Saturday, March 24, 2007

Show 'Em How It's Done

This seems to be the Year of the Demotion for Division I coaches ... lots of guys jumping to a lower-tier job before the (inevitable?) push. One-time wunderkind Steve Alford beat feet for New Mexico. Joe Scott bailed out of Princeton to UDenver. And in the highest profile cannonball, Tubby Smith left the Bluegrass of Kentucky for the blue fingers and toes of Minne-soda, eh?

It's doubtful any of these moves will affect ND directly, unless the unleashed dominoes result in an assistant coach moving up in the world. But I found the whole Tubby situation to be very interesting, and possibly educational to the folks in South Bend. While Minnesota is hardly ND when it comes to exposure and leverage, MN athletic director (and 1967 ND grad) Joel Maturi acted in an incredibly decisive and efficient manner in getting rid of an underperforming coach and going after the highest profile candidate he could. As a result, he landed perhaps a bigger fish than his constituents could have expected and showed himself to be a quality candidate for a similar position at ND.

Maturi's been a busy man this year, replacing both his football coach and men's basketball coaches. But both replacements were handled with exquisite precision. When Glen Mason's team lost its bowl game in a terrible performance, showing a distinct lack of preparedness, the already-embattled coach was given his walking papers immediately, even though the team had won three of its last four games to get to that bowl game, and Maturi had a replacement within two weeks. When Dan Monson's squad started out 2-5, Maturi said the program was "not in the position we want it to be in" and asked for (and got) Monson's resignation, leaving him free to conduct an exhaustive (and quiet) search that yielded Smith.

That someone with a Notre Dame pedigree could take such forceful action makes me wonder why the people who are actually on campus can't do the same in some cases. Think about the last two coaching searches under the Dome, with the charlie foxtrots of Urban Meyer and Pat Casey. Where would ND be in football had Kevin White, in the aftermath of the horrific performance of Bob Davie's squad in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, done what his gut should have told him needed to be done and fired Davie outright and immediately? At the very least, would the University's public image have taken the beating it did so many times in the last three years? I think not. And it's frustrating to still be waiting on renovations to the Joyce Center while watching Maturi put together a plan for a $288 million football stadium for a school that hasn't been competitive in football in my lifetime.

There's a Notre Dame alumnus showing us how the job should be done 500 miles west of where he should be doing it. Maybe that should be ND's next search.

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Blogger Brian said...

Excellent points.

3/24/2007 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Hammerken said...

Cut White some slack. While I will submit that he fell into Weis and fanned on TW, the grass is not greener in Minneapolis. Firing Mason after that debacle in the bowl game was a no brainer. I would submit that the Minnesota AD emulated White by looking outside the normal suspects in the NCAA Head Coaching Line (The hot coordinators,non BCS coaches etc.) and hired a guy with Pro experience. Tubby Smith is no genius. The two smartest things that he did were inherit Pitino's team and see the writing on the wall in Lexington. Smith's team's were regularly outplayed and outcoach in the SEC. My good friend once had visions of Smith walking the sidelines in the Joyce Center. He would only have provided more of the same disappointment as that joke in the Turtleneck walking those lines now. Give White credit for finally getting some folks to pony up for the facilities that ND sorely needed. As for referring to a Baseball coach. Please. Why not complain about Women's Hockey. What White needs to do is take a hard look at the future of ND Hoops and realize that as nice of a guy Brey may be, he doesn't cut it. Even the genius folks in the media seen a first round debacle at the hands of the mighty Winthrop Eagles in Spokane two days before it went down. We need a coach with the same commitment as CW to improving our fortunes. When I go to sleep thinking of our Football future I sleep the sleep of the just. Thinking about Basketball gives me the fits of an Enron financial type wondering when the other shoe will drop.

3/24/2007 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous ND Stitch said...

El K-

Should Kevin White, then, fire Charlie Weis? His team was fairly drubbed this year in the Sugar Bowl, after having been beaten soundly in last year's Fiesta Bowl. If firing Bob Davie was justified much earlier than the act itself, ought not we to apply the same logic to Weis?

3/24/2007 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Carroll02 said...

It would have been difficult for White to have fired Davie immediately after the Fiesta Bowl, considering he was the AD at Arizona State at the time. He did not come to ND until two months later/

3/24/2007 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Actually, it was the Fiesta Bowl following the 2000 season, which would technically make it the 2001 Fiesta Bowl. And Kevin White was quite firmly on the job at that point, as it was he who signed Davie to a contract extension less than a month before the game.

3/24/2007 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

El K,
If an infant pointed at the picture of a better coach than Brey or Ty, you'd think that baby was a better fit for the AD job than White. You've ridden his ass for years while ND athletics has been an overall (all sports) top tier program. And please don't cop out with the "we only care about football and basketball" line. The AD is responsible for all sports. He doesn't have the luxury of ignoring the other 20-some teams like you do. And while you may not have liked the way things went in the TW days (most of us didn't), I think we can all agree that we now have a football coach that none of us would trade. It's convenient to blame White instead of the powers that were who forced his hand on most football decisions in the past. With Fr.Jenkins in place, he landed Weis and has the support he deserves to make the surefire, assertive decisions you refer to that one makes when they are making their own moves, not someone else's. You still cry about the TW days instead of looking only at what we have now and for the future. It's water under the bridge. Call it what you want, but White landed Weis. Whether we need a new basketball coach or not is debatable. But as many others have said, who would honestly even consider ND that would be an improvement? You yourself don't consider a national championship to be part of what we should expect from the basketball program. You just want a new gym. If Brey should be replaced, who should we get? Who is a legit, possible candidate who will surely improve us? The grass is always greener on the other side, brother. Do some research and see how much "better off" we were under Wadsworth. I think you should brighten your outlook and appreciate the positives White has brought to ND for once.

3/25/2007 02:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's much easier for a big state school to raise funds than for ND to do so. Raising millions at a state school (which never has its own football stadium) and raising them at Notre Dame are different ball games altogether. Although we all like to support fellow alums, let's not go naming the guy the second coming just yet.

3/25/2007 02:53:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Wow, that's a long list of wrong.

1) I fully realize he's responsible for all sports. Trouble is, in the high-profile sports, there have been too many missteps. Attention and effort should be rationed out proportionally.

2) Yes, we have a great football coach now, but it took a lot of pain to get to him.

3) If his hand was so forced and he was so unable to do what he wanted to do for ND, why didn't he resign? And how was he "forced" with Pat Casey? That wasn't "forced", that was "unprepared".

4) Word on campus is White had very little to do with landing Weis. Rather, the BOT took a much firmer hand in the effort after the whole Meyer fiasco.

5) "You yourself don't consider a national championship to be part of what we should expect from the basketball program." That's incorrect -- I absolutely expect ND should be able to win a national championship in basketball. The "new gym" is part of what gets them to that destination because it shows institutional investment in the program.

6) Just because Wadsworth was awful doesn't mean we should excuse less than optimal performance in his successor.

7) What positives have been brought? Bad decisions on coaches. Trial balloons for a jumbotron. Loss of bowl revenue. All high-profile bad decisions.

3/25/2007 07:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Finklefarb said...

Anonymous: Minnesota used to have it's own FB stadium. It was a large classic horseshoe and I attended games in it. Unfortunately, the powers that be at UM razed it for another facility. I just wanted to correct your point that UM had never had a stadium.
To me many of the ND faithful are like those at Kentucky; always ready to critic the Athletic Dept. Nothing is ever good enough. They have an opinion of themselves that they are better then everyone else. I am surprised some of our coaches and the AD don't walk like Tubby did sometimes. Back off and don't be so full of yourselves folks.
I love Notre Dame but I am embarrased at times by the pomposity of some of our so called supporters.

3/25/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

I appreciate the comments, but I never said they didn't have a stadium. I know they used to have a stadium. I said they hadn't been competitive in football in my lifetime.

3/25/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Doc Possum said...

Has everyone forgotten about the ticket debacle this last season where a huge number of contributing alums were shut out on tickets even for weak games. Alums would not have been treated this poorly on Moose's or Rosenthal' watches they were both ND grads. KW is a light weight when it comes to ND tradition and relations with Alums. He thinks seeking the highest dollar for the school is best.

3/25/2007 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When basketball, baseball, tennis, hockey, soccer, golf, softball, cross country, and whatever other sport ND has makes as much money in TEN years as football does, then complain to me why we should care about the other sports! Who ever paid 50 bucks or more to see someone play a softball game or to see our wide receiver pitch a baseball game? Get real, ND Football is what built all the new buildings on campus and pays for the scholarships of ALL the other sports!!!!!!!! If CW doesn't produce within the next two seasons then he should be shown the door just as the last two inept coaches were. Remember, sometimes a coordinator should remain a coordinator. Check out the career of Buddy Ryan! He should have stayed a Defensive Coordinator for life!

3/25/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I recall, the biggest problem with the O'Leary/TW fiasco, is that after ND hired George O'Leary, the had a press conference saying how awesome TY was and how they were sorry they couldn't hire two coaches. Obviously, I paraphrase here, but it seemed like they were rationalizing to the media their decision not to hire a black Coach. Once it turned out that O'Leary had spruced his resume up more than a high school senior applying to an Ivy League school, ND was basically handcuffed and had to go back and hire TY. I don't know if it was White's fault or the administration's fault for hosting that press conference, but they really screwed themselves over. I remember being a student at the time, and not really thinking that TY was even a legitimate contender in the first place. Please correct me if i am wrong here, but wasn't TY's record at Stanford almost identical to Davie's record at ND?

3/25/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Denis said...

Simply put, White was known for his ability to raise money while AD at ASU. His coaching knowledge was non-existent. (He "stole" the football coach from Cal when Cal was not thinking of renewing his contract.) He was hired by a President who knew as little as he. Not only was the Urban Meyer thing a fiasco, remember the flights all over the country which finally ended with Ty, who he had previously dropped? The man doesn't understand who are good coaches and is an executive, not an AD.

3/25/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I'm sure Maturi and coworkers are raising a good bit of that $288, most of it will be paid in the future. I really don't see why you are so impressed by it. It is not hard to spend money, to put your athletic program in debt for a while. Any school can do that. I just don't think that's relevant in saying who a good AD is.

3/25/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous bonger said...

El K-

finklefarb was responding to the comments of "anonymous". not you.

3/25/2007 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an ND grad and almost lifelong Minnesotan. You could not be more wrong about Joe Maturi. His tenure as AD at Minnesota has ben a disaster and no one in this state would call him "decisive" or ever use the words "exquisite precision" in connection with him. You really need to do much more research before publishing something like this, two of my friends, both Gopher fans, laughed out loud when I read it to them. Without going too far into detail, please note that Maturi first extended Dan Monson's contract at the end of the last season, then fired him 7 games into this season, at least one of these decisions was a failure, I can just hope that it was the extension and not the firing. If that's not enough for you, review the disaster that has become the Gopher's women's basketball program. On the rise a few years ago, most of the players quit, not quit playing in the fourth quarter of a game, but left the program and the school, last summer. As much as I wish the U could get a qualified athletic director, I certainly hope it does not happen at the expense of Notre Dame. Kevin White is a much better AD then Maturi.

3/25/2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

One of those decisions may have been the incorrect one. However, Maturi wasn't afraid to correct a mistake, and once the decision was made, it was carried out. Compare that to the handling of both Bob Davie's and Tyrone Willingham's dismissals, and Maturi's actions rate higher.

My analysis was based on his handling of the two major sports. I'll be happy to look into the other sports and report back.

3/26/2007 01:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Old Pro said...

As usual, well written article, but jeez, Mike, Matura is almost as old as me. You think he's going to be around forever? I respect everyone's opinion but many of us Athletes of ND totally disagree with you about White. I've personally known all of the ADs back through years and he's by far the most competent we've ever had, and that includes the great Moose. Where the idea of him not loving ND comes from, I don't have a clue. As another old Domer used to say, "you guys are starving with a ham sandwich in your pocket".

3/26/2007 04:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Afraid the observation by "Anonymous" on 3/25/2007 10:08:00 PM is wrong regarding the actions by Maturi vis a vis Monson.

Maturi extended the contract of Glen Mason (the football coach) and then fired Mason the following season. Although nobody is exactly sure what the reasoning was, the current theory is that Maturi needed to extend Mason's contract so there would be at least the appearance of stability in the program as the University lobbied the legislature for approval of the proposed stadium. Mason was fired at the end of the season after the bowl game collapse/loss.

Coach Monson - the basketball coach - was fired 7 days into the season. His contract had been extended several years earlier and the basketball team looked (and finished the season) dismal.

Probably more than you all wanted to know but at least the record is now straight.

BTW, even entrenched Golden Gopher fans get confused and interchange the names of Mason, Monson and even Maturi -- lol. But AD Maturi has acted decisively there as well when he hired Coaches Brewster and Smith.

FWIW, "anonymous" may be disgruntled over AD Maturi's handling of Monson (the BB coach) employment in March of 2006. That season also went, well, "poorly" will suffice. Rumors were rampant that Monson would be fired and Maturi flew to Cincinnati with one local newspaper reporting Maturi was firing Monson. He didn't and Monson stayed until his November termination.

There were a number of us scratching our heads over this situation and AD Maturi's stock plummeted. Many of us believe Maturi intended to fire Monson but backed away due to fears that spending a lot of money on a buy-out would also create problems for the stadium legislation. (Getting an on-campus stadium was a BIG objective and Minnesota politics are weird)

Right now I'd say 80-90% of Minnesota fans are very happy with Maturi. Won't last -- not because of Maturi but because we're as fickle as fans anywhere.

3/26/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, is this a column, or another discussion board? Too many of the posted comments are idiotic, just eliminate comments please! People can argue about what you write on the various NDN boards, that's what they're there for.


3/26/2007 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe the hypocrisy in these comments. First, KW is criticized for running ND like a business and trying to make money for the athletic dept. Then, people say that the only sports that matter are ones that make money. That couldn't go any further against the mission of the university and the athletic dept. in general. ND consistently has one of the best overall sports programs in the country and KW should be commended for that. Case in point is the hockey program. KW made an absolutely great hire in Jeff Jackson and look how much the program has improved in the last 2 years. Finally, it is unfair to pin the lack of facilities upgrades on KW. The ND administration made a policy after the DeBartolo debacle, that they would not build ANY buildings unless the funding was there. The law school renovation was delayed over 5 years for this reason, but it certainly was not KW's fault. That is the adminstration's policy. If you want to criticize someone for that criticize them. If anyone, criticize the Development Office for not doing a better job with gaining proper funding. That is not KW's job! His job, however, has been performed exceptionally well.

3/26/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I agree with most of your points including Development's lack of recent success, don't let KW off that easily when it comes to funding. He's got people in his own department whose specific goal is to raise money. Other than the Gug, which dropped in their lap, I'm still trying to find what success the Athletic people have had in fundraising. No doubt there is plenty of blame to go around, including Development though.
Furthermore, why are you giving KW the credit on the hockey hire when if you read the SB Tribune this week, it's clear Tom Nevala deserves the credit for finding and pushing that one.

3/27/2007 01:43:00 PM  

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