After promising start, it's clear Charlie Weis is done at Notre Dame
Charlie Weis was once anointed a savior; he'll suffer same fate as predecessors
Weis is still owed about $18 million, but the school will find a way to buy him out
After losing to No. 8 Pitt on Saturday, Irish have lost last eight to top 10 teams
The highlight came the second month of the first season when Charlie Weis' Fighting Irish almost ended USC's 27-game winning streak on a postcard-perfect afternoon in South Bend.
What a weekend. The 2005 Friday pep-rally was so big, it was held in the football stadium instead of the Joyce Center. Joe Montana came back to speak. Rudy Reuttiger -- the real Rudy -- came back to inspire the masses.
The Irish unveiled their spanking new, state-of-the art weight room, then Brady Quinn dissected the Trojans with a passing attack that looked remarkably similar to the one Tom Brady used to win three Super Bowls in four seasons with Weis as offensive coordinator.
USC came back and beat the Irish in the closing seconds (helped by the famous Bush Push play) but we all agreed this was a candidate for Game of the New Century.
Two weeks after the USC weekend -- only seven games into his brand new, six-year contract -- Charlie's deal was torn up and he was given a 10-year contract extension worth well over $30 million.
Notre Dame went on to a 9-3 season and a top 10 ranking. With Charlie in charge there was no reason it couldn't continue for the next decade. It was all in front of Charlie and it was only going to get better.
He could recruit the best kids and teach them the pro passing game. The golden days were back for the Golden Domers.
Now there's tarnish all over the dome and it looks like Charlie is going to meet the fate that befell his predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie. Weis still has $18 million coming his way over the next six years. That's a shakedown, with no thunder, but Notre Dame needs to do something.
After Saturday night's 27-22 loss to Pittsburgh, the Irish are 6-4. But there is no more talk of a BCS Bowl. They have lost two straight and three of five. They can't seem to move the ball.
They can't tackle.
Alums and boosters are mortified and stupefied.
Two weeks ago the Irish were beaten by Navy. Navy! In South Bend!
It was Notre Dame's second loss to Navy in three seasons. That might not sound that bad until you consider that Notre Dame won 43 consecutive games against Navy from 1963-2006. The Middies stunned Charlie's Irish in triple-overtime in 2007, then almost pulled another upset last year in Baltimore.
No team works or trains harder than the group from Annapolis, but it's fair to say that Notre Dame enjoys a hefty recruiting advantage over the Midshipmen. Seriously -- does Navy have more than one or two players who were recruited by the Notre Dame? The Irish lineman weigh 30 or 40 more pounds than the Navy linemen. Why didn't Notre Dame dominate?
Charlie's the guy who's going to take the fall.
Against No. 8 Pittsburgh, Notre Dame trailed 27-9 with 12:44 left before coming back to life. The Pitt defeat means that Charlie's teams have lost eight straight against top 10 competition. Weis' 2007 team might have been the worst Notre Dame team ever. Last year's home loss to Syracuse represented the Irish's first-ever loss to an eight-loss team. Fifteen losses in two seasons (2007, 2008) is a Notre Dame record. Weis is 1-10 lifetime against top 10 teams and he has the same record (35-25) that got Davie fired.
Oh, and he's got the winning percentage (.583) that got Willingham fired -- back in the days when the Domers thought Weis was the answer.
Two games remain this season. The Irish come home this weekend to play the University of Connecticut. A loss to UConn would be like another loss to Navy and would certainly signal the end for Weis. Notre Dame finishes its season at Stanford and that's not looking like a winnable game in the wake of Stanford's 55-21 thrashing of USC on Saturday.
Bloodthirsty Irish fans are ready to pounce. It's easy now to look back and say that Weis' first two seasons (9-3 and 10-3) were tributes to Willingham's recruiting skills.
Weis was asked about his place on the hot seat after Saturday's loss at Pitt.
"That's too big picture right now,'' he said. "I'm trying to get the team focused on the next game.''
Pure coachspeak. Downright Belichician. Weis learned his arrogance from the hooded master of Say Nothing, but that stuff is only tolerated when you win. And Charlie stopped winning after Willingham's recruits left South Bend.
Looks like it's time for Charlie to take his buyout and go back to professional football. Where he belongs.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. For more of his columns go here.
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