Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rewind It | by Pat

Certainly an interesting past few hours, but let's back up the soap opera that is ND football a few days and see just how we got to this point.

Saturday night. A pre-game shoving match gave a faint flicker of hope that ND would come out and be able to at least look competent against the stout Trojan defense for a prime time ESPN showdown. But that flicker was quickly extinguished. ND didn't pick up a first down until the final play of the 3rd quarter. While it showed fight, the defense was just over-matched by the Trojan offense. Only a Brandon Walker field goal kept ND from a second straight shutout loss to Southern Cal. 38-3 was the final tally, but the game wasn't even that close.

Fans and the media had their knives out for Charlie and looked to Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick for immediate reaction. Swarbrick's response though was vague and pointed to nothing happening, either in terms of firing or athletic department vote of confidence, for at least a week.

"We sit down and evaluate every program the same way at the end of the season. We look at a host of factors, from graduation rate to GPA, and we ask how can we make things better. That's the way we do it.

"I'm saying nothing will happen until we complete the entire review process. It doesn't assume something will happen."

The AD said he and Weis will next meet a week from Monday.
Sunday. As he did in 2006, Charlie stayed out on the West Coast following the game to visit with recruits in the area. One of the first stops was with receiver Shaq Evans, who then relayed the following information to the various ND recruiting sites.
"I asked him about his job status," Evans told the web site after Weis visited him Sunday. "He told me he's good to go; he'll be there. He said he made sure he's good before he left and it's just the media spreading that he's going to get fired. He said if he didn't know if he was going to be there or not he would tell me. It makes me feel good that he'll be there."
Back in the Midwest, Coach Ianello echoed similar statements.
"Coach Ianello told me that Coach Weis is still the head coach at Notre Dame and that he plans to be the head coach at Notre Dame," Watt told the Web site. "You just never really know what can happen I guess at any school with any coach, but I definitely feel better about everything going on these days at Notre Dame."
Of course, both statements were the sort of vague coach-speak that manage to be declarative without actually saying anything definite. Meanwhile, Swarbrick was still out of the office on business, which fueled message board and email rumors that he was vetting replacement candidates. Otherwise, why not endorse Charlie after the SC game and give him that public stamp of approval to help out recruiting?

Monday. Yesterday was largely quiet as Charlie was busy flying out to Hawaii to meet with 5-star linebacker Manti Te'o. Rumors, emails, and informed scuttlebutt about Swarbrick tended to center on either a plan to go after Cincinnati's Brian Kelly, or longer shot candidates like Urban Meyer, who per contractual obligations could not speak with other programs until after the SEC Championship game this coming Sunday. My personal opinion was that Swarbrick was trying to swing for the fences with a coach like Urban or Jon Gruden while at the same time doing more due diligence on Brian Kelly to see if a coach with only two years of BCS level experience was ready to take over a pressure packed job like Notre Dame.

The recruiting services caught up with the Te'o family following Charlie's visit and the message delivered was more of the same. The family was very impressed with Charlie who delivered the message of returning to ND.
Despite reports about Weis' tenure at Notre Dame, Te'o said Weis assured him he would still be the Irish coach next season.
Tuesday. Things were fairly subdued earlier in the day until Brian Kelly came out with his most strongly worded, yet still coach-speak, quote about returning to Cincinnati for the 2009 season.
"All I can say is that with all the speculation and all the jobs that have been out there, sooner or later 'no' means 'no,"' Kelly said. "Again, no one can ever speak in terms of forever and ever, but what I can tell you is there's been a lot of interest in my services, and I want to be here at the University of Cincinnati because of the right reasons."
A few hours after that...internet bedlam. Charlie Weis coming back to ND.

The Irish Eyes report was quickly corroborated by WNDU. ESPN and many other national outlets picked up the story and started with run with it. The school was contacted, but ND neither confirmed nor denied the reports.
The Chicago Sun-Times contacted the school, but Brian Hardin, the sports information director for football, said that he was not aware of any announcement. Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick did not respond to requests for comment from, and Weis was on a recruiting trip to Hawaii and California.

"When we have something to say and it's the appropriate time to say it, we'll say it," Notre Dame spokesman John Heisler said.
Notre Dame is now more or less forced to give out some sort of information today. At this point it's unclear if there will be a press conference or just a press release issued to the media.

In the meantime, F5 keys are being worn to the nub by the Irish masses as the more excitable sections of the fan base does its best Lord Denethor impersonation over the death of Notre Dame football. (Or, is the ND administration Denethor, content to send a battered son back into the fray one last time on a presumably hopeless mission hoping that somehow history won't repeat itself? Or, should I just end this painfully nerdy reference?)

I keep rolling the facts, rumors, and innuendo around in my head, trying to figure out what exactly went down the past few days behind the scenes, but there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason. ND seemed to be letting Charlie continue the one thing he's very good at, recruiting, while presumably looking for his successor. But suddenly we get news that Charlie is indeed coming back. What caused the sudden change? Did a top target finally give a definite no? Did ND decide a coach like Kelly is not worth the 3-5 year risk? What happened to the Monday evaluation? Will we ever find out just exactly happened these past few days? And where the hell did I put that ND basketball shirt?