Notre Dame and Weis Are Stuck Together

Charlie Weis is down, and everyone is kicking him.

The latest example comes from an article in today's Chicago Tribune, which quotes a high school
coach, Ray Reitz, as saying that when Weis recruited his star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Notre Dame coach came across  "Arrogant as hell."

The Tribune goes on to lay out why Weis is in danger of getting fired, both because of unnamed alumni grumbling about that arrogant personality and, more importantly, because Notre Dame is off to a mediocre 5-4 start this season, a year after going 3-9. If the Irish lose at Navy on Saturday (they're four-point favorites), they'll return to South Bend to hear their the fans waking up the echoes calling for Weis's firing.

And the truth is, Weis does deserve to be fired, at least based on the precedent Notre Dame set when it fired Tyrone Willingham in 2004. Willingham had followed up a promising 10-3 season with back-to-back records of 5-7 and 6-6. With that, he was gone. Weis followed up a 10-3 season of his own in 2006 with these back-to-back seasons of 3-9 and now 5-4.

But Weis signed a 10-year contract extension in October of 2005 that guaranteed him between $30 and $40 million. And that means to buy Weis out of his contract now, Notre Dame would have to pay him more than $20 million. The Tribune quotes a source with Notre Dame ties saying a buyout "would play no role in whether the school keeps him," but that can't possibly be true.

The truth is, Weis's contract is the millstone around Notre Dame's neck that will force them to bear the burden of keeping this arrogant, unsuccessful coach around. But while that might cause some to conclude that Notre Dame was stupid to give Weis the contract, the reality is that the Notre Dame administration didn't have much of a choice.

In 2005, Weis appeared to have Notre Dame on its way back to the top of the college football world, and the quotes about him in the newspapers weren't talking about how high school coaches found him arrogant, they were talking about how NFL owners found him irresistible. In addition to getting off to a good start at Notre Dame, Weis had been one of the NFL's most respected assistants, winning three Super Bowl rings as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator. If Notre Dame hadn't offered him a huge new contract, an NFL owner surely would have -- and then the quotes in the newspapers all would have been about how the clueless Notre Dame administration let football's latest coaching genius get away.

Less than a year after signing his first contract as Notre Dame's head coach, Weis had all the leverage in negotiating his second contract. In hindsight, it's easy to say Notre Dame should have let Weis walk. But no one said that at the time.

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