The job has changed Davie. Three years ago, as he prepared for his first spring practice, he spent a long March night talking to undergraduates, preaching the gospel—his gospel—of Notre Dame football. Afterward he stood under a streetlight outside Notre Dame Stadium and promised to stay open and upbeat. Now he describes himself as a "hermit" who spends all his free time with his family and doesn't read newspapers or watch television during the season. "He's more serious and more cautious," says his wife, Joanne, "but he's grown."
The three men who hired Davie were Beauchamp, Wadsworth and associate athletic director George Kelly. Beauchamp no longer supervises athletics, Wadsworth has been pushed out, and Kelly has only recently returned to his position after a long illness. Davie is operating without a net. Newspapers have begun floating names of possible replacements. (The most popular is Jacksonville Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, who has denied interest in the job.)
Perhaps Davie needs to suck up to the admissions office. Perhaps he and his staff need to work harder to find more quality athletes who fit the Golden Dome image and meet the admissions standards (although Colletto claims he has never worked harder in his life than he did in South Bend). Perhaps Davie is just keeping the office warm for the next guy, this time a big-name coach who will come in when Notre Dame is desperate for success. "I believe in this place," Davie said one recent afternoon in his office across the street from the House that Rockne Built. "I believe in the question Notre Dame is asking: Can it be done the right way?"
That same day he jogged on the second level of the Joyce Center, Notre Dame's basketball arena. Each revolution of the balcony took him past a montage of Notre Dame history, Heismans blurring in his peripheral vision, old uniforms reflecting in the glass of countless trophy cases, sneakers slapping against a concrete floor. A coach running in circles.