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His biggest victory

Weis parlayed a 5-2 record into a 10-year extension

Posted: Wednesday November 2, 2005 3:30PM; Updated: Wednesday November 2, 2005 5:00PM
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Charlie Weis
Charlie Weis is happy in South Bend, and should be with his new 10-year contract extension.
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Apparently Charlie Weis can orchestrate a contract situation as deftly as he manipulates an offense. Weis has turned a 5-2 record in his first season as Notre Dame's coach into a 10-year extension worth a reported $30-$40 million. After seven games -- and granted, one of them was an epic loss to the best team in the nation -- Weis has the school's administration convinced that he's simply indispensable. Maybe the guy really is a genius.

Or, more likely, the powers that be at Notre Dame, who haven't made a truly smart coaching decision in recent memory (with the possible exception of hiring Weis), still don't have a clue. That's not to say that they'll live to regret giving Weis the extension. He may turn out to be every bit the savior that he appears to be after -- and we can't stress this enough -- only seven games. But there's also the chance that the Irish haven't really returned to glory, they're just visiting it. Weis could be the second coming of his predecessor, Tyrone Willingham, a fast starter who goes quickly into decline.

The point is, no one in South Bend knows which description will ultimately fit Weis, which is why the decision to gamble so heavily on him borders on lunacy. You'd think Notre Dame would know better after going through the fiasco with Willingham, who actually had a more impressive start than Weis'. Willingham was undefeated after the first eight games of his Notre Dame career, and he was getting the same kind of love that Weis is receiving now. By the end of his third season his career record was 21-15 and the Irish couldn't get him out of town fast enough.

So why invest so heavily in Weis when you wouldn't do the same for Willingham? Well, that gets us thinking thoughts that we don't want to think, thoughts about how Willingham's skin color is several shades darker than Weis'. Though it would be easy to cry racism -- and it's certainly likely that race is involved on some level -- it's not quite as simple as that. It's hard to accuse the administration of racist thinking when it was color-blind enough to hire Willingham in the first place.

This is really just more bumbling from an administration that's just been guessing ever since Lou Holtz left. Think about it. Notre Dame went from Holtz to Bob Davie, who turned in four mediocre seasons. Next came the debacle with George O'Leary, who was dismissed before coaching a game because he lied on his resume. Notre Dame finally settled on Willingham, but turned that progressive decision into a public relations nightmare by not allowing him to finish his first contract. Now the Irish luck into an apparently good thing with Weis -- they only hired him after their first choice, Urban Meyer, snubbed them -- and they go overboard.

Notre Dame will tell you that it had to lock up Weis more tightly for fear that he'd leave for the NFL next season, a fear that Weis and his handlers no doubt helped plant. His original deal had only a $1.5 million buyout, and some pro team would have happily paid that much to get him. But the Irish apparently don't realize that if New York, Chicago or the new L.A. franchise that's sure to come into existence sometime soon wants Weis and he wants to leave, the two sides will still make it happen. Coaches break contracts all the time. The Irish haven't really bought themselves much more security with this deal.

But Weis certainly has, which is why he deserves congratulations for being able to parlay 5-2 into about $40 million. Irish administrators had better hope that he continues to outsmart his opponents as easily as he outwitted them.