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.