, Floyd and Rudolph down the field.

Also, we need to have confidence in our ability to pick up first downs on the ground in 3rd and 4th and short.

With Haywood moving on to Miami (OH), we will need to find a new running backs coach, and this presents an opportunity to find a top-notch running backs coach that can really fire up our deep stable of backs.

2. Shut up the critics.

I've been very critical of Weis this year, as I felt that the team we saw against Hawaii should have been the team we saw all season long (or at least down the stretch, as the young players developed).

Weis has been given a vote of confidence for at least one more season on the Notre Dame sidelines, having survived an onslaught of criticism from all fronts.

Now is the time for him to bring back the swagger of his first season at the helm, where the Irish excited the fanbase and media.

Winning heals everything, and I hope that the coaching staff has found their groove and can translate this bowl win into the swageer that the Irish should have every time they take the field.

3. Have some fun.

I know that coaching at Notre Dame is a high-stress position, and that the constant barrage of criticisms can wear down a coach. You never get enough credit when you win, and take too much blame when you lose.

But Weis is a Notre Dame guy, and I know he takes great pride in the performance of our football team. While Weis may never be the buddy-buddy kind of coach that the Poodle over at U$C is, his players clearly perform better when they are loose and having fun.

So, I'd like to see the coaching staff have a positive and fun attitude throughout the offseason and into next year. The young talent on this team is like a group of sled dogs, just tearing at the reins. Keeping them in check and focused on business I think is smart for the development of discipline.

But now that they've shown what they can do, it's time to loosen the reins and let them run.

Player Resolutions

1. Play with swagger.

I felt several times over the past couple of seasons that the players were playing like they were just waiting for the bottom to drop out. Again.

In Hawaii, they came out and seemed ready to show everyone what they can do.

They need to build on that foundation and come out each and every game with the confidence that they know they can win the game.

In 2005, the Irish came out against USC and punched them in the mouth, refusing to back down. Everyone had faith in Brady's leadership and trusted their teammates, and were robbed of a truly great season by the infamous Bush Push.

The last two years, the players didn't seem sure if they could win when they walked out on the field.

With the show they put on for Christmas Eve, and nearly everyone coming back, I want to see them take the attitude that they can dominate anyone who steps on the field against them.

2. Work your ass off

Championship teams aren't built in recruiting or during training camp. They are built every single day in the offseason when the players come together and push each other to become more than they could ever be alone.

I'm reminded of the story of Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais, who during the offseason worked at Cedar Point in Ohio, and spent their free time practicing passing routes on the beach. The next season, all that practice resulted in the stunning upset of the Black Knights of Army.

I want to hear stories this offseason of these kids going above and beyond the required workout and organized team activities to develop the chemistry necessary to build a championship team. Live, breath, eat and sleep football.

3. Believe.

The Notre Dame football program has been pronounced dead many times in the past.

They were supposed to just fade into the woodwork when they didn't get into the Big Ten. Then they barnstormed the country and won anyway.

They were supposed to fold during World War II. Than Leahy came back from the war and destroyed everyone.

Kuharich was the death knell of Irish football. The Irish would never win again. Then Parsegian came in and made us all believe in miracles. He could even stop the rain.

Then the program couldn't compete in the modern era, when Faust dragged them into the mud. And Holtz taught the team how to believe.

Now, the carousel of Davie, O'Leary, Willingham and Weis has supposedly relegated Irish football to mediocrity, where Irish fans were supposed to be content with the occasional decent bowl game. As Kirk Herbstreit said, we've averaged only 7 wins a season for the past 15 years. Why do we expect any more than that?

Because we're Notre Dame, and it's what we do.

"There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God."
-Fr. Theodore Hesburgh

Now is the time for this team to ignore all of the people that want so desperately for Notre Dame to finally fade away, and come together as one. Believe in the magic of Notre Dame, that with hard work, discipline and integrity, we can take on all comers and emerge victorious.

Fan Resolutions

1. Wake up the echoes.

The time for cautious optimism is over. I have been one of the most critical of the Weis regime over the past few months, and I'm not even as bad as many of the Irish faithful. I have read so much pessimism on Irish message boards, and often the best I can find is cautious optimism.

It's time to throw caution to the wind and remember that We Are Notre Dame.

Army 1946. Oklahoma 1952. Michigan State 1966. Miami 1988. Penn State 1992. Florida State 1993. And yes, even USC 2005.

The magic is there, just waiting to be tapped. Each of those games I listed were not just magical moments, they were the culmination of an entire season of the Irish faithful collectively believing in the lads out there on the field.

And so, if we want next year to be something special, we can't sit idly by and wait for the evidence on the field. We need to go out there each week believing unequivocally that the Irish will win each game.

And then we can add USC 2009 to the list.


So there you have it, my New Year's Resolutions for 2009.

Notre Dame will be the national champions in 2009. You heard it here first.

And I will continue to believe as much until I am proven otherwise. Get on board.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Eo na toa! Eo na toa e!

(pronounced a-oh-nah-towah, a-oh-nah-towah-a).

It means: "This is battle. You must respond."

It is an ancient Hawaiian battle cry, and it is the theme I would use for the Irish this week as they take the field against the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii.

The Irish have shown glimpses of promise this year, but have consistently stumbled down the stretch when faced with adversity. The've blown double digit leads in several of their losses, and have not shown that warrior spirit you want to see from a Notre Dame football team. Subway Domer suggested that we put the team on a blood regimen during the offseason, to give them that killer instinct. I like it.

This team needs to come out on Christmas Eve and play with passion and intensity.

Forget whether we belong in a bowl game after a 6-6 campaign. Forget that this is arguably the lowest bowl game the Irish have ever played in. Forget that we have very litle to play far, as even a win won't get us ranked. Forget the luaus and getting lei'd. None of that matters.

Eo na toa! Eo na toa e! This is battle. You must respond.

There is another ancient battle cry used in Ireland: Tiocfaidh ár lá.

It translates as "our day will come."

It has long been the battle cry of the Irish faithful. The students, alumni, and fans of this University are more passionate and loyal to their football team than any in history. And for too many long years, we have suffered through disappointing season after disappointing season. Disappointing coach after disappointing coach. Disappointing decade after disappointing decade. And through it all we believe our day will come.

This team came to this University, with all their accolades and recruiting rankings, to play for Coach Weis. They put their faith and trust in him to lead them to the promised land. I know they still believe our day will come.

The coaches that have assembled here understand the gravity of their situation. Nothing less than perfection is expected from them. And they have embraced the chalenge. They are working as hard as they can, believing in their heart that our day will come.

I said at the beginning of the season that I thought this season would be the year that the Irish turn the corner and become the team that Coach Weis has been trying to mould them into over the past four years. He has his pieces in place, and this is now a veteran team, loaded with depth and experience. It's a healthy team that is bringing back the best freshman wide receiver in Notre Dame history from injury. We are healthy, and there is no more time for excuses. There are no distractions for Weis to hang his hat on. Swarbrick made it clear that Weis is coming back next season. There is no specter of doubt hanging around his future, no scandal to distract the team. This team can focus on the game.

So, with the vote of confidence by Swarbrick and Jenkins, it is time to put aside our differences and come together as one. We must change our battle cry.

No longer shall it be "Tiocfaidh ár lá." Our day has come.

On gameday we shall adopt the battle cry of our enemy, and use it to destroy them.

Eo na toa! Eo na toa e! This is battle. You must respond.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: Merry Christmas Edition

With the Irish heading out to lovely Hawaii for their bowl game this year, I've been tasked with hosting the bowl game edition of the Gathering. In keeping with our destination, this Gathering is Hawaii themed.

For those of you too lazy to google the Hawaiian phrases to figure out what they mean, I'm including the translations in the answers.

Hele mei hoohiwahiwa. There has been some controversy about the Irish accepting a Christmas Eve bowl bid, as we are a Catholic institution, and many feel that the bowl game will get in the way of celebrating Christmas. Give me your thoughts.

Come celebrate!
I like the Christmas Eve game. Christmas Eve is not a holy day of obligation, and the timing of the game will let everyone attend Midnight Mass right after (barring overtime...) Christmas Eve has always been a time of family celebration, and Notre Dame has always been an integral part of my family.

Light a fire, grab some egg nog, hang the stockings by the chimney with care, and then turn on the game. Idyllic.

`Onipa`a. The Notre Dame administration has decided to stand by their man and bring Coach Weis back as head coach next year. What specific changes (a) do you think ought to be made in the offseason? (b) do you think will be made in the offseason?

Remain steadfast.
(a) Hire a proven college offensive coordinator that is given free reign to run the offense and have an open competition at quarterback.
(b) Latina will be the sacrificial lamb, and we'll hire some decent but not great O-line coach (read: another Latina) to replace him. Haywood will be gone, but will either be replaced by another neutered OC that will be given limited control of the offense, or Weis won't even bother hiring a coordinator to replace him. More of the same.

Pupukahi i holomua. What are your expectations for next season?

Unite to move forward.
My expectations for next season are, at minimum, a BCS berth that is at least a very close game if not an outright win. An offense that scores a lot of points. An opportunistic defense that is strong against the pass. A win over USC. Failure at any one of these should result in a quick termination of Weis' contract at season's end.

O ka makapo wale no ka mea hapapa i ka pouli. Also, if we start looking for a new coach next year, who do you think we (a) can get, and (b) would be the best possible hire? (i.e., is all of this Urban Meyer talk hot air or substance?)

Only the blind gropes in the darkness.
My feeling is that Notre Dame could get any coach they truly wanted, if they would sell out to get them. However, I think Notre Dame looks first and foremost for a person that is going to be a good representative of the University. In fact, my sense of every hiring decision ever made by Notre Dame has two steps: (1) put together a list of every coach in the country that would be a good and ethical face for the university (2) pick the one that is the most likely to be successful in the opinion of the university president. My hope is that Swarbrick's hire represents a fundamental change in that philosophy.
(a) Honestly, I don't know. probably another good to middling coach with lots of upside. A guy like Brian Kelly or Mark Dantonio.
(b) I don't like Urban Meyer. I have serious questions about his character and integrity, going back to stories I've heard from when he was an assistant here. But, he has a desire to eventually end up at Notre Dame, a history with the University, a proven track record, is named after a pope, and could bring instant credibility to a long-suffering program. So he would be the best pick on paper.

But I still want Bob Stoops.

`A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke pâna`i. 'Tis the season, so tell me: What is the best gift you are giving someone this holiday season?

No kind deed has ever lacked its reward.
A DVD of White Christmas, a CD of Frank Sinatra's Christmas favorites, a bottle of red wine, a sprig of real mistletoe, and a handwritten letter.

Mahalo nui loa na ho'olaule'a me la kaua. What are your predictions for the game? Will the Irish be celebrating on the long plane ride home, or will this be another long offseason of listening to the chatter about our decades-long bowl losing streak?

Thank you for celebrating with us!
After breaking down the matchups, I think the Irish give their fans what we've been asking Santa for for over a decade. A bowl win. Party at the Te'o house after the game!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: Mele Kalikimaka Edition

With the Irish heading out to lovely Hawaii for their bowl game this year, I've been tasked with hosting the bowl game edition of the Gathering. In keeping with our destination, this Gathering is Hawaii themed.

I'll post the questions now, and my answers a little bit later.

Hele mei hoohiwahiwa. There has been some controversy about the Irish accepting a Christmas Eve bowl bid, as we are a Catholic institution, and many feel that the bowl game will get in the way of celebrating Christmas. Give me your thoughts.

`Onipa`a. The Notre Dame administration has decided to stand by their man and bring Coach Weis back as head coach next year. What specific changes (a) do you think ought to be made in the offseason? (b) do you think will be made in the offseason?

Pupukahi i holomua. What are your expectations for next season?

O ka makapo wale no ka mea hapapa i ka pouli. Also, if we start looking for a new coach next year, who do you think we (a) can get, and (b) would be the best possible hire? (i.e., is all of this Urban Meyer talk hot air or substance?)

`A`ohe lokomaika`i i nele i ke pâna`i. 'Tis the season, so tell me: What is the best gift you are giving someone this holiday season?

Mahalo nui loa na ho'olaule'a me la kaua. What are your predictions for the game? Will the Irish be celebrating on the long plane ride home, or will this be another long offseason of listening to the chatter about our decades-long bowl losing streak?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Donna Mae Maximenko, Rest in Peace

I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news today that a good friend of mine, Donna Maximenko, was found dead early this morning. She had been missing since last Wednesday.

For those of you that don't know Donna, she was a bartender at the Linebacker Lounge for many years, and was one of the nicest people you could ever know. If you've ever been in the Backer for a drink over the last decade, chances are you bought your drinks from Donna, and she was truly one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Even when work was crazy and frustrating, she was quick with a smile.

I remember that one of the first times I met Donna at the 'Backer, she gave me one of those wooden coins that was good for a free drink, with her autograph on it. She made me promise never to use it, because she was going to be famous someday.

Many of us in the South Bend/Mishawaka/Notre Dame community are absolutely crushed by this deeply sad news, and I hope that you will take a minute to say a prayer for all of us that are left behind to mourn her passing.

Nights at the 'Backer will never be the same.

Monday, December 08, 2008

College Playoff: 2008-2009 Edition

Every year, I trot out my own version of a college playoff, and plug in the teams from this year, to show everyone exactly how awesome a college playoff system could be.

I tweaked the system a bit from my last posting, as I had the Big 12 and SEC playing too soon in my older version. I like this one better.

Here is how my system would play out for this season, with my picks (or actual winners) in bold:

Week 1: Championship Week
- require all conferences to have a championship game
- this is the first round of the playoffs, championship losers are out (but are free to play in a lesser bowl game if they choose)
- All at-large spots are filled first according to record, and then according to ranking.

ACC Championship game: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College

Big East Championship game: Cincinatti vs. Pittsburgh

Big Ten Championship game: Penn State vs. Ohio State

Big 12 Championship game: Oklahoma vs. Missouri

Pac-10 Championship game: Southern Cal vs. Oregon

SEC Championship Game: Florida vs. Alabama

Independence Bowl: Independent/BCS at-large Texas vs. Non-BCS #1 Utah
Storyline: After the pollsters decided to launch Oklahoma over the Longhorns into the Big 12 Championship, Texas gets their chance for redemption by playing one of the only undefeated teams in the country.

Capital One Bowl: BCS at-large Texas Tech vs. Non-BCS #2 Boise State
Storyline: Boise State plays spoiler for Texas Tech, and gets their shot at the big boys - AP #1 Florida.

SNUBS: Ball State could have complained about being snubbed here, but then they went and lost their conference championship, leaving them with one loss, to Buffalo. Had they won, they would have gotten into the at-large pool over Texas, by virtue of a better record. Next highest ranked team without a shot? 10-2 TCU. Are the Horned Frogs really getting screwed? They lost to two of the tourney teams - Oklahoma and Utah - they could have played their way in.

Second Round
- played over Christmas week

Sugar Bowl: SEC Champion vs. Capital One Bowl Champion
Florida vs. Boise State
Storyline: Can Boise State put on the glass slipper and spoil Florida's championship run? Almost - the Broncos lose in overtime.

Gator Bowl: Independence Bowl Champion vs. Big 12 Champion
Texas vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: Texas already beat Oklahoma on a neutral field once this year. Can they pull it off again? Not this time - OK wins 63-62 with a walk-off TD as time expires.

Fiesta Bowl: ACC Champion vs. Big 10 Champion
Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
Storyline: JoePa gets his chance to make a run at the title, and begins by dispatching the ACC champ.

Orange Bowl: Big East Champion vs. Pac-10 Champion
Cincinatti vs. Southern Cal
Storyline: Welcome to big time football, Cinci. Blowout time.

Third Round
- played on New Year's Day

Rose Bowl: Fiesta Bowl Champion vs. Orange Bowl Champion
Penn State vs. Southern Cal
Storyline: The granddaddy of them all gets their traditional Big Ten - Pac-10 matchup, on New Year's Day. Is anyone complaining?

Cotton Bowl: Sugar Bowl Champion vs. Fiesta Bowl Champion
Florida vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: #1 meets #2. Do we need anything more? Oklahoma's offense outscores Florida's in another track meet.

Championship game (played the week after New Year's, just like it is now):

Rose Bowl Champion vs. Sugar Bowl Champion
Southern Cal vs. Oklahoma
Storyline: Oklahoma's offense vs. Southern Cal's defense? For all the marbles? That would be epic. Oklahoma wins a (relatively) low scoring close game, 28-21.

This system allows the remaining bowl games to remain in place, comprising the teams that are bowl eligible that did not get into the playoffs and the championship week losers.

The games are all played during traditional bowl times, except some New Year's bowls are being moved to Christmas week. The other bowls could be used to fill up the season between Championship week and the second round, as they are now. I'd also move up the bowl eligibility to 7 wins - no need to reward mediocrity, and that way there aren't too many bowls to clutter the schedule.

There are no complaints from non-BCS schools, as they get two slots (from five conferences). There may be some complaints about who gets the at-large BCS slots, but this system had the same number of at-large spots this year as the BCS bowls did. This allows the team that didn't win their conference but were really good (ala Texas and Texas Tech) to get a shot at the championship. And because record matters more than ranking or conference affiliation, the Big 12 get 4 teams in.

It maintains traditional bowl matchups in most seasons (SEC-Big 12 Cotton; Big 10-Pac-10 Rose, etc.).

And, most importantly, it gets decided on the field.

Now we just need to make it happen.

Hawai'i, here we come!

University of Hawai'i Warriors (7-5, 5-3 WAC, WAC #2)
Aloha Stadium (50,000 capacity), Honolulu, Hawai'i
December 24, 2008 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $398,000

Projection opinion: "A winnable game in beautiful Hawai'i, which happens to be the home state of a certain linebacker the Irish have been courting in this year's recruiting class. A very winnable game and a beautiful venue. If the Irish are looking primarily to end their bowl winning streak, this would be the game I'd choose. A low payout, however, may make this less attractive."

Although the message boards have been aflame with complaints about the Irish accepting this bid, I think that it was the best bid available. I'm going to address the complaints of the message board posters, and I'd like to hear your responses as well.

Complaint 1: "You don't reward players for a 6-6 season."
While I agree that rewarding mediocrity is questionable, the fact remains that if the Irish decline a bowl bid, another 6-6 team will take it. These are the rules of the game, and we need to take advantage of the rules. Declining a bowl bid would be like running an extra pass play when the rules say you can run out the clock and win the game. This young team will get an extra month of practice, and has a golden opportunity to put this bowl losing streak to bed for good.

Complaint 2: "ND should not be playing a game on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Christmas is the second-holiest time in the Catholic calendar, and is supposed to be about family."
Now just wait one cotton-pickin' minute here. The Irish have played on New Year's Day numerous times, and New Year's Day is a holy day of obligation. But I don't hear anyone complaining when we play in the Gator Bowl. And Christmas Eve is not a holy day of obligation. It's just the night before the holy day.
And further, I don't know very many true Irish fans (alums in particular) for whom Notre Dame football is not part of their family tradition. In fact, I would love to be able to sit down with my family and watch the Irish on Christmas Eve, while we sip egg nog by the fire and get ready for Christmas Vigil mass. I can't think of a better time. Ratings are going to be huge, as people are going to be sitting at home anyway with family. It's going to make Christmas Eve this year feel a little bit like Thanksgiving.

Complaint 3: Nobody can afford to go to this bowl game.
Now, this complaint is just ridiculous. For the fanbase and alums of one of the nation's greatest universities to complain about not being able to afford a plane ticket to Honolulu is ridiculous.
Can I afford to go to the game? No. But then, I'm just starting out on my career. There are plenty of well-off fans and alums that will buy the plane ticket to Hawaii for Christmas. There is zero chance that the Irish don't sell all of their ticket allotment. In fact, we travel so well, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the fans in the stands will be Irish fans, despite the fact that this is essentially a home game for the Hawaii Warriors. This is just sour grapes from the people that wanted to be able to go to a closer game like the Texas Bowl.

Complaint 4: Spending a million dollars to fly the team out to Hawaii sends a bad message in these troubled economic times.
Make no mistake, Notre Dame will make money this bowl season. The costs of flying the football program to Hawaii are far outweighed by the financial boon the Irish will get from playing in a bowl game. The payout from the bowl game may not cover the costs, but the exposure for their sponsors and the money from the BCS deal will still keep the program in the black this postseason.
And as far as messages go, this complaint seems to imply that they should just cancel the Hawaii bowl. Heck, why not cancel all of the bowl games?

The Hawaii Bowl was the best option available to the Irish this bowl season, and I am glad that the powers that be at Notre Dame recognized that the Texas Bowl against Rice had no positives for the University. Worse, nobody would have been able to watch that game, as it's on the NFL network and on a Tuesday night, nonetheless. I don't know about everyone else, but I'll be home on Christmas Eve, and won't have to work the next day. I can watch the game, go to Vigil Mass, and then enjoy my Christmas morning. On Tuesday the 30th, I'd have to work all day, then try to find a bar to watch the game at (I don't get the NFL network), then try to get back home and get some sleep before I work the next day.

I applaud the University for ignoring the punditry that attempted to relegate them to a worthless bowl game against Rice, and instead accepted a bid that provides a great atmosphere for the Irish to end their bowl losing streak and set up for next year.

Plus, it's basically a free recruiting trip for the entire team, coaches on down, to go out and recruit Manti Te'o for a week.

Maybe the Weis family can get an invite to the Te'o household to celebrate Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

My Hate list

Inspired by a posting on Rock's House, I thought I would post my hate list - the list that determines my rooting interest in every game that doesn't involve Notre Dame.

For example, as much as I hate Florida, the thought of Alabama getting another National Championship made me feel sick to my stomach. So, last night (although secretly wishing for some kind of cataclysmic destruction of the entire stadium) I rooted for the Gators, something I would almost never do.

The following list ranks my relative level of hatred for all of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. By using this list, you can precisely determine who I will be rooting for in each bowl game this year. The higher on the list, the more I want them to lose. Therefore, there is no possible way I would ever root for Miami. Just won't happen. And if teams in my top 10 play each other, I just root for the proverbial asteroid to destroy the stadium.

The order changes slightly for basketball.

1. Miami (FL)
2. Michigan
3. Purdue
4. Boston College
5. USC
6. Alabama
7. Michigan State
8. Ohio State
9. Florida State
10. Florida
11. Tennessee
12. Nebraska
13. LSU
14. Kentucky
15. West Virginia
16. Pittsburgh
17. Oregon State
18. South Florida
19. South Carolina
20. Georgia
21. Washington
22. Oregon
23-25. Tie: Auburn, Mississippi, Arkansas
26-29. Tie: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois
31-46. Tie: North Carolina, Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina State, Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Arizona, California, UCLA, Washington State
47. Texas
48. Texas A&M
49. Missouri
50. Colorado
51. Georgia Tech
52. Penn State
53. Stanford
54-59. Tie: Baylor, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Duke, Syracuse, Wake Forest
60. Mississippi State
61. Arizona State
62. Virginia Tech
63-112. Tie: Non-BCS schools

The teams I don't hate (in order of my love for them):
1. Notre Dame
2. Indiana (alma mater)
3. Navy
4. Army
5. Air Force
6. Virginia

Friday, December 05, 2008

Bowl projections

With Rutgers' beatdown of Louisville last night, the Irish have been officially kicked out of the Big East bowl rotation and are left blowing in the wind waiting for an at-large invitation to a bowl game. Notre Dame is still Notre Dame, however, and will get several invitations. Here are the possibilities:

Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (10-2, 7-1 MWC, MWC #2)
Qualcomm Stadium (71,294 capacity), San Diego, CA
December 23, 2008 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $750,000

The second highest profile matchup would probably be here, where TCU was projected as a potential BCS buster all year, but fell just short, losing to an undefeated Utah team and #2 Oklahoma. Would help with recruiting in Southern Cal, but may not be the matchup we're looking for to break our bowl losing streak. And it's very early in the bowl season.

University of Hawai'i Warriors (7-5, 5-3 WAC, WAC #2)
Aloha Stadium (50,000 capacity), Honolulu, Hawai'i
December 24, 2008 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $398,000

A winnable game in beautiful Hawai'i, which happens to be the home state of a certain linebacker the Irish have been courting in this year's recruiting class. A very winnable game and a beautiful venue. If the Irish are looking primarily to end their bowl winning streak, this would be the game I'd choose. A low payout, however, may make this less attractive.

Ball State University Cardinals (12-0, 8-0 MAC, MAC Champions)
Ford Field (70,000 capacity), Detroit, MI
December 26, 2008 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $750,000

The highest profile matchup available, this game usually gives the MAC champion a shot at the #7 Big Ten team. However, with 2 Big Ten teams potentially in the BCS, there won't be enough to fill their bowl affiliations. Assuming a win over Buffalo in the MAC Championship, Ball State will be here. With Ball State shut out of the BCS despite an undefeated season, there will be quite a bit of hype around this game already. When you take Indiana's premier college football team and match it up against the young upstart team that's used to being the state's whipping boy? It's got my vote. I really like this game because I don't know how good Ball State really is - their best wins are over Indiana and Navy.

Good question - both slots will be filled with at-large teams, as the SEC and Big 12 don't have enough bowl teams to fill this game.
Independence Stadium (53,000 capacity), Shreveport, LA
December 28, 2008 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $1.1 million

This game is intriguing, because it has the largest payout, and nobody seems to know exactly who the opponent will be. Also, the Irish have played in the Independence Bowl before (vs. LSU), so there is some history there that they could use for cover in seeking the payday. I think that ultimately, whether the Irish choose this game or not depends on the caliber of opponent they can attract. We're not gonna play Louisiana-Lafayette here. No way, no how.

Big East #4
Legion Field (71,594 capacity), Birmingham, Alabama
December 29, 2008 3:00 p.m. (ESPN)
Payout: $300,000

This game would match us with the Big East #4 team, which could be any number of teams, depending upon the outcome of this week's games. I don't think there is much chance of playing in this game, as the payout is too low, the opponent too dull, and the location less than appealing. It's also an afternoon start. A non-starter, but technically on the list. The only redeeming quality is that it would be a game against a BCS opponent from a conference we are closely affiliated with.

Rice University Owls (9-3, 7-1 C-USA, C-USA #3)
Reliant Stadium (71,500 capacity), Houston, Texas
December 30, 8 p.m. (NFL Network)
Payout: $750,000

This is the game most of the prognosticators are predicting us to go to, although I'm not sure why. Rice has already accepted this bid, and I'm not stoked about playing a mediocre team from C-USA. If we do accept, it's only because we think we can win, and Texas is fertile recruiting grounds. And it's the closest to New Year's we can get. Worst thing about it is that the game will be on the NFL Network, which isn't widely available. Yawn.

UPDATE: I didn't see this before, but apparently Louisiana Tech has already accepted a bid in the Independence Bowl. I'm not impressed, and would take that bowl out of consideration for the Irish.

UPDATE: Ball State lost in the MAC Championship, so now Buffalo would be the team in the Motor City bowl. This makes the Hawai'i Bowl and Poinsettia Bowls the best options in my opinion. More as the results roll in.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No hard feelings?

Mike Coffey at NDNation summed up for me pretty well how I feel about the current coaching situation at Notre Dame.

I want Charlie Weis to succeed at Notre Dame.

In fact, my "off with his head" mentality has gotten me into hot water with friends who are vehement Weis defenders. But I felt then (as I do now) that accountability demanded that Coach Weis should not have been kept as head coach.

But I have no interest in seeing Coach Weis fail. In fact, I want nothing more than to be proven wrong and to have Coach Weis come in next year and win the national title. Everyone that knows me knows that I live and die each week by what happens to the Notre Dame football team. Notre Dame is in my blood, and I could no sooner wish ill on the program, or worse yet stop cheering for my Irish, than I could pluck out my own eye or disown a family member. It's just not going to happen.

And I'm willing to eat crow for calling for his dismissal if that should happen. I'll take all of the accusations about being too quick to judge and for not having enough faith in Coach Weis, Savior of Notre Dame Football. But I call it like I see it, and am more than willing to admit when I'm wrong.

I am encouraged by the recent interviews Jack Swarbrick has had about the future of the program. He's a smart guy, and has had great success in negotiating in the past. I'm sure that, whatever the specifics of the conversation he had with Coach Weis were, he's got a plan he thinks will work. And if the guy that brought the Superbowl to snowy Indianapolis has a plan that he thinks will work, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

More encouraging (if true) is that Swarbrick said that Coach Weis was on the same page during their meeting. That he knew what steps needed to be taken to move forward, and they were in complete agreement.

They say great minds think alike. Let's just hope against hope it's not the blind leading the blind, as both men had no experience going into their current positions. For better or for worse, Swarbrick has hitched himself to the Charlie Weis bandwagon, and will live or die by that decision.

I'm looking forward to what the offseason holds as far as changes go. It's kind of like Secret Santa - you have no idea what's in store for you, and no idea whether the gifts will suck or not. But you're still excited about unwrapping it.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Official: Coach Weis to return in '09

The University, shortly after reports came out that they would not confirm that Weis would be retianed, quickly scrambled to confirm Weis' retention today to put an end to all of the speculation that obsessed rumor mongering fans (like myself) were running with in the absence of actual confirmation. Here's the text of the release:

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Charlie Weis will continue as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, University athletics director Jack Swarbrick announced today (Dec. 3).

Swarbrick, who made the decision in consultation with University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., met with Weis in California on Tuesday to review this past season, discuss plans for 2009 and communicate his decision.

“Though this past season fell short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program, I am confident that Charlie has a strong foundation in place for future success and that the best course of action is to move forward under his leadership,” said Swarbrick.

“He, I and the others involved in leading our football program are committed to doing everything necessary to ensure a successful 2009 season. We are examining every aspect of the program and will make changes wherever we think they are needed.”

Weis’ four-season record at Notre Dame is 28-21 ? after his first two Irish teams in ’05 and ’06 finished 9-3 and 10-3, respectively, and made Bowl Championship Series appearances. The Football Writers Association of America named Weis its 2005 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award winner as the national college coach of the year.

A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis previously spent five seasons (2000-04) as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator and helped that franchise to three Super Bowl championships during his tenure. He also was a member of the New York Giants staff during the 1990 Super Bowl championship season.

What I find most interesting from the piece is where Swarbrick states "We are examining every aspect of the program and will make changes wherever we think they are needed." Hopefully, this means that there will be staff changes in the offseason, rather than sticking with what doesn't work out of some misguided duty to protect his failing staff members from becoming scapegoats.

If Coach Weis won't take the fall for the failures of the last two seasons, someone has to. Keeping an entire underperforming staff on board would be a horrible idea, and I hope that the powers that be will make as many of these changes as possible before the bowl game, so the new coaches can come in and take advantage of the extra month of practice.

No confirmation as yet

While it has been widely reported by credible sources (Mike Frank of Irish Eyes, WNDU, South Bend Tribune) that Weis will return this year, the University is in no hurry to make such an announcement. According to WNDU:

Heisler did not confirm nor deny that Weis is returning. He reiterated what he said Tuesday night that the university would communicate when there is something to communicate. Phone calls to Swarbrick have not been returned.

So, while it looks like Charlie will return, I don't think that Weis' staff will remain in place.

Interesting that Swarbrick is on the West Coast. Know who else is on the west coast? Norm Chow, arguably the most qualified offensive coordinator in the game. Of course, this is more rampant speculation and conjecture on my part, and Chow just started his stint at UCLA. But the consensus seems to be that Weis needs an experienced college offensive coordinator to get this ship righted.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Weis back in the saddle

Apparently, my dreams of a competent coaching search and qualified relacement for Coach Weis are just that - dreams.

According to Mike Frank at Irish Eyes, Weis will return as head football coach next year.

With the timing outlined in my previous post, I have to figure that after whiffing on the top candidates, Kelly passed as well, leaving Swarbrick with no legitimate candidates to replace Weis.

Apparently nobody else wants this job, so we're stuck with the guy we've got.

I guess that means it's time to dust myself off, wipe away the tears, and try to climb back on the bandwagon.

Before the Syracuse loss, I was always on the Weis bandwagon, and thought that he would get it all figured out eventually. And I still think he's smart enough and works hard enough to get it turned around - eventually.

But I think this reclamation project is going to take much longer than I anticipated.

Next year, the team will be much better than this year. However, another big loss to USC seems inevitable, and with the way Weis has coached, another 2-3 losses seem inevitable as well. I feel like a new coach could have walked into this program and contended for a title NEXT YEAR. I don't feel the same about Weis.

In 2010, we'll be loaded with experience, depth, talent, and have a manageable schedule that could put us in a position to go to the promised land. And that's why I wanted a new coach now, because I'm not sure Weis can get Humpty-Dumpty put back together again in time for a title run in 2010. Oh, we're a shoe in for the BCS, but a title? I don't see it.

Time to hunker down and accept that Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day.


Weis needs to make some big changes in this offseason.

First of all, none of this "I'm not making any scapegoats" bullshit that kept the entire staff in place last year. It's time to make some changes.

Here's how I see things shaking out in the offseason:

Corwin Brown moves on to Eastern Michigan as their head coach. This guy is a great coach and will do well in his future career.

We'll move Tenuta to the Defensive Coordinator role, all by his lonesome. The defense will be his to do with as he will.

While I still have high hopes for Latina, it's likely that he will be gone. The fanbase needs blood, and Latina's name has been at the top of the list for almost three years now. Our running game is horrible, and that falls on the offensive line. Also, Andy Heck is sitting out there, waiting to be lured to South Bend.

Haywood needs to go. The offense was our weakness this year, and Haywood is also responsible for the running backs, who have underperformed this year. It's time for Weis to admit that he isn't the offensive coordinator anymore, and go hire somebody to take over. Of course, Weis will pick a guy that runs a pro-style offense, and that's fine, but Weis needs to be hands-off here, except for inpuit on the gameplan. If Swarbrick makes anything clear to Weis this offseason, it should be that Weis is responsible for finding the best available EXPERIENCED offensive coordinator available, and do whatever it takes to get him to South Bend.

The only way I accept not hiring an experienced offensive coordinator is if we promote Rob Ianello to the position. Ianello is too valuable an asset to this team to let him move on to greener pastures. He has done an outstanding job of coaching the receivers, and is the best recruiter in the game. He's been in this offensive system for a while now, and I have more faith in his competence than I have ever had in Haywood.

Keep Polian, and leave him in charge of special teams. I was not high on this kid the last couple of years, but he produced this year, and the special teams improved as the season went on. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Finally, we need a new defensive line coach. Again, open up the pocketbook here, and go get someone that kids like to play for. We've struggled in recruiting here, so we need someone who has a resume that stands on it's own. Oliver rode Minter's coattails into town, and just never left.

Keep Parmalee - Tight End recruiting has been spectacular, and the development of tight ends has never seen the slightest hiccup - from Fasano, to Carlson, to Rudolph. This guy stays right where he is.

The final change I'd like to see is Weis show some humility. He needs to come out to the fanbase and apologize for the past two seasons. He needs to give us a plan moving forward, and admit his fault in this nosedive. Weis often talks about how he doesn't read the press clippings, and doesn't know what's said about him. Maybe it's time to start listening a little bit. You can't change perception if you don't even know what that perception is. Start acting like someone who is rolling up his sleeves and getting to work - no more talk. We need results.

Finding a way to land Manti Te'o and ink the #1 overall recruiting class for next year would be a good way to start.


While I'm disappointed that Weis is back next year, I'm still hopeful for the future of the program. At this point, I don't think there is much that Weis can do to get fired in the next couple of seasons, as the talent alone should be able to win 9 games next year, and 10 the year after that.

I know Weis is a smart guy. I know he works his ass off. I know he cares deeply about Notre Dame. And I desperately want him to succeed. I bleed Blue and Gold, and wanted him gone not because I dislike or disrespect him, but because he led this team into the worst two game stretch in history. And I'm tired of having my heart broken by this team.

Weis has some fences to mend this offseason.

And they say winning heals everything.

Coaching Search Rumormongering

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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Notre Dame Football Annual Review

With the end of the season upon us, Jack Swarbrick has stated that the program will be evaluated at the end of the season, using the same metrics as every other program. Therefore, I thought I'd take a stab at evaluating the football team from Swarbrick's perspective, rather than the perspective of a pissed off and disappointed fan.

So, here are the metrics (in order of importance) I would use to evaluate the football program, were I the AD:

Coaching staff review: Evaluate the performance of each assistant coach, and make a determination as to whether or not each of those coaches should be retained.
Revenue generation: A cost/benefit analysis will be conducted for each program.
Alumni and fan support: Donations are not just financially important to the school, but are in fact a measurable that impact a school's reputation nationally.
Public relations: The public image of Notre Dame is very important not only for the University, but indeed for the entire Catholic faith.
Recruiting student-athletes: The lifeblood of every program, a coach must demonstrate an ability to attract top talent.
Academic commitment: Notre Dame is committed to the athletic performance of every part of the University, and that includes sports teams. GPA, grad rates, etc.
Moral integrity: Notre Dame is a Catholic institution of higher learning, and has always held themselves to a higher standard than their peers.
Program direction: Here are the ultimate measurables - wins and losses, rankings, and championships. This metric also looks at the overall direction of the program, and whether on the field performance meets expectations.


Corwin Brown - Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
Total defense rank: 39
Scoring defense rank: 42
Pass defense rank: 30
Pass efficiency defense rank: 17
Recommendation: Retain

Michael Haywood - Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs
Total offense rank: 74
Scoring offense rank: 85
Rushing offense rank: 98
Fumbles lost rank: 77
Recommendation: Do not retain

Rob Ianello - Receivers Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Pass offense rank: 46
Recruiting ranking (freshman class): #1 in country
Recommendation: Retain

John Latina - Asst. Head Coach (Offense)/Offensive Line
Rush offense rank: 98
Sacks allowed rank: 47
Tackles for loss allowed rank: 70
Recommendation: Do not retain

Jappy Oliver - Defensive Line Coach
Rushing defense rank: 62
Sacks rank: 82
Tackles for loss rank: 112
Recommendation: Do not retain

Bernie Parmalee - Tight Ends Coach
Developed Kyle Rudolph after several key losses
Recommendation: Retain

Brian Polian - Special Teams Coach
Punt return yardage defense rank: 34
Kickoff return yardage defense rank: 1
Net Punting rank: 60
Punt return rank: 52
Kick return rank: 85
Field goal rank: 32
Recommendation: Retain

Ron Powlus - Quarterbacks Coach
Pass offense rank: 46
Passes had intercepted rank: 106
Pass efficiency rank: 69
Jimmy clausen: 64th pass efficiency, 31st passing yards/gm, 24th total passing
Recommendation: Toss-up

Jon Tenuta - Asst. Head Coach (Defense)/Linebackers
Pass defense rank: 30
Pass efficiency defense rank: 17
Rushing defense rank: 62
Sacks rank: 82
Tackles for loss rank: 112
Recommendation: Toss-up

(I don't know enough about the grad assistants to grade them)


Notre Dame football is the most valuable property in college football, and generates the most revenue of any program in college sports. However, the revenue for this property is not being maximized. There will be only minimal bowl revenue, and national merchandising is down.


While I don't have measurables for this criterion, I do live in South Bend, write this blog, peruse message boards, attend games, talk to fellow alumni, fans, staff and other college football fans every chance I get.

Alumni and fan support is at a low we haven't seen since Ty Willingham was fired. There are still fans out there that want to see Weis retained, but the overall sense is that Weis is not achieving.

The consensus seems to be that the coach should be fired (or resign), and that we should replace him with a Tier 1 coaching candidate. However, there is a lot of fear about our ability to attract a Tier 1 coach.

Unlike the Willingham firing, I have not heard, anecdotally or otherwise, that Weis' recent failures have led to the wwithholding of donations to the University. Yet.


Hansen, South Bend Tribune

Wieneke, South Bend Tribune

Carroll, South Bend Tribune

Morrissey, Chicago Tribune

Greenstein, Chicago Tribune

Fort-Wayne Journal Gazette

Chicago Sun Times

O'Leary, Blue and Gold

Incoming class recruiting rank: 10/11
Freshman class recruiting rank: 2/2
Sophomore class recruiting rank: 8/11
Junior class recruiting rank: 8/5
Senior class recruiting rank: 40/27


Academic Progress Report

Coach Weis has done an excellent job of maintaining the academic integrity of the football program throughout his time here. His teams have high team GPAs, the players graduate, and there have been no major academic violations. (Rumor had it that Darrin Walls was involved in some academic misconduct, but that is completely unsubstantiated. If true, it may impact this review.)


Weis has often been called onto the carpet for his personal conduct, whether it be his abrasive personality or his penchant for cursing like a sailor. However, taken as a whole, Weis is an excellent ambassador for our football team, media reports notwithstanding. His charity work with Hannah and Friends, and stories like "Pass Right" show an ongoing commitment to social justice and a personal moral integrity.


Expectations: Notre Dame football is a Tier 1 football program, with the most storied history of success. In terms of wins and losses, Notre Dame should be able to maintain their winning percentage at 75% (currently 0.738). Also, Notre Dame needs to be able to average 1 AP National Championship per decade, and winning a Heisman Trophy on average every 15 years. BCS bowl games should be reached 2 out of every three years, and the Gator or Cotton Bowl on the odd year. Notre Dame should never be in a lower bowl game, much less have a losing season, except in rare instances. Bowl games should be won at above a 50% rate.

Winning Percentage: Notre Dame football has a 6-6 record (0.500) this season. Coach Weis has a 28-21 overall record (0.571). The past two years, Weis has posted a 9-15 record (0.375), an all-time low for Notre Dame over a two year stretch.

National Championships: Weis has not won a championship at Notre Dame.

Bowl games: In Weis' four-year career, he has had 1 losing season, where Notre Dame did not attend a bowl game. This is unacceptable. Weis did make a BCS game 2 out of 4 years, which is good, but not at standard. He has lost both bowl appearances. He is bowl eligible this year, but is going to go to a lower tier bowl, which is also unacceptable.

Direction: There is no evidence that this team is improving at a satisfactory rate. There are serious questions about Weis' ability as a coach and in player development. Recruiting has been corrected, and there is a lot of talent coming in to the University, but Weis has been unable to translate that into on-the-field success.


Weis has not met the expectations for the football program on the football field. His inability to field a competitive football team has damaged alumni and fan support, and has led to a firestorm of public relations outcry for a change. Several of his assistant coaches have not performed up to expectations. The areas which he promised the most improvement in, specifically offensive performance, have been severely deficient.

It is my recommendation that, after this review, a search for a new football coach be undertaken immediately. Allow Weis to remain on as head coach through the bowl game while we determine if there is a coach available and willing to take the position. If a suitable upgrade can be found, we will terminate Coach Weis' contract at the end of the season. If not, we will retain him for one more season, and re-evaluate then.


Weis was supposed to be an "offensive genius" who would bring us a "decided schematic advantage."

We just amassed 91 total yards in a game against our biggest rival - only 9 of which came in the first half.

In year four of the Weis era.

Year four.

I was a Weis supporter for 3 and a half years of his tenure here, but the stretch of games starting with Boston College was the worst Notre Dame football I've seen since... the first 6 games of last year. Which was the worst I've seen since... ever.

Much like the end of the Willingham era, when the team seemed to be regressing, the Weis team seems to be regressing as well.

Unlike the end of the Willingham era, I have hope for the future. This roster is stacked, and if we quickly hire a top notch coach, the recruiting class coming in can be held together.

But Weis should resign. Now.

To be fair, USC's defense is tops in the country, and they had two weeks to prepare for the Irish. But Weis' own book is titled 'No Excuses.' This is our rival, and the program by which we should measure our success.

Paul Johnson came into Georgia Tech and beat their rival in year one. And lest you think that Notre Dame faced a tougher task last night, remember that Georgia was preseason #1. And Georgia Tech was a team in it's first year of installing a triple option attack.

Notre Dame was in year four, and couldn't get a first down, much less a win.

While the firings of Davie and Willingham hurt like breaking up with a girlfriend, this breakup feels more like a divorce. Weis has become an integral part of the Notre Dame family (despite the charges of his arrogance and abrasiveness), and is committed to the school and the community.

But this marriage just isn't working anymore.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Notre Dame - UNC Preview

Although I rarely post about Notre Dame basketball, the implosion of the ND football program and my Hoosier basketball program have left me floundering.

So, I've decided to jump on the Notre Dame basketball bandwagon this year, as Mike Brey has quietly built a Tier 1 basketball team over the past few years. Also, since I live in South Bend, I get to see far more Irish basketball than I do IU basketball and ND football combined, so I am slowly falling in love with this program.

And tonight, the Irish play arguably their biggest game since they reached the Final Four in 1978.

They tip-off against the Tarheels of North Carolina at 10 p.m. ET in the finals of the Maui Invitational. (I'm leaving work before then, whether I get these cases filed or not, and watching it at the downtown Buffalo Wild Wings)

This is a golden opportunity for the Irish, who can, in one fell swoop, establish themselves as not only the team to beat in the Big East, but also a national contender for the national championship. When seedings come out in March, there is no bigger "good win" than beating the consensus #1 team in the land.

Hansbrough has been bothered by a bum ankle, and his conditioning is not up to par as a result. Look for Harangody to try to establish himself in the paint as a result. These teams match up well strength-on-strength, but the Tarheels are a deeper team. The Irish need to play balls to the wall for the entire game, and they can pull out a victory.

Not that you need any additional motivation when you tip-off against the #1 team in the land, but if I were Coach Brey, I would remind these players of what the Tarheels did to our football team just a couple weeks ago.

Payback's a bitch.

Go Irish! Beat the Tarheels!

Notre Dame 104
UNC 103

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: Aftermath Edition

Subway Domer hosts this week's edition of IBG, and he brings a somber tone befitting the embarassment of a loss to 2-8 Syracuse en route to a shellacking at the hands of U$C.

1. Regardless of what you may have heard and what may happen, what do you think should be the fate of Charlie Weis? Please give an explanation in detail along with a possible replacement if you said... FIRED. No Urban Meyer bullshit here. He's not coming. Get over it.

I'm on record as saying that Coach Weis' fate should be that he resigns as head coach of Notre Dame. He knows this school as well as anyone, and knows he should walk away and accept the fact that he couldn't get it done. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Coach and the entire Weis family. But ultimately, I think that he is just another Faust in Notre Dame's history. If he is not gone after the season, I will drag myself back onto the bandwagon next year, as I have no choice - this is my school. But I don't have to like it.

As replacements go, I'd be very aggressive if I were to lead this search - this team can't afford to miss on another coach. Pick a coach that has shown the ability to win, and win the right way. Consistently. In college (sorry, Gruden).

My very first call would be to Bob Stoops. He probably won't leave Oklahoma, but the level of success he's had as their coach is exactly what the Irish need.

My next calls would be to Spurrier and Tressel. I don't like either coach, and would feel sick to my stomach when hiring them, but I know they could win. Tressel's not going anywhere, but Spurrier is a possibility.

We can't poach from a rival, so Carroll is out. And Urban Meyer is not going to happen. That ship has sailed. Mangino is a little too rotund to follow up Weis (I can't stomach several more years of fat jokes about our coach). And Mack Brown may as well be chained to Texas.

The next group of coaches to look at: Richt, Pinkel, Tuberville, Kelly, Bellotti, and Peterson.

If we have to move past that, then we are getting into some risky territory. If it doesn't pan out, it could relegate ND football back to the middle of the BCS pack for good, where we can be content to battle Georgia Tech, Pitt, and Boston College, rather than USC, Oklahoma, Texas, and Ohio State.

2. Recruiting. Colin Cowherd has been murdering the recruiting services and Notre Dame. He thinks that the recruiting services rank Irish recruits higher than what they should be because of a marketing plan. Everyone else on the outside is falling in line with this thought. What are your opinions? Please explain and provide a solution.

I think that Cowherd has a point when he says that Notre Dame is the Bermuda Triangle of great recruits, but I think he oversteps when he starts claiming some kind of conspiracy.

Notre Dame has not been successful in developing the massive amount of talent that comes into the program, however, and that is the biggest weakness in our last three coaching hires.

3. I made a comparison in a poorly written post about this team mirroring the 2004 team. I generally don't like doing comparisons to other years, but I felt it was valid. What is your take? Is the 2008 version of ND like the 2004 team, and do you think the 2009 team could have similar results to the team in 2005?

I think that no matter who the coach is next year, the beginning of the season will feel like 2005.

But then we play USC.

If there is anyone in the entire country that truly believes that Weis can beat USC, I'd like to know what evidence they are basing it on.

Problem is, this year's team is worse than 2004. And that hurts.

4. Is Michael Floyd the Notre Dame team MVP? Why? If not, who then?

My vote is for Mike Anello. The kid plays balls to the wall every time he gets on the field, and if his passion would rub off on Jimmy Clausen and the running backs, we might have a halfway decent football team.

But Anello plays on special teams, so the conventional choice for MVP would be Golden Tate, who almost single handedly beat Syracuse and saved the season.

5. What is Notre Dame's biggest problem schematically and mentally?

Schematically, the biggest problem is our blocking scheme. And it has been for the entire Weis era. It does not allow us to take advantage of our athleticism on the front lines, and puts too much pressure on assignments and not enough on strength and conditioning.

Mentally, the problem with this team is it's ability to learn complex schemes. And I put that on the coaches. Weis brought in an NFL playbook, and tried to teach these kids like he taught the professional athletes. There is a reason that the spread option and run 'n shoot offenses work in the college ranks, but not as much in the pros. They are easy to learn how to run, and relatively difficult to defend on short notice. In the NFL, however, the time that the players spend preparing for opponents is on a different level. The spread option and run 'n shoot are easy to defend if your full time job is to study it. Weis treats this team like an NFL team, and then looks flabbergasted when they miss assignments and constantly shoot themselves in the foot.

While I'm not advocating that we run a gimmicky offense, I am advocating that we find someone who runs a manageable scheme and runs it well.

6. Notre Dame is a 30 point underdog to U$C. It's safe to say that none of us thought that ND would ever be that big of an underdog in this rivalry game. Your thoughts and please include a prediction for the game.

For the first time that I can ever remember in my lifetime of cheering for the Irish, I have no confidence in this team's ability to win this game.

As Holtz said, you gotta believe. But for the first time ever, my faith is shaken and I don't believe.

And it was that realization on Sunday that led me to ask for Coach's resignation.

Even under Willingham, I believed every single week we had the chance to win the game. And he occasionally showed flashes of greatness.

But after watching the Irish lose to Syracuse, I have trouble believing we can win. And that feeling brings tears to my eyes, as I have always been an optimist when it comes to Notre Dame football. I am as homer as they come, and I don't see any way Weis can coach his way to victory.

I know that these players have the talent and (mostly) the heart to win on Saturday, but unless the Coach that hobbles out onto the field next week has experienced some kind of epiphany, I don't believe he can.

If ever there was a time for prayer, it is now. May God's will be done.

USC 56
Notre Dame 14

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Coach Weis: Step down.

All day, I've been perusing the Internets while I nurse my hangover, reading everything I can get my hands on about the Irish loss yesterday and the future of the Notre Dame football team.

While initially I was willing to give Coach Weis one more week to right the ship with a win over U$C, I no longer believe that.

When you look at the game yesterday, this program has reached an all-time low. All-time. Worse than Kuharich, worse than Willingham, worse even than last year.

I pulled these stats from ESPN:

For the first time in school history, Notre Dame fell to an eight-loss team.

• The Irish have now lost five games this year after dropping nine in 2007. The 14 combined losses are the most ever by Notre Dame in a two-season span

This is unacceptable, and Coach Weis set the expectations for himself when he walked in the door. He told his team walking in the door that if they went 5-7 and 6-6, that he wouldn't survive as head coach. He's gone 3-9 and 6-5 in back to back seasons.

Yes, he has recruited well and put together a strong foundation for this program going forward. The next two years will have the strongest combination of talent and experience in history on the roster.

Which makes now the time to make a change.

If I were a successful college coach and Notre Dame asked me if I'd be interested in the job, I would have to take a good hard look. Loaded with talent and a favorable schedule, that coach could compete for a championship next year if he can install his system. Think Miami at the end of the Butch Davis era, when Larry Coker walked into a championship team.

The problem with our current situation is that the Weis contract has a gargantuan buyout that will have to be negotiated in order to terminate him. The new athletic director may not be prepared, as his first major move, to recommend the termination of a coach that has done so much in recruiting talent to bring ND back to the top.

So, despite the fact that I am sure Coach Weis will never read my words, I am putting my request out to Coach Weis.

Please, coach, step down.

I'm deeply saddened that it has come to this. I think Weis could have been a great coach. He works hard, he cares deeply, and he is a true Notre Dame man. I know how good of a man Coach Weis is. I know how committed he is to the community that I call home. I know how deeply he feels these losses, as he is as die-hard a Notre Dame fan as there is out there.

And that is why he should step down.

He knows that he has not been able to take this team to the levels of success that the almuni and fans expect from the football program, and he needs to do what is best for the University. He needs to put aside his ego and do what is best for this program.

I don't need Weis to call a press conference and quit tonight, but he should go to Swarbrick, inform him of his decision to step down and waive his buyout, and work with Swarbrick in finding a new coach and assisting in the transition.

If Weis is truly the Notre Dame man I think he is, we won't have to fire him.

"We lost to Syracuse."

Four short little words, which almost got me beat down by none other than the mighty Jimmy Clausen.

I was out at CJ's last night, having a couple of drinks with my friends who were in town for the game, and we were on our way out of the bar, when we saw Jimmy walk in.

He was all smiles, hitting on the ladies, high fiving his buddies, and in a generally good mood when I saw him.

Which pissed me off.

I was not in a good mood.

In fact, I was in a lousy mood, because the Irish had lost a game that they had no business losing. This was worse than Navy last year, who at least had a winning record. I couldn't get over the fact that we really lost to a 2-8 Syracuse squad who had already fired its head coach. I was in a foul mood, and I'm just another fan.

Shouldn't the leader of this football team also be miserable? Shouldn't he be almost emabarassed to show his face in public after that debacle? And if he does come out, shouldn't he display a little humility?

So I said 4 little words to Jimmy as we passed in the crowded bar.

"We lost to Syracuse."

Boy howdy, did that do the trick.

Jimmy turned to me, as i was just past him by then and screamed "Come say that to my face!" He was trying to get after me, but his entourage were holding him back, and he kept yelling as I made my way out.

Normally, I would never blog about my personal interactions with the football team. I'm usually of the opinion that what happens at CJ's, stays at CJ's. And I have some stories I could tell about CJ's over the years.

But here I am the next day, and I just couldn't get Jimmy's stupid grin out of my head. This is the guy that's supposed to be the leader of our football team, and he was yukking it up with his buddies like this loss was no big deal.

It was nice to see that he responded so viscerally to the statement, but his attitude walking in is a symptom of a larger disease within the program.

Some of these kids aren't playing with much heart.


I really like Coach Weis.

I think Coach Weis has the potential to do great things with this football program.

But I also think that he has not done his job at Notre Dame, and now has placed himself in a precarious position.

He needs to win next week to save his job. In the Coloseum, against a program that has been a dynasty for the better part of the last decade. I'd be willing to bet that the oddsmakers in Vegas will have Notre Dame as the biggest underdogs in Notre Dame history next week.

John Walters at NBC made the most damning review of Weis at this point in his career, and provided me with everything I need to know about the program right now:

Bob Davie, five seasons, 35-25 record.

Tyrone Willingham, three seasons, 21-15.

Charlie Weis, just under four seasons, 28-20.

What do each of the last three Notre Dame coaches have in common? As of today, the same exact winning percentage at Notre Dame: .583.

Once again, Weis' own words are going to come back to haunt him.

If "9-3 is not good enough," then certainly 3-9 and 6-6 won't cut it either.

I have not seen "a hard-working, intelligent, nasty football team" out there during Weis' tenure.

"You are what you are, and right now you're a [6-5] football team."

And that's just not good enough.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: Orange Edition

This weeks IBG is hosted by Three Guys In A Basement.

1. If you had the choice, which professional athlete would you rather be: A golfer on the PGA tour that hovers around 125-150 on the money list, a solid middle reliever in the MLB, a # 4 starter on an MLB team, a 10th man on an NBA roster, or a punter in the NFL?

Pro golfer: $537k - $852k
Middle reliever: $200k+
#4 starter: $250k+
10th man: $600k+
Punter: $300k+

While pro golfing may not have the high end salary in that range (most of the other positions can get you into the millions if you're good at what you do), it's got to be the easiest job.

Forget gameday - every professional athlete eventually has to suit up and play a game. It's the practice that makes golfing the best option. Most people play golf as a leisure activity in their spare time. Very rarely do I see people punting or pitching on a Sunday afternoon for fun. And don't get me started on basketball practice - exhausting.

I'll take the cushy life of a pro golfer.

2. If they made a movie about the history of Notre Dame football from 1997-2008, what actors would you cast as Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, George O’Leary and Charlie Weis? Picture comparisons will be helpful.

Randy Travis as Bob Davie

I needed someone in this role that could do justice to Bob Davie's particular brand of country-fied footbaw. Someone who could do the accent of a good ol' country boy. Someone who seems like a good idea at the time, but ultimately is too much of a caricature to bring any real credibility. And the whole look-a-like thing.

Richard Brooks as Tyrone Willingham

For this one, I clearly needed an African-American actor that everyone likes, but isn't that accomplished when it comes right down to it. Somebody that had flashes of being an OK actor early in his career, but of late has been tanking it hardcore. Someone who is almost better when he doesn't open his mouth. And finally, someone who is so buttoned up that you wonder if they are capable of acting with real emotion. Someone with questionable credentials.

I was going to go with Bill Bellamy, but he smiles too much.

Then it hit me - who can do Ty's inscrutable "serious face" better than anyone? That's right, Richard Brooks from Law & Order's early seasons. Bingo.

Colm Meaney as George O'Leary

Good actor, but clearly not A-list. A likeable guy, and a good Irishman, but ethnicity alone isn't enough to make you a good fit. And if I were Meaney, I'd lie about my stint on Star Trek in may valiant attempts to gain decent acting jobs. Perfect fit for O'Leary - good coach, but clearly not A-list.

James Gandolfini as Charlie Weis

A Jersey guy with a bit of a weight problem? This didn't take me long. He can get the Jersey attitude, and can do both comedy and drama. Also, Gandolfini is the kind of actor that has a great resume, but hasn't quite reached that A-list status. But he could.

3. We at tgiab.com (see JoeG) love the drink Sparks, which comes in Orange cans. While I can’t truly relate that to any type of question, I figured I’d mention that because we are playing the Orange this weekend. I guess if I had to tie it in, I would say that I associate Sparks with football tailgates (and my subsequent lack of recollection of the game). Do you have a favorite product that comes in the color Orange? And if so, do you relate it to football in any way shape or form?

I like oranges, as in the fruit.

And yes, I can relate it to football, because of the Orange Bowl. Or the bowl formerly known as the Citrus Bowl, but now called the Capital One Bowl.

Best I could come up with. Yeah, Vitamin C!

4. This last weekend, one of the more die-hard Notre Dame fans I know told me that he has twice rooted against Notre Dame. Is there any scenario where you would root against Notre Dame? Or should we make this friend (and guest columnist) be the next Ice-T in Surviving the Game?

Not one. There just isn't. It's always in my best interest for Notre Dame to win it's football games.

Where you really tie me up is in basketball. I went to Indiana University for undergrad, and am a die-hard Hoosiers basketball fan.

The Irish and the Hoosiers tip it off in the Maui Invitational in a few days.

I have no idea how to cheer in this one. I've always said that IU is #1 for me in basketball, and Notre Dame #1 in football, but now I'm torn. IU is expected to have a rough season, as their team was absolutely decimated by the debacle that was the end of the Sampson era.

On the other hand, Notre Dame basketball is back in the top 10.

I don't want the Irish to lose such an early game against what is supposed to be a bad IU team, but am having trouble bringing myself to cheer against my alma mater.

I don't know what to do...

5. tgiab.com will host (in allegiance wiht jupmode.com and thesubwayalumnishow.com) a tailgate for the USC game. First off, you are all cordially invited. Secondly, and more importantly, we are looking for necessities to have at a tailgate.

You need one of these.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm getting lei'd!

For those of you that haven't heard, earlier this week an enterprising student successfully arranged for about 10,000 leis to be handed out before this weekend's game, in an attempt to show Manti Te'o, the stud 5-star linebacker from Hawai'i, how much we want him to come play for us at Notre Dame.

The University got wind of this, and sent out an e-mail discouraging the students from going through with their plan. Apparently, it could possibly be construed as "publicizing" Te'o's visit, which is against NCAA rules.

However, those rules apply to the University, and not individuals.

So, I'm going out to buy some leis tonight to wear at the game on Saturday. (Where does one go to buy leis in November in South Bend?) Preferably green ones.

I encourage anyone else who is going to the game to do the same. Subway Domer claims that there will be leis available at Gate E before the game, so I encourage you to swing buy and pick yours up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Notre Dame football = Law School building project

Maybe it's because I just graduated law school a year and a half ago, or maybe I'm reaching here, but the Irish football program seems to me to be in the same state of flux as the Notre Dame Law School.

For those of you that haven't been to campus in a while (or never), the Notre Dame Law School has been undergoing a major renovation that will more than double it's size. And the progression of the law school's transformation has closely mirrored the transformation that the football program has been enduring.

When Weis took his position as head coach at Notre Dame, I was a 2L at the law school - he came in to speak with the students, and I was one of the lucky ones that got to ask him a question. Around that same time that Charlie was hired, it was announced that the Law School had gotten a major gift from Frank Eck, and that the construction of the law school addition had been greenlighted.

At that time, the law school had recently suffered a major drop in the rankings due to several factors, one of which included a lot of transition in the administration of the school.

The next two years, things looked good, but not great - ground hadn't been broken, but the plans were in place, and things looked good.

Then we broke ground on the law school, and the entire area looke like crap. At that same time, we fielded the 2007 Irish. In fact, last year's slide to start the season coincided with the digging of the foundation of the law school. Halfway through the fall semester, all we had to show for both programs was a giant gaping hole, and a big mess all around.

Then, we started building.

As the scaffolding went up around the law school addition, so too did the Irish show some signs of building at the end of the season. All offseason we worked on both projects, and at the beginning of this year, the law school looked like an almost finished product. A bricked exterior, lighting, the works.

Likewise, the Irish this year looked like a very good football team from the outside. Returning starters all over the field, a great incoming freshman class, and lots of promise for the future.

Halfway through this season, though, the law school addition is still bare bones inside. Likewise, the Irish football team still lacks a solid foundation - those junior and senior classes that build programs long-term.

And moving forward, I feel much the same about the Irish football team as I do about the law school expansion.

For too long, Notre Dame was content to live in the past, remembering their glory years. Old facilities, old ways of doing things. With the arrival of Weis/addition, Notre Dame has made a commitment to the future of the program by endeavouring to build a 21st century institution.

This is a long-term project, not just a quick fix of the existing institution.

We're not just cleaning the brick and putting in some extra outlets here, folks. We are building institutions that will compete at the elite levels of their respective fields.

Much like athletics has hired Swarbrick to lead the Irish into a new renaissance of ND athletics, the law school is also hiring a new dean to lead us into this exciting new era.

And I have full confidence that both institutions, once we've suffered through all of the building pains, will be back where they deserve to be - the pinnacle of their fields.

So be patient, fellow Irish fans, the reaissance is coming. You can all see how awesome this thing is going to look when it's done, but until then, ride out the storm.

Next year, we'll have something truly amazing starting.