This is a repost of something I wrote after the Navy game, but I was asked to post it again. Obviously 9-3 and 8-4 are now off the board and I think events have clarified Weis's likely future at N.D. But I think its central point stands.
Notre Dame football can be great again, but not by doing business as usual.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the central question is university leadership. Fr. Jenkins showed good instincts and took a lot of heat getting rid of Willingham after year 3. The decision to extend Weis to year 5 was debatable but not indefensible given the effort he has been giving. But I am not confident regarding the abilities or instincts of people in other important posts of the university.
I am not going to speculate as to Weis's future whether he goes 9-3 or 6-6. I have opinions on this subject that I've shared before and won't bother with them again. I don't have any information that I consider sufficiently reliable on Weis's future that I wish to share in a public forum.
But the time will come for a coaching change as it does with all coaches. And when it does, the central issue again will be whether Notre Dame continues the same sort of weak, muddled and unfocused decisionmaking that has plagued the football program and -- it must be said -- other areas of the University.
The football program is the Golden Goose of the University. True there are many equally wonderful things about Notre Dame, but none of them have the revenue potential and visibility of football. It's just a simple fact of life. But like most Golden Geese at universities, there are many who would like to pluck a few feathers or maybe carve off a leg in the interests of worthy priorities elsewhere. It's an easy temptation to give into and Notre Dame has given into it.
Many direct their ire at Davie, Willingham and Weis and true enough all three have been coaches who proved over the long haul to be able to win only slightly under 60% of their games. At Wake Forest or Northwestern or Stanford or Duke that makes you a legend. It doesn't at Notre Dame. But in each case the coaches who were hired were done so as the result of badly muddled and confused search processes. Twice we've wound up with coaches who had no prior head coaching experience. Davie was obviously pre-selected by people with no idea how to identify a coach and Weis was a hurried back-up plan when Meyer so publicly rebuffed N.D.'s very public advances towards him in Salt Lake City. In Willingham's case, he was quite obviously not the first choice and clearly had no concept of the difficulty of the job.
Many of you know that I am associated with Creighton University. Our Golden Goose is the men's basketball program. We've been blessed with presidents who knew enough to stay out of the way of trying to make micro decisions about the program and an athletic director who has shown time and time again that he knows what he's doing. The result? Creighton has won 20 more more games in, I believe, each of the last 10 season and made post-season play in the last 11. Last year -- and here it's relevant to point out that Creighton has fewer than 4,000 undergraduates -- Creighton was in the top dozen in home game attendance at about 15,000 per game. It led the conference in student attendance even though there are schools in the conference with over 20,000 students.
Our basketball coach Dana Altman has a compensation package that dwarfs mine. This bothers me not at all. His skills are more unusual than mine. I couldn't figure out that Kyle Korver -- a skinny kid from Pella Iowa with one other Division I offer -- could be the foundation of a team that went 29-4 and got a 6 seed in the tournament. I couldn't take a bunch of kids who didn't get a sniff from any big conference schools and beat Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament and beat Nebraska six straight years. I couldn't figure out that a 6 foot tall guard named Ben Walker would be tough enough to play the entire season with a partially torn ACL and lead the conference in rebounding.
Creighton does athletics the right way with students graduating and getting a real education and so does Notre Dame. If Weis has proved anything, he's proved that we don't need to compromise our principles to get elite athletes into the N.D. football program.
But when the time comes for a change there will be people with agendas trying to poke their nose into the process to advance their own causes. It has happened in all of the post-Holtz searches and there will be a very serious risk that it will happen again.
If it happens again the program will be essentially dead. I truly believe that are approaching the last fork in the road. One leads back to greatness and the other to the abyss.