SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Charlie Weis promises to give Notre Dame an arrogant attitude and turn the Fighting Irish into an intelligent, hard-working, nasty football team.
“I hate to include the ‘nasty,’ but that is part of being a winning football team,” Weis said as he was introduced Monday as the new Irish coach.
Weis says his job is to raise expectations and win games.
Simple, but not easy.
Notre Dame hasn’t posted back-to-back winning seasons since 1997-98 under Bob Davie. Tough academic standards and a difficult schedule have been blamed for the demise of the nation’s most storied football program.
Weis, who will remain as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots through the end of the season, said he doesn’t believe any of that.
“I think that the people who complain about those things are looking for excuses,” Weis said.
He wants to instill in the players an arrogance that they can win anywhere against anyone.
“That’s the way I have to get the kids thinking, because once they are thinking like that it doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “You can call any play in the world, on offense or defense, but if the kids know the play is going to work, they are going to make it work. You’ll look like a genius, but you have to sell the fact to them. Don’t make excuses.”
Weis replaces Tyrone Willingham, who was fired after going 21-15 in three seasons at Notre Dame. Just days after letting Willingham go, Notre Dame officials flew to Utah to meet with Utes coach Urban Meyer. They returned empty handed and Meyer decided to take an offer from Florida.
Athletic director Kevin White said he interviewed five candidates about the job opening, talked contract details with two, but only offered the job to Weis. He said Weis was the most impressive candidate.
“I like his demeanor. I like his passion. I like his body of knowledge,” White said. “He’s coached a lot of different positions. You put the whole package together, it says what we want to hear.”
Weis returns to his alma mater in the midst of what former Irish football player Dave Duerson, now a member of the school’s board of trustees, described as great dissension.
That comment came several days after the Rev. Edward Malloy, who is retiring in June after 18 years as Notre Dame’s president, said he was embarrassed that the school had fired Willingham. Malloy’s assistant, Chandra Johnson, the school’s highest-profile black administrator, shaved her head in protest.
Malloy and the Rev. John Jenkins, the incoming president, downplayed talk about dissension, saying the hiring of Weis would go a long way in settling things.
“Healing is too strong of a word,” Jenkins said. “The board of trustees consists of 50 different people who all have very different opinions. That’s not going to stop. You try to achieve the right balance. You’re not going to please all the people all of the time.”
Just hours after Weis was introduced at Notre Dame, WIllingham officially became the new coach at Washington.
Weis said as a former student he understands the “idiosyncrasies” of being in South Bend.
Weis worked his way up the coaching ranks, starting at high schools in New Jersey, becoming an assistant at the University of South Carolina, then hooking on with the New York Giants and working his way up the pro ranks to become offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots as they won two Super Bowls.
New England coach Bill Belichick praised the job Weis has done for the Patriots the past five years.
“He’s been a good friend,” he said. “I’m happy for him personally, and we all at the Patriots wish him well.”
Weis said he had outstanding mentors along the way, especially Belichick and Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.
“I have no illusions of grandeur that I’m the greatest coach known to mankind,” he said. “But I look at those guys, those gentlemen who I have been able to be groomed under and be polished under and learned how to deal with the game of football and teaching of football and dealing with all of the different elements and the distractions, and get focused on what’s really important, I think finally you become a polished product.”
Weis said he has a plan of how he will divide his time between the Patriots and Irish, but he wouldn’t divulge it Monday. Belichick said he is comfortable with the plan.
“We might have to divide things up a little differently,” Belichick said.
Weis said he wouldn’t be in Phoenix for Notre Dame’s game against Oregon State in the Insight Bowl, saying he doesn’t think it would be fair to the players.
He hopes to be at Notre Dame a long time.
“I don’t come here to leave and take a job in the NFL in three years. This is not a stepping stone. This is an end-all for our family,” he said. “When we come to Notre Dame, we come here with the intent of retiring here.”
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