Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

I don't know, maybe I'm just the patient type. When I wrote about the venom injected into Notre Dame's system in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's humiliation against Syracuse, I assumed it would take the entire offseason to fester and another disappointing season to finally prove fatal to the Charlie Weis era. He does have a couple BCS bowls to his name, after all, a couple highly-ranked recruiting classes hitting maturity next year, and if nothing else, a massive buyout. For a guy who was supposedly safe as of last Sunday, $21 million buys a very slow trigger finger from an administration.

With the university power brokers, that may be true, but it's certainly not in today's ND press, who wholeheartedly agree with the Weis-baiting tyke above. The snowball-wielding students were nothing compared to the avalanche of catcalls and eulogies from the likes of hometown columnist Jeff Carroll, who pulls no punches in the South Bend Tribune:

A little less than four years ago, Charlie Weis arrived at Notre Dame waving Super Bowl rings and boasting about the "decided schematic advantage" he was going to hold over other college coaches.

It was easy to dislike that, easy to root against him. On the other hand, coming out of the emotionless Tyrone Willingham years, it also felt like something this program very much needed at the time. As long, of course, as he could deliver.

He can't.
In fact, I will go this far. Unless Weis finds a way to go into the L.A. Coliseum and pull off an epic upset of USC next Saturday, he should not return as the head football coach at Notre Dame next season.

Whether Weis' job is really hanging on a miracle or not, only the small cabal of men with the largest offices on campus know. But it should be, megamillion buyout or not.
[Emphasis added]

There's more of the same in the Chicago Tribune ("... the most insidious part about Notre Dame's grim postgame choreography Saturday was ... how distastefully routine it had become"), the Chicago Sun-Times ("Is this the final nail?"), the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ("Syracuse's players showed intensity Saturday from the beginning while Notre Dame looked flat.") and even the more optimistic and sober of the Irish blogs, like The Blue-Gray Sky, which looks like it's given up on the Weis era:

... I like Charlie Weis. I think he's a good guy and I think he loves Notre Dame. I don't think he is incompetent, like Ty Willingham. I do not think he is an arsonist, like Bob Davie. I think it's awful that he has failed, and he has. I think it is tragic. Tragic that he could not save his alma mater from the farce that was the Willingham era. ... Tragic that he will be seen as just one more link in the chain of fools that has guided the program for the past dozen years.
I'll let the smart guys on this blog get into the nuts and the bolts of it, but this train has sailed. I think we all know it. All that remains is a fake punt, with SC up by 30 in the 4th quarter, next Saturday. That it is possible that, after four years, we are unable to line up against Syracuse or BC or Pittsburgh or San Diego State and get 2 yards is really all the confirmation you need. There is some basic football ability lacking in this (and every other) Weis team, and it is all because of poor coaching.

In fact, I've only come across one dissenting opinion in any high profile Irish outlet, and even that's just an Associated Press report in the Indianapolis Star that argues firing Weis would promote instability after firing two other coaches with winning records and BCS bowl bids prior to Weis.

This reminds me of two things: a) Brian Cook's snarky "Returning to Glory Since 1993" t-shirts, and b) Kirk Herbstreit's more or less backhanded defense of Weis a couple weeks ago, which went along the lines of "this is who Notre Dame is." Both point to the fact that Weis' record, 28-19, is basically identical to Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie. Unlike Irish fans, though, they see this not as a problem, but as a simple reality of life at Notre Dame in the 21st Century: After identical results from three different head coaches (four, if you count the last few years of Lou Holtz's tenure), maybe the problem isn't so much the coach as it is the program.

Notre Dame hasn't been in any serious mythical championship discussion (zero top-10 finishes) since 1993, and only averages about seven wins over the last 15 years; it has as many seasons with six or fewer wins as it does with at least seven. ND's winning percentage since 1994 ranks 36th in the country, between Boston College and Clemson. There's the famous bowl losing streak and pathetic record against ranked and winning teams. In visual form:

Over 15 years, a pattern is reality, even if the only pattern is one of inconsistency. Based on Notre Dame's last 15 years, the reasonable expectation on an annual basis is somewhere between six and eight wins. Assuming it's still willing to accept a bottom-barrel bowl invitation with a chance at finishing 7-6, the current team is coming right down a track laid long before Weis became the conductor.

So it's no surprise that the only opinion that dares suggest "the program's development is right on schedule" comes from the outside looking in on disgusted natives who for some reason can't find anyone able to meet the standards of 15-20 years ago. Before it asks another coach to turn in his whistle/rosary, the Irish might want to take a long, updated look at the criteria.

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