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College Football Mailbag (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday September 19, 2007 12:56PM; Updated: Wednesday September 19, 2007 3:01PM
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Charlie Weis is off to an 0-3 start in 2007 after leading Notre Dame to BCS bowl berths his first two seasons.
Charlie Weis is off to an 0-3 start in 2007 after leading Notre Dame to BCS bowl berths his first two seasons.
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If Charlie Weis is not fired after three years just as Ty Willingham was, will this lead to charges of racism at Notre Dame?
--Radi Nabulsi, Athens, Ga.

It already has. I can't even tell you how many Weis/Willingham e-mails I've already received that bring up the race issue. And I've got to tell you, I'm not pleased about it.

I won't argue with anyone who says Willingham was mistreated during his brief stint in South Bend, because in many regards, he was. If you want to argue that Weis has been unduly idolized, or that he's a flat-out bad coach, the Irish are currently giving you no shortage of ammunition.

But to go straight for the race card? For one thing, it's so absurdly simplistic, and it's also an extremely unfair generalization to place on an entire university. I'm not saying it's preposterous to think race played an issue -- obviously, racism is still very much rampant in our society -- but what evidence do we possibly have that it played any bigger role at Notre Dame than at any other school that's fired a black head coach?

Meanwhile, do people have any idea how much harm they're causing black head coaches by leveling such baseless accusations? College football is in desperate need of more minority head coaches (there are only six black head coaches among the 119 Division I-A schools), but what incentive does a school have to hire a black head coach if, as in Notre Dame's case, it's going to be accused of racism if things don't work out?

For instance, it's pretty evident at this point Karl Dorrell is never going to lead UCLA to glory (not when his best team to date can't even score a touchdown against 0-2 Utah), but will UCLA be charged with racism if it doesn't give Dorrell the same seven years as white predecessor Bob Toledo? I sure hope not.

Willingham's unpopularity in South Bend wasn't because of his race; it was because of his lack of personality. To the Irish's demanding fans, the last thing they wanted to hear after another blowout loss to USC was ... nothing at all. Contrast that to Weis, who, after last weekend's debacle at Michigan, strode up to the podium and assertively declared his team would be "returning to training camp" the next day.

Does that make him a better coach than Willingham? Not at all. Do I still believe, as I did then, that Notre Dame never gave him a fair shake? Absolutely. But that being said, there's no denying Weis has already done far more for the program (two BCS bowl berths, potentially three-consecutive top-five recruiting classes) than Willingham did in the same amount of time. So no matter how miserable this third season gets, the school still has far more evidence to justify sticking with Weis (as I assume it will) than it did Willingham. Whether Weis will actually prove to be the right coach remains to be seen.

Todd Boeckman = Craig Krenzel. Chris Wells = Maurice Clarett. James Laurinaitis = A.J. Hawk. Now that the Troy Smith/Ted Ginn/Santonio Holmes put-up-40-points-a-game era is over, is Tresselball back? Can it win another national championship, or are voters too soured from last year's outcome to put the Buckeyes back in the title game?
--Jared, Lawton, Okla.

Easy there, Jared. I myself was impressed with the Buckeyes' performance against Washington, but those are some lofty comparisons you're making. First, there was nothing about that Washington game that screamed "Tresselball" to me. OSU had a nice, all-around offensive performance (481 total yards), and if anything, the passing game was closer to Smith-era production than Krenzel's.

That's going to be important, because Tresselball would not have worked without a kicker the caliber of Mike Nugent or a running back as dominant as Clarett. With all due respect to Ryan Pretorius, he's got a long ways to go to be mentioned with Nugent. And as much as we like to spew bile about Clarett, it's easy to forget that the guy was a truly elite running back (that one year), as I was reminded recently while watching a replay of that 2002 title game. Wells may get there eventually, but he's not there yet. Meanwhile, who's the Chris Gamble on this team? Or the Michael Jenkins, for that matter? It's not like those '02 Buckeyes were without playmakers.

That said, OSU certainly has as good a shot as anybody of winning the watered-down Big Ten. But the voter backlash you mention is real and understandable. Even if the Buckeyes managed to run the table, what possible evidence would the voters have to be convinced they're one of the two best teams in the country? OSU's conference foes have already lost to the likes of Appalachian State, Duke and Florida Atlantic.

Beating Michigan -- even if the Wolverines run the table from here -- is going to hold no water. Beating Penn State and Wisconsin would definitely raise eyebrows, but considering neither of those teams beat anyone of significance in the nonconference, what kind of measuring stick would it really be? The best-case scenario for the Buckeyes is either that Washington goes on to challenge USC for the Pac-10 title, or that the Trojans, LSU, Florida, et al., all end up with at least one more loss than them. (Click here for Page 3)

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