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6.20 - SHOWTIME!

There are two truths in this world. The first is you're either pitching or catching in life. The second is that it's much better to be throwing the heat than have an incoming fastball bounce off the plate and clock you under your chin guard.

Just like Charlie believes in dictating the the flow on the field, he's been doing it on the recruiting trail and in the media by keeping a constant slate of stories in the pipeline that make recruits notice Notre Dame. Peruse the message boards of other teams and they're daily complaining about the press Weis gets, that their QB recruit didn't end up on ESPN or that Notre Dame players like Shark, Quinn and Zibby are receiving national publicity that other schools players wouldn't.

You know what? They're right. Name four players at other schools combined that have received as much pub as Clausen, Quinn, Zibby and Shark. I can't either. That's because no other school generates such national interest. Okay, maybe Bush, Jarrett, Wright and Sanchez, but they're in the news for completely different reasons.

But part of the reason you come to Notre Dame is to play in the spotlight.

Just as important though Charlie's been making the rounds, squeezing hands and kissing babies. Consider at the Big 33 game (matching Ohio's best vs. Pennsylvania's best) Charlie was the only big time head coach to show up and give interviews. That's taking it to the competition in their backyard. This is from the PennLive site:

Weis steals the show -ND coach adds glitter to Big 33 event

Saturday, June 17, 2006
With Pennsylvania's big-time college football coaches absent from yesterday's Big 33 press conference, Charlie Weis became the featured attraction. Weis stole the Pennsylvania spotlight, big glittery Super Bowl ring and all.

Or consider the head coach at Hoboken High School on Weis, Notre Dame and New Jersey:

"It was frustrating because we sent a lot of kids to colleges all over the country, and Notre Dame was rarely around," said Taglieri, now entering his second season as head coach at Hoboken High School. "We were saying to ourselves, 'What are we doing wrong? Why aren't our kids getting there?' It seemed like they were elite and we couldn't get our kids there.

"It's changed. He comes in and he's basically taken over New Jersey."

As we all learned it's impossible to take over New Jersey or any other state from the bunker the previous staff recruited from.

But it's more than just being out there and working hard, though that's an enourmous advantage. It's making the tough decisions. Watching the pace of the early offers it's clear that many top teams taking the lead from Notre Dame and not the other way around. For most of Notre Dame's top targets, ND was in the door as early as academically transcribably possible and USC, Florida and State U. were soon to follow with offers. That means doing your homework, indentifying the prospects and making the tough decision on where the offers should go.

While Willingham fiddled with his sand wedge, other schools were raking in top recruits. Not any more. ND coaches are omnipresent across the country and the staff churns out texts, letters and phone calls like an 80's boiler room.

And the opposition is being forced to respond. Carroll is making offers to the same recruits Notre Dame does after ND offers. Sure they're going to win the local battles, but Charlie's got them reacting. Charlie and Notre Dame are the first things out of his mouth when Carroll speaks in public. He's got Charlie on the brain.

Consider the Urban myth in Florida who screwed up one of the most talented offenses in the country.... dropping UF all the way down to 61st. He can''t make the NCAA basketball tournament from that position. Meyer's never run a high level offense before and never had success against top level defensive teams, despite his Utah numbers. Note what Meyer did to fix his urban blight: halfway through the year he changed his rinky dink offense to look like Notre Dame's. That's just part of his Notre Dame fixation: he also met with Belichick for a few hours after the season and then touted it to the papers as if he'd learned mystery of the Sphinx, he instituted a Florida student salute (which he stole from Notre Dame) and offered Notre Dame vebal commitment Kerry Neal (after claiming it was unethical to do so.) Meyer's acting like a Charlie mini-me without the ring.

"sometimes I dream, he is me... can't you see that's how I dream to be..."

No Urban, a few hours with Belichick is not equal to three Superbowls and a decade of experience under the best coaches in the NFL. Of course he can 'try' to sell that to recruits like Florida sells the fact that it pays for more National Merit Scholars than other schools (comparing themselves to Harvard - no joke,) but recruits aren't that dumb. Any school can pay for National Merit Scholars (Oklahoma once had the most,) but real schools choose to build their academic reputations rather than try to buy them.

In both cases Charlie's dictating the action.

But understand what else Notre Dame is doing: Making it fun to play at Notre Dame again, and, cue Austin... ssssexy, yeah baby.

We've got one player pocketing 25-grand for 49 seconds of heavyweight work, another signing a seven figure baseball contract while becoming a two man sport sensation, a recruit making the weak fret because he showed up in a Hummer and amade an announcement at the Hall of Fame and of course the Heisman frontrunner in Brady Quinn

And you know what that looks like to recruits? Fun. Cool. Hip. Relevant.

See Weis knows what most sport dorks don't and get in a huff over: that "the show" has always been a part of Notre Dame. In fact, Notre Dame wouldn't exist as we know it without the fantastic showmanship and PR sense of Knute Rockne.

From starting the first intersectional rivalry to "win one for the Gipper" to The Four Horsemen, Notre Dame's lofty reputation was built on excellence, but also on the ability to get people to want to be a part of that excellence.

Weis gets that in a big way.

Now understand this is not show just for show's sake. Clausen's announcement, though not how some wanted it, sent an unmistakable message: that the best want to be at Notre Dame.

Note what Clausen's announcement didn't have: no stupid hat trick, no dissing of other teams, no talk of Heismans.

Note what it did it did have: great respect for the program he turned down, the goal of a championship, high praise for all, a commitment to excellence.

I read criticism of Clausen from Notre Dame fans and I want to punch a wall. This kid has grades, he displays respect and deference and he wants to win and get to the highest level. With all the crappy, underhanded usery acts, paid for cars and female escorts in college football recruiting, I can't believe anyone's upset about a Hummer limo. It doesn't represent some evil influence, it was fun. A limo's fun. A limo Hummer's even more fun, especially to a High School kid. The Hall of Fame is a dream place to announce for a school. Was it too much? Who the @#$@#$ cares? Here's a kid who talked about championships, not Heismans.

Clausen's announcement was an enormous boost for Notre Dame and the way he did it garnered Notre Dame unparralleled press (and a few recruits.) Michigan is now trying desperately to generate an nth of that press for its quarterback recruit. Not happening because no one cares and they don't develop their quarterbacks anyway. Of course, they don't graduate their minority recruits either receiving a disqualification rating from the Boston Globe for minority graduation, but that's a different story.

Four years ago several Notre Dame fans decided they didn't want the likes of Brady Quinn and Tommy Zbikowski because of the way the acted during recruiting. Inferences about their characters were made from quotes and the idea that they were somehow jerking ND around.

Today, they're captains.

Last year there were some fans who didn't want Demetrius Jones because he talked about his posse, as if this somehow were a sign of bad character. He's now one of the most loved recruits on the board.

Show can be a huge positive and Notre Dame is finally using its stage to generate positive messages. From pass right, to the USC game, to the Navy salute, to Zbikowski, to Clausen, to Samardjia, to Quinn's Heisman chances, Notre Dame has been the story of the college football.

That doesn't happen by accident. Creating positive media opportunities and "filling the void" is essential to keep negative publicity at bay. It's also essential in sending a message that Notre Dame isn't just going to be good, but it's the place become known. And that matters. Becoming known doesn't mean you don't care about anyone else, but it does mean you'll have the opportunity to affect people in a way that most will never be able to.

No school has the ability to generate interest like Notre Dame. There are maybe five teams in all of sport around the world that have Notre Dame's notoriety here and abroad... maybe five, but the problem is that if you don't continually create stories, negative stories will be created against you. Weis is more than a student of the game, he's a student of history and is the first coach since Lou to utilize Notre Dame's superior platform as it should be used.

Remember this PR axiom: "if they're not for us they're agin' us." The last ten years have shown us this all too well: If you sit back, you get hammered. (Note: I predicted all of this positive coverage back when whiners were wetting themselves about the Willingham fallout.)

Show doesn't mean Notre Dame has to compromise its standards or that individual players are above the team. Notre Dame is a far more unified a team now than in was under Willingham who fostered petty divisiveness. Its team cumulative GPA was the highest in team history. Notre Dame ranks at the very top in every academic graduation category. Its kids are not in constant trouble. We're winning and, oh yeah, having some fun too.

Fun, show and ideals are not mutually exclusive. They, in fact, work better together.

Is the show going to be to everyone's taste all the time?


But then I've seen how many of you dress at football games... y'all are hardly barometers of good taste.

6.8 - Tradition Never Graduates

Charlie Weis continues to impress every time he opens his mouth. On the poorly named The Best Damn Sports Show, Weis was sharp and self-deprecating in the face of the normal volley of silly questions. In addresssing the Monogram Club, he made me want to rip the pole out the 'backer.

Excerpts from Charlie Weis' Address "Before I get going, I want to thank [my wife] Maura and [my son] Charlie for coming tonight. I was sitting a couple seats away from [NFL Hall of Famer] Gale Sayers at a basketball game this year, and I thought about his book that I read when I was younger, called I Am Third that was inspired by [Sayers' teammate] Brian Piccolo and made into the movie `Brian's Song.' I remember the saying, `God is first. My family is second. And I am third,' and how much of an impact those quotes had on me when I read that book. I tweaked that a little bit with my own personality - as I normally do. I think Notre Dame football has to come in third, and I get pushed to fourth or fifth!"

"I've been thinking about where I was last year when I spoke to you and where I am now. I really like the fact that the bar has been raised. I really like that. The number one sin that can occur at this time is that people say that you are preseason ranked really high after last year no one even cared about you, and now your players are going to have big heads. Trust me - I will bring them down. Big heads are not going to be the problem. I will let them have big heads until about August 6 when they show up. Then those heads are going to be beaten on a regular basis. I'm not worried about the magazines. I'm not worried about the hype. I'm just worrying about winning one game at a time, because that is the mentality that I grew up in."

"I also grew up in the mentality of understanding what Notre Dame is all about. Tonight I talked [with Debbie Brown] and learned a lot more about the volleyball program, because I actually support the other sports here. I try to pop in to see just about every other team play. I try not to be a distraction, but I like to see what is going on. From somebody who went to school here and was not an athlete here, the one message or theme that I give to anyone who represents this university - especially as a coach, whether it is as a football coach, a volleyball coach, or a volleyball coach - I tell people that the one thing you have to understand about this place is that tradition never graduates. It doesn't make a difference who graduates. We are a special place. Tradition never graduates. I can already tell you that heading into next year, before we play one game, there will be a lot of cynics at the end of this coming season, saying, `Well, you lost Quinn, you lost Samardzija, you lost McKnight, you lost your offensive line, you lost Abiamiri and Landri, you lost guys from your secondary.' And I'm going to say, `So what?"

"I'm not happy with how the season went. I'm very disappointed, to be perfectly honest with you. I felt I blew the Michigan State game. I think the team came in flat. We rallied, which was nice, but the bottom line is that we lost, and that's not good. Against USC, we can talk about that play as long as you want, but the bottom line is we had an opportunity to win, and we didn't. That's just the way it is. Let's quit whining about it; they won, and we lost. That's just the way it goes. We had an opportunity to put them away, and we didn't. That's our fault, and I obviously will take that responsibility. Then we went to the bowl game, and we came out flat. I will take responsibility for that, too. Hopefully I learned a little bit about that long layoff. I'm used to a week or two weeks before a Super Bowl. I really hadn't experienced that long a time period. I think I learned some valuable lessons of how I will do it differently this year."

No platitudes, no excuses, no subtle talk of lowering of standards or doublespeak. Just what it is. You are what you are folks, and right now you're a 9-3 football team . And guess what? That's just not good enough.

Worst guy ever to get in a fight with? Tommy Zbikowski. "I'm going to kick your ass. Oh, and don't even try to run."

Congrats to The Shark who's getting first round money despite being a fifth round pick by the Cubbies.
He gets to play football and keep his almost seven figure bonus even if he chooses the NFL. Sign me up for his agent please.

Big week for Notre Dame's two-sport, six-figure stars and kudos for Weis for turning what could have been a negative into an emormous publicity coup. Think about it. Notre Dame football probably has the top Major League Baseball story of the week and the top Boxing story of the week. The spotlight of irrelevance can be blinding, no?

Finally, one of our own passed on:

Longtime poster GONDGO(Richard McCarthy) died this morning at the age of 71.He has spent the last 10+ years in a wheelchair.His love for ND and what it stood for never wavered. He loved this board and it's cast of characters.He left instuctions that he wanted his coffin to be draped with his ND blanket and the fight song to be played. Richard is survived by his wife Carol, 5 children and 6 Grandkids.

My apologies for the long absence, I've been trying to get a book proposal done. Man's gotta eat.

Oh, and Clausen teammate Marc Tyler will announce for USC next week. It's a lock. Don't think he can get into Notre Dame right now or the race might have been closer.
Very good, tough back. Not going to like playing him.

~ The Rock