Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Institutionalized Dumbness

As predicted, ND's 0-3 start has brought the Weis-to-Willingham wolves out in force. I can only imagine what it'd be like had Washington defeated Ohio State.

Most of the hair-pulling is so much tripe and not worthy of reading, let alone commenting on. And let's be clear: the reason for that is not that I disagree with their point (although I do). The reason for that is those columns don't represent true opinion.

If the authors had covered ND and its football program for a long time, had insight into the situation, and were trying to communicate a closely-held belief on their part, I could respect that. But guys like Pat Forde and Bob Kravitz and most of the ABC/ESPN talking heads don't have closely-held opinions on the subject. They'll write just about anything about just about anyone within the boundaries of legality and (sometimes) taste if it gets them attention, eyeballs glued to their words, and advertising or other revenues for their papers and websites. Their mantra is it doesn't matter if they're saying bad things about you, just so they're saying things about you. Effectively, they've whored out their writing talent, and I really can't respect that.

Writers I do respect like Terence Moore, Malcolm Moran, Jason Kelly, and others have written plenty of critical things about Notre Dame. Some I've agreed with, some I've not, but in all cases, I know they're writing from a position of trying to inform and educate the reader. Therein lies the difference. They're not trying to make their bones at Notre Dame's expense.

I'm more than willing to discuss arguments entered into in good faith. And I read one today that, while I have plenty of issues with its content, at least seems to be coming from that perspective. In today's Rocky Mountain News, Paul Campos discusses Weis' current situation and believes it to be an example of "institutionalized racism" rather than the overt variety. You can read the entire article here.

As I said, there are overt errors here with which I don't agree and which have been discussed in this space before. Charlie Weis has beaten plenty of "good opponents" -- it's not like he won 19 games in his first two years against the MAC. There's little mention of his first two seasons in the article, and Campos makes it sound like Weis has been bad since he got to ND, which isn't true. There's also no reference to the marked improvement in recruiting since Weis arrived. And I'd like at least one of the people taking on this subject to at least mention the fact that not only does ND graduate African American players at one of the highest rates in D1 football but also is the only D1 program to have African Americans in both coordinator positions, but I'm not holding my breath.

But this is the meat of what I wanted to discuss -- a portion of the article where Campos quotes a friend of his whom he calls "JJ", referring to Weis' extension in his first season:

"I'm not saying ND's AD and president are sitting there saying, 'Well, Weis sucks, but he's white, let's give him another chance.' Obviously that's not what's happening. But I do think there's plenty of institutional racism, and this is a good case. Weis isn't getting another chance because ND's administration is overtly racist, it's because everyone at ND is just more inclined to think highly of Weis and poorly of Willingham."

I understand where JJ is coming from, and I agree with him there's a problem with racial viewpoint when it comes to coaching in America. But I don't agree with him that Notre Dame is an example.

First, if Weis is getting "another chance", it's because his first two seasons were very good, resulting in BCS bowl bids, something his predecessor playing a similar schedule never achieved. That, as I said last week, buys you goodwill when things don't go well. And it's not like that goodwill isn't being used up, because at some point in the (near) future, the well will run dry and we'll see what we shall see.

Second and more importantly, I don't believe the contract extension Weis received was the result of people at ND being more inclined to view him positively because of his race. I think it was the result of Notre Dame, when it comes to matters of handling coaches, having a very clear track record of being stupid.

Up until the late 1990s, Notre Dame was still operating under the five-and-one model -- a five-year deal to start with, then one-year "handshake agreements" after that -- with all coaches in both football and basketball. It was a horribly antiquated methodology, and I know on the basketball side, at least, it was damaging to recruiting and the stability of the program.

They finally entered the 20th century on this issue just as it was ending, but it was a bad transition. Kevin White, barely into his job himself, gave Bob Davie a contract extension after a nine-win smoke-and-mirrors season, only to watch the team absolutely implode in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon State. Supposedly, that extension was necessary because the first contract Davie had signed -- also the first in ND history that wasn't on the five-and-one model -- was so poorly structured it had no termination provisions. They fired Bob Davie, stepped on their cranks with Jon Gruden, and hired George O'Leary and his MadLibs resume for about a week. As a result of that two-week circus, they had to overpay an unspectacular Tyrone Willingham to take the job, who immediately set new standards in lack of effort both on and off the field. Once again, a firing followed by a PR disaster, this time with Urban Meyer, before landing Weis.

So when Weis started out with a high-powered and well-thought-out offense, organization and success on the recruiting trail, and an air of stability around the program, I can understand why White would want to lock him up. But doing it so quickly and for so long was, like so many similar decisions in the last decade, stupid. Weis was already on for six years and had a buyout provision. If he was really the kind of guy who was going to bolt after a season, is that the guy you want at ND anyway, stability notwithstanding? It's much more likely he and his agent decided to shake the tree a little bit to see how much fruit was still there to fall, never dreaming they'd find themselves in the middle of Pete's Produce with a blank check thanks to Kevin's acumen (or lack thereof).

And it's not like the ineptitude has been reserved for football. John MacLeod begged for years for a longer-than-one-year deal to give his staff some stability. Matt Doherty was able to bail for North Carolina in the middle of July recruiting after one year at ND without it costing him a dime. Then there were the travails of replacing baseball coach Paul Mainieri last year. We still don't know what happened with the golf coach that mysteriously resigned.

I can understand why JJ may feel there's a tendency to view white coaches better than black ones because I do believe that's true in some places. The linked article talks about Norv Turner, and I completely agree it's stupefying how he continues to get work when there's a mountain of evidence he can't get the job done. How many times was Rich Kotite hired?

But in ND's case, I think it's more an unfortunately typical attack of dumbness.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't anyone understand why Weis was issued a 10 year contract extension after only one year ?
Because of his early success, and the successful years in the Pros, the opponents wanted him out of there as quickly as possible. They began a rumor that he was going to bolt right back to the pros in order to hurt his recruiting.
Weis had to spend so much time refuting the allegations and getting the point across that he was here to stay.
In my opinion, it wasn't a racial issue at all, only a counter move to negative recruiting practices by those who wanted him out of there.

9/19/2007 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous SCOTT BERGMANN said...

I think that the USA today said it all in the article when they went to TY WILLINGHAM's recruiting classes..I think that it said he finished 24, 12, 32, 40th..That doesn't cut it when you trying to be a powerhouse

9/19/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your argument falls a little flat when you're beefing up these last two seasons for Weis at ND. You guys went to two BCS bids that you pretty much got into on past rep and popularity alone. The outcomes of these games belie your argument that ND was worthy in the first place.

ND has not really beaten anyone of note in YEARS. Tennessee? They went 5-6 the year you beat them. *Almost* against USC 2005 is Weis's singular claim to fame.

Weis's agent undoubtedly started the "Weis to the NFL' talk and ND bit. It's that simple. But Campos (or JJ) does raise good points. While it's clear that Ty Willingham left much to be desired, so too it is clear that a certain amount of racism naturally exists, at ND and everywhere.

No way ND would have considered hiring Ty Willingham had the hot topic of the day not been the paucity of Aftrican-American headcoaches in Div 1 ball.

9/19/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the main difference between weis and willingham at this similar low point in their notre dame careers can be found in notre dame's most ardent apologists. their silver lining for weis' current disaster is nonexistent veteran leadership, young talent and great recruits. their silver lining for the willingham disaster was graduation rates and integriTY. that is the primary reason nd fans haven't given up on weis just yet.

9/19/2007 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous omahadomer said...

"Almost" beating USC is Weis's "singular" claim to fame? That's laughable. His first five games at N.D. included three wins on the road over teams who were ranked at the time, including Michigan. Even though Michigan decided to tank later in the season the Wolverines were ranked #3 at the time.

9/19/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the ten year contract was owed more to the fast start and NFL rumors than to any implicit racism at ND.

As for the recruiting talent, the stats speak for themselves. Weis will have 3 top ten classes in three years, which rivals other powerhouses and ensures future recruiting. Willingham did not have the recruiting success, nor did he appear to care about recruiting.

As for the BCS, there is always the talk about not being worthy, but it does not change the fact that ND went to two BCS bowl games and not because of smoke and mirrors - the calculations last year meant that most of the other teams in the top 12 were precluded due to conference tie-ins and it was between WV (I think) and ND. ND got the nod.

Bottom line, Charlie has proven he can take older players and make a go at it. The challenge now is to take younger, more emotional players and make a go at it. Based upon past performance, CW should be given the chance both this year and next. He's earned it.

9/19/2007 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

While Weis is playing a majority of Willingham's 5th year seniors, seniors and juniors (66% started in the Georgia Tech game)...Willingham is playing (besides the excellent true freshman QB Locker) previous coach Gilbertson's 5th year seniors, seniors and juniors. In three years at ND Weis has recruited 18 Top 100 HS players ( In three years at UW Willingham has recruited 1 Top 100 HS player (Locker). three years at ND...Willingham recruited 3 Top 100 players... none in the year he was fired.

9/19/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An argument can be made that where teams are ranked that early in the season are superfluous. Just look at how the preseason's worked out this year.

It's not a laughable analysis when the teams you played that *seemed* impressive at the time went into the tank.

Michigan went 7-5.
Purdue 5-6.
Tennessee 5-6.
BYU 6-6
PITT 5-6
Michigan State 5-6.
Washington 2-9
Stanford 5-6
Syracuse 1-10
Navy 8-4.

It's not like these teams started out ranked and stayed ranked. They all were .500 teams, unless you hang your hat on Navy.

Nope, under analysis Weis has beaten almost entirely mediocre teams. In 2006,

GTech 9-5
Penn State 9-4
Michigan State 4-8
Purdue 8-6
Stanford 1-11
UCLA 7-6
Navy 9-4
North Carolina 3-9
Air Force 4-8
Army 3-9

So, Penn State, Georgia Tech (and Navy?) are decent wins, but you also garnered 5 wins against teams that pretty much sucked.

What got Charlie the raise was USC '05. What got ND the BCS bid in his first year was USC '05.

Objectively, the body of work is not there. Not to say Charlie Weis won't succeed. He may very well turn the ship around -- and he's certainly got the deal locked up to stay in command for some time.

I also concede that since ND does not accept Juco players, you are at a distinct disadvantage to fill your holes.

9/19/2007 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those records are revealing, but I think we can't ignore how seasons turn after a loss. There is positive momentum after a win, and negative after a loss, especially early in the season.

ND's win against MSU had to be a psych blow to them, and it impacted them the rest of the season. In previous years, the ND/UM winner often has gone on to BCS bowls, and the loser has struggled. That game could contribute to both trends.

Remember that ND's schedule is always loaded with major conference talent early on. It's not playing I-AAs or mid-majors until a part of the schedule when many majors don't want to schedule ND (Oct, Nov) in the middle of their conference season.

9/19/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least Weis beat the "mediocre teams" instead of losing to them to like TY did.

9/19/2007 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CW can take a team with great fundamentals and win some games. He is a pro coach. Not a college head coach. I don't care how great his recruits are. He CANNOT teach fundamentals to these outstanding recruits. Don't believe they need the fundamentals taught? Go to Legends of South Bend to find out. Say what you will about TW but his team of Quinn and Co. had solid fundamentals and CW just showed them a real offense. Now that CW has to teach fundamentals look where we are. Shouldn't a genius be able to take TW's mediocre talent and make them a good team? Shouldn't they at least score a touchdown? If this team was losing by 3-10 points per game I could buy into the "no talent" argument. However, shouldn't a D-1 team with no talent be able to score a few points against even the most talented teams? CW will win a few games with his incoming recruits, and I think he can take us to respectability, but stop dreaming of the national championship some have pointed to in the next 2 years.

9/19/2007 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunate revisionist history Mr. Anonymous. Unfortunate in that the facts refute your uninformed tripe.

"What got Charlie the raise was USC '05."

The contract extention was negotiated, signed and announced one week PRIOR to the USC game during the bye week.

9/19/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the column, Reporters need to stop and look at what exactly they are saying. Anyone who is anti-ND, or a lover of ND, who would you rather coach your team? 1) a Fired up, NFL guru, who has 4 super bowl rings, works his tail off 5am to god only knows when, and recruits recruits recruits! or 2) a Good looking african american who is even keeled and avg at best with X's and O's. Shows little emotion, didn't care for the alumni and has never put back to back good seasons together... how ever I'm sure he could put together a Great back to back round of 18 on links. I think i'm going to go with option 1, 99/100 times( I'll be drunk the other time) Point being, ND staff and Admin have seen what Charlie is doing for the football team, the students, the community and the Alumni (subway alums included) which is more than just the wins and loses. That is what got him the deal. That is why ND will have a rough season with young talent, but will be back for years to come...
So I say let the reporters take their hits now, because all those ANTI-ND people out there are going to be crying when its all about Pete Caroll and Charlie Weis showing down in Epic battles like the 70's! They can call the game when they play at the end of the season the BCS championship right there!! Love The Notre Dame, but we have to BELIEVE in HER first!!GO IRISH!

9/19/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

To the guy who explained why the 10 year contract made sense--all that success you speak of is a good reason to offer him a 4 or 5 year contract, with well-structured options for extension. Not to offer him a 10 year contract off the bat.

I hope we have Charlie for 10 years, because I think he'll fix the issues. But lets be clear -- he (like everyone else) took the University to the cleaners on that contract, given his relatively short record and head coaching inexperience. I don't blame him for being a good negotiator. But it is certainly another example of the University (read Kevin White) being inept, inept, intept.

9/19/2007 11:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the Weis extension came on Oct. 29, 05. You played USC on the middle of the month.

And that has nothing to do with the overall point. There's nothing "revisionist" here, take the blinders off.

9/20/2007 05:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contracts are meaningless these days, with all of the "out" and "special clauses." I believe the 10 year contract was primarily for recruiting purposes, but I'm sure it has quite a few special clauses and "what ifs" built into it; What difference does it make if it
s 3 or 10 years?

9/20/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous MTK said...

Disclaimer: I am anything but a ND fan.

I'm writing to only say I agree with whomever Mike quoted about TW's recruiting being the reason you are losing and CW's coaching being the reason you are getting blown out.

ND should not ever be this bad. Plain and simple.

I personally think all sides should let the whole Ty vs. Charlie thing drop. Any comparisons between ND and Wash now are silly. They're completely meaningless. Any attempts to put this season's disaster all on Ty are also silly. This is year 3. This goes way beyond two bad recruiting years. Unfortunately, the institutionalized dumbness, or maybe just panic, that occured back in '05 has made it impossible for the general public not to compare.

As for Anon #1 comment about why people can't understand a 10 yr extension after 8 games (not one year). You're joking, right? In less than a year he was made the highest paid coach over the longest period of time ever. It was a complete over-reaction by the administration. Honestly, was anyone's initial reaction to the news a shrug and a "Seems reasonable." After a while it may have been "OK, I can see why." but I gurantee just about everyone's initial reaction was "Holy #@%#!"

9/20/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anybody here been to campus as a student, an alum (subway alums DO COUNT for sure!)? If you don't understand the spirit of Notre Dame don't bother reading this. In my mind that is a STRONG case for keeping Weis around and the contract extension. Like it or not you have to have the "ra ra" Notre Dame attitude in that position.

What does Weis do, he brings in Bettis, Tony Rice, Joe Montana, etc. etc. back to campus to be a part of pep ralleys and Blue and Gold games (LOU!!!). He shows up at the Dillion Pep ralley (something Ty or Bob never did!). Yes we need to win, but on top of that we expect our fearless leader to keep what is sacred about Notre Dame sacred. And that is the LOVE we all share for the University first and the football team. As an alum Charlie has that. I think that is a huge reason nobody is calling for his job in NOTRE DAME, IN. "Love the Notre Dame" - Charlie means it. I liked Ty personaly, even if he loved ND he never showed it.

9/20/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... rankings for Notre Dame:

02 - #13 . . . 03 - #5 . . 04 - #30 . . . 05 - #27 . . . 06 - #5 . . . . 07 - #11

So you're telling me that just because you didn't have a top 20 ranked class in Ty's final 2 years, that was the reason he was basically fired?

Coaches don't get fired because of recruiting classes. Wins and losses get coaches fired.

In the 2003 season, Ty's Irish lost to Michigan St by 6, Purdue by 13, and Boston College by 2. Those were winnable games for Ty that he didn't win. And the Syracuse debacle was just terrible. If Ty wins just 2 of those games, Notre Dame is 7 - 5, instead of 5 - 7.

In 2004, Ty's Irish lose to BYU by 3, Boston College by 1, and Pittsburgh by 3. Again, 3 very winnable games for Ty that he didn't win. And while Purdue was good that year, there's no justifying a 41 - 16 loss to Purdue that year. Again, if he wins 2 out of those 4 games, the Irish are 8 - 4 . . not 6 - 6.

Weis comes on in 2005, wins all of the games that Ty lost, and should've had you guys playing for the National Championship that year, if it wasn't for those 2 close losses.

2006, he's still winning those "easy" games, but getting blown out by the big boys. But that's OK, because you're winning 9 - 10 games a year now.

That's the reason why Ty was fired . . . because he was losing to teams he had no business losing to.

At that time, mediocrity wasn't going to be tolerated at Notre Dame. And it shouldn't be tolerated now. Some of you fans just use the recruiting class argument, because that is something more that you can put against not retaining Ty.

The fact that ND is not only losing those "easy" games now, but getting blown out by mediocre teams, has to speak more on the coaching of Weis, than the actual talent there. I mean, unless you want to state that Weis won with "Willingham's recruits"? Because that's the argument that a lot of Irish fans used in Ty's first year. Even you said that they were still using "Davie's defensive schemes".

By the way . . . these are the 02 - 07 recruiting ranking of another team:

#70, #54, #52, #62, #34, #58 this year.

That team . . . . KENTUCKY.

So tell me why isn't Kentucky still struggling as a program, with those poor recruiting classes, while playing in arguably the toughest conference in the land? Explain why Kentucky is a better team right now than Notre Dame, with those types of recruits?

9/23/2007 03:20:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

So tell me why isn't Kentucky still struggling as a program, with those poor recruiting classes, while playing in arguably the toughest conference in the land?

Hold on thar, Baba Looey. Kentucky hasn't played anyone in that "toughest conference in the land" just yet.

They beat a DII team, a MAC team, and upset Louisville (who just lost to an atrocious Syracuse squad at home), all at home. The Arkansas team they beat yesterday is in complete turmoil.

I'm not saying they won't have a good season, because they very well may. But let's see how their October games against SC, FL and LSU go.

9/23/2007 07:11:00 AM  
Anonymous MTK said...


Kentucky may have not beaten anyone of quality, but the problem is that ND has gotten thrashed by medicre teams!

GT is 2-2 and 0-2 in the ACC just having lost to a Virginia team that got their doors blown off by Wyoming. Michigan, well we know about their story, but let me add that App. State got beat by Wofford. Call Miss Teen South Carolina because I have no clue where Wofford is. Penn State has beaten Fla. Intl and Buffalo and lost to Michigan. The Spartans, meanwhile, barely beat a bad Pitt team at home that just lost 34-14 to UConn in Pittsburgh.

I can't imagine ND's strength of schedule is going to be very good.

9/23/2007 09:42:00 AM  

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