Meanwhile, Notre Dame, its president, Rev. John Jenkins, and its Board of Trustees, are doing their best not to acknowledge the awkward issues of inconsistency and misrepresentation. George O'Leary was fired after just five days as Notre Dame's head coach in 2002 for having padded his résumé. O'Leary provided school officials with a résumé showing him to have earned three varsity letters in football at the University of New Hampshire and having earned a master's degree at NYU.
O'Leary did neither, and when the matter came to light, it put Notre Dame in an untenable situation. O'Leary's duplicity had taken place years earlier — indeed, his gravest sin was forgetting to "update" his résumé — and his reputation as a successful and passionate coach had long since been established. O'Leary might have been a fibber, but he is by no means a fraud.
Back in 2002, though, when Notre Dame had only fired one coach this millennium (as opposed to three), the school could afford to address his duplicity. O'Leary had misrepresented himself, and the school terminated him.
Weis, a Notre Dame alumnus, arrived back on campus for good in February 2005 brandishing those three Super Bowl rings and a reputation as an offensive mastermind. Indeed, it was not long before the student body took to referring to him, admiringly, as "Robot Genius."
How much of that "decided schematic advantage" did Weis owe to the Patriots' videotaping exercises? Certainly a modest amount at most, but was Weis misrepresenting himself any less than O'Leary had?
As for the Notre Dame hierarchy, has anyone from Rev. Jenkins to former A.D. Kevin White to a guest at an alumni club banquet ever imposed upon Weis to clarify his role in Spygate? And what if he did?
It would appear by the institutional silence that Jenkins and the Notre Dame athletic administration, like far too many Domer fans who are fired up about the incoming recruiting class, would rather not know the answer.
From 2000-04 Dave Wannstedt was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who play in the AFC East. During that same period Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator of the Pats, who also play in that division. On Sept. 3, 2005, Weis made his Notre Dame coaching debut against Wannstedt, who was making his debut as head coach of Pittsburgh that evening. The Irish, who were double-digit underdogs at Heinz Field, scored 35 first-half points vs. the Panthers en route to a 42-21 victory. That total remains the most points any Weis-coached Fighting Irish team has scored in one half.
The AP story from that game begins as follows:
Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis exactly for this. The innovative and imaginative offense. The confused looks on the faces of the opposing defense. And, yes, all those points on the scoreboard.
Sports work because they appeal to our ideal of a merit-based result. Fans need to believe that the final score is the result of preparation, hard work and execution on the field. Those must be the components of the "innovative and imaginative offense" that led to Notre Dame's win over Pittsburgh, and the 21 other wins in the Weis era.
Notre Dame Football, as a brand, works for its disciples for two reasons: 1) A nearly unmatched history of gridiron success and 2) A commitment to institutional integrity and individual character consistent with the university's educational mission.
By refusing to address this story, though, Weis and Notre Dame tarnish the brand while leaving the door open for scrutiny. And that was one of the biggest problems for the NFL when Spygate broke in the first place: When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declared the case closed, and destroyed the evidence so summarily, he invited us media jackals (and Sen. Arlen Specter) to question his motives. Spygate ended up lingering for eight months.
This is not going away.
Weis was never the head coach in New England. But he is the head coach at Notre Dame, an institution that prides itself on its purportedly unimpeachable ethical fabric. As the school's most visible representative, his obstinate refusal even to discuss the matter casts a pall on Notre Dame.
Weis has had some wonderful defining moments in his three seasons at Notre Dame. In just his fourth game, at Washington, he called a play drawn up by a boy who had succumbed to a fatal illness just one day earlier. One month later, Weis graciously entered the Southern Cal locker room to congratulate the Trojans following the worst gut-punch loss the Irish had absorbed since BC '93. Last September, he extended a post-game conference after a humiliating 38-0 loss in Ann Arbor, a signal to media and fans alike that he was not about to shirk from accountability.
Each of those moments is an example of Weis displaying estimable character in South Bend.
Clearing the air about Spygate, and his alleged role in it, would be Weis' next great moment.
Lingering questions were answered emphatically by the 2012 team, but 2013 is an all-new season that brings all-new question marks. Brian Kelly feels fairly confident his offense is in a great position to take a step forward, but to do that, they’ll need the services of some under-the-radar players.
Patriots' Spygate scandal
Notre Dame's 2012 season
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Meet the 2012 Irish
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2012 Notre Dame opponents
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