Thursday, September 27, 2007


The other day, I wrote about how NDN could be viewed by the electronic community. One commenter noted I hadn't been so circumspect during the previous coaching regime, and asked me why it was OK to criticize a black man on our boards while seemingly giving a white man a pass.

I didn't approve the comment, one because I didn't see how it was relevant, and two because the questioner obviously hadn't been on NDN during the Bob Davie era to see the parallels. However, the question stuck in my mind, and I'd like to try and answer it.

The last two football coaches at Notre Dame, in their heart of hearts, didn't want to be there. The first pursued the job because of its high profile and potential for personal mobility. The second took the job not because he wanted to but because he felt he had to -- it would mean a great deal to a lot of other people for him to be in that position. So each made the "sacrifice", of sorts, to move to South Bend from an area in which he was a lot more comfortable.

Unfortunately, neither took that "sacrifice" to its logical conclusion. It's not enough to do the job halfway, but that's where they stopped. They didn't truly want to be at Notre Dame, and it showed in everything they did.

The first spent too much time trying to turn ND into the place he really wanted to be, and was foolish enough to react in a dumbfounded manner when ND people didn't like it. He was so focused on where he would be next, he didn't take the time to concentrate on where he was then, and the results were predictably haphazard. He had some acumen but not enough experience, and wasn't interested in applying either to making Notre Dame better long-term.

The second, since he wanted to be at ND even less than the first, didn't work hard on the field or off. He didn't make an effort to get to know many people on campus, even those who went out of their way to make him feel welcome. He developed no affinity for or relationship with the alumni, even going so far as to push some of them away.

The top priority for each was not if ND won or lost, but rather how he looked to his prospective next employer. He would be at Notre Dame as long as it took to give the people who wanted him to be there what they needed, giving his career a boost in the process, and then he'd be off for what he believed to be greener pastures.

Compounding the problem was an administration who didn't have winning as their focus. They were more concerned with how the coach's employment played with those they wished to impress rather than how he was performing as an employee, the second coach especially. They put wins low on the priority list, and when those wins didn't stack up, those administrators really weren't bothered. They were scoring points with the people that mattered to them, and that's what counted.

The combination of those two factors -- a head coach and an administration both focused on things other than the advancement of the Notre Dame program -- made it necessary to get the people involved removed as soon as humanly possible. An atmosphere such as the one being created in South Bend was not going to lead to long-term stability or success. Any short-term gains would all go to waste under the poor leadership of people distracted by concerns that competent leaders would consider tertiary.

Now we have an administration willing to take perceived PR hits to put football back on the right track. We have a head coach deeply vested in the Notre Dame philosophy who has shown although he may sometimes be defeated, it won't be because he didn't work his ass off. The only constituency that matters to any of them are the players, alumni and fans who have supported the program through thick and thin.

Both the coach and the men he works for are capable of (and have made) mistakes both large and small. But those mistakes are borne of action rather than passivity, inspired by a chance to promote Notre Dame rather than an opportunity to advance their own agendas. While it's no guarantee of success, it's a much much better model for it than the previous regimes used.

This coach and these administrators are not doing de facto damage to the program by their presence and actions on campus. They want what we want. They bleed when we bleed. They care when we care. None of that has anything to do with the color of the coach's skin or the accent in his voice, but rather the focus of his mind and the desires of his heart, which are much more in sync with us than they were with either of the two men who preceded him in the position.

Does that mean I'm being more forgiving now than I was then? Probably. Like so many other situations in life, I'm going to reach out to the person willing to meet me halfway. Bob Davie got lost on the way to the meeting point, and Tyrone Willingham couldn't be bothered to take any steps in that direction.

Charlie Weis, on the other hand, has virtually sprinted to where we are and given us plenty of reason to put our faith in him. So that's where my faith is. If either of his predecessors had done the same, I (and many others) would have responded in kind. But they didn't. So here we are.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your last two paragraphs nail the meaning of what we all mean when we say "Charlie gets it." He feels what we feel and shows it. He wants what we want and works for it.

TW and Boob never even tried to get it, let alone get close to it.

9/28/2007 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BS. You and your board buddies, reveled in Willingham's misfortunes, called him racially-themed insults ("Radio") and at the height of his second recruiting season, published a "Call for Change" intended to undermine his authority. (Then you had the gall, after he signed a poor class, to blame it on his "laziness." I'm surprised you didn't call him "Sambo.") In his third season, you published a "Ty Willingham Fact Sheet," which said, in about eight different ways, "We get blown out a lot." When he was fired, you celebrated like never before.

By the end of this season, Weis will have a career record no better than Willingham's. He will have suffered the longest losing streak in ND history. He will have caused many of his own recruits to transfer. He will have alienated many of his former players and colleagues on campus (actually, he's already done that). Yet you will defend him, and preach again and again how he "gets it."

Of course it's "not about race." You and your pals are just a lot "more comfortable" having a white man in charge. Institutional racism, thy proponent is Notre Dame.

9/28/2007 12:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim Kress said...

Good piece. I fully agree with your points.

9/28/2007 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

You need to get your facts straight, "Anonymous".

No one on NDN was or has ever been allowed to call anyone anything "racially-themed", and anyone who did was kicked off the site. If other sites allowed it, that was wrong and that's on them.

The Call for Change (a) was specifically held until after signing day to ensure it didn't have an effect on recruiting, (b) explicitly did not call for Willingham to be fired and explicitly said we wanted him to succeed, and (c) was a call for the BOT to make the administration replacements needed, not the coaching staff.

I called it laziness because it was a direct result of things like him blowing off meetings with high school coaches to play golf, which happened multiple times over his three years. If you don't believe me, ask the coaches.

The fact sheet said a hell of a lot more than "we get blown out a lot". It described how he was unable to install an offense or defense (having done neither before), was achieving historic recruiting lows, and didn't seem all that concerned about either thing, which is why his reps were talking to Washington in October before he left.

If Charlie Weis was black, I'd feel the exact same way I do now and do the exact same things. No one gives a damn about the skin color. What they give a damn about is someone who's in the job for Notre Dame and not for himself, which is why Bob Davie (who is white, by the way) was and is vilified just as much as Tyrone Willingham. It's the attitude, not the race.

9/28/2007 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Ted Eberle said...

Thank you Mike Coffey. Posts like the one from anonymous (the one blasting NDNation Board Ops)provide a positive vote for requiring the name of the person submitting their thoughts.

9/28/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Anonymous MFG said...

anonymous, you are the one who is making racist comments. It sounds like you are blaming "whitey" for the failures of Tyrone. ND gave Tyrone a job and it was Tyrone who did not live up to the agreement.
Tyrone landed on his feet for now but his lack of work ethic will catch up with him there as well. It is not about race but about getting the job done!!

9/28/2007 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Raristotle said...


Unfortunately for "anonymous", your reasoned response will fall on deaf ears. People like him/her are comfortable with throwing out charges of "institutional racism" without fear of consequences or a fact-based reality. They live in a world where actions and consequences don't correspond--and when you dare to challenge them on that point with both reason and ethics, they only yell louder. It's perfectly in character for "anonymous" to not show his/her name. They are cowards of the highest order.

I have to confess that when Notre Dame is accused of racism, it agitates me. To me, that charge is not merely an attack on an academic institution (like Northwestern, Duke, or Stanford), but it's an attack on my core being. I identify with Notre Dame because she is good. Notre Dame has made its mistakes, but at its essence is catholicity (in both the capital and lower-case forms). For a person to accuse ND of things so abhorent shows me that the problem lies with them. Their anger lies in not hating us because we have higher standards or because we happen to believe we can do better than Davie or Willingham. Rather, they hate us for even striving to be good and excellent. They're quick to say, "Miami, West Virginia, Notre Dame...they're all the same. What makes Notre Dame think she's better than them?!" It's sad and pathetic that people like this exist, but they're there, bringing us all down. The lesson we've learned, though, is if we don't respond, those charges of "racism" end up sticking (ask any sports journalist at any major newspaper, and you'll see the racism charge still lingers). I don't expect these people to learn their lessons--their minds are made up. My hope is that we convince the others who haven't yet made up their minds.

Keep up the good fight and thanks for your writings. Go Irish.

--Mike Wassil

9/28/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Anonymous zeno of elia said...

The whole idea that Domers have difficulty cheering on a minority in the sports program, or hold minorities to a higher standard, is laughable in light of the support, and even adulation, given to members of the teams and coaching staffs that are minorities. Would Anonymous tell us that we have more favorable views toward Minter than to Brown because of skin color? Ridiculous. Did we go easy on K McAlarney and get down on Tory Jackson--or was it rather the reverse? Is our love for guys like Time Brown or The Rocket or A. Taylor or etc. etc. etc. dimished because of their skin color? Or does our alleged racism only apply to the head coach? It's a shame, but people believe what they want to believe, and for some reason people work real hard to find ways to believe bad things about ND.

9/28/2007 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous subalumT said...

Truly, a post worthy of keeping this season in perspective.

As a forever subway alum who could not afford to go to ND, I no longer hang my head in shame when those ridicule me this year as I did constantly with the prior two coaches.

Rather, for the past three seasons all I need to say to those who know I bleed blue and gold from a far and try to get their enjoyment by ridiculing 'our boys' is "bring it on". And you know what? Most of them actually get a look on their face that they are saying to themselves 'Gee, maybe, just maybe, it is different this time'.

Yes, this is both an emotional and factual issue. There are those who will never 'get it', whether from near or from a far. Just be resolute, understand the situation, and be prepared to enjoy the many years to come.


9/28/2007 10:35:00 AM  
Anonymous God-Country-ND said...

The fact that "anonymous" only focused on Willingham in a blog entry about both Davie -and- Willingham shows that he/she is ignorant, biased, and has a clear agenda to bring negative charges against Notre Dame. He/she probably does not give a rat's ass about Willingham anyway... just trying to play the race card like all the idiots in sports media. It's sad, but playing the race card actually hurts blacks (and other minorities) more than it helps. Maybe some day these people will understand this.

9/28/2007 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous wcnitz said...

Hey anon - 'Radio' is the term used for KD out in LA. I don't know who came up with it - USC or UCLA fans - but no one ever referred to Ty that way.

If you had any idea what you were talking about, you'd know that Ty's nickname was Chauncey.

Go back to mgoblog.

9/28/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I helped perpetuate calling KD at UCLA "Radio".

As a USC fan, I just felt it fit.


9/28/2007 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe Alamilla said...

I agree with prior posters and will say that "institutional racism" at ND is ridiculous. Anonymous can't have it both ways. He can't on the one hand bash ND and say they are institutionally racist on the one hand for firing TW, despite all of the well documented short-comings; and on the other, completely ignore the fact ND leads the nation in minority hiring in terms of assistants and coordinators. Anonymous will believe what he wants, but the facts speak of an institution willing to hire assistants and coaches of color when other universities refuse to.

It reminds me of the late great Bill Walsh, who said that OC and DC are the gateways to headcoaching, and who believed in getting men of color into the position so as to increase the ranks of minority head coaches. Charlie also has shown this trait and ND has fostered this sentiment as well.

So, to anonymous, take your charges of racism to another blog and leave ND to those who actually care about her. The fans understand the situation and will support this administration and CW, CB, and MH. That is all.

9/28/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way TW and BD could get to the Super Bowl would be if they bought a ticket. Charlies credentials speak for themselves. It's laughable to even compare.

9/28/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger rockne1977 said...

Enough about racism. ND has the highest graduation rate of African-American football athletes of any Division 1A school. Most of these players pursue careers outside of professional football. ND is the ONLY Division 1A school to have African-American offensive and defensive coordinators. You cannot be accused of racism for firing an underperforming African-=American HEAD coach unless you HIRE him in the first place, something Michigan, OSU, LSU, Alabama, and USC among others HAVE not done.

9/29/2007 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous jshotzie said...

Although I have many friends on ndnation, I haven't posted anything prior to this. I must say, this article the following posts make me proud, including the fact that "anonymous" posted no responses. I came on here partly to look for factual basis as to why we feel differently about Charlie, and this mirrors how I feel. I ran into Bob Davie on campus multiple times, and even when he was with his children (I was running solo around the lakes), he was a complete jerk to students even though not many were around. If anything, I liked him less than Ty. Anyone who makes the coaching issue into a race issue is reflecting their OWN hang-ups, not those of ND.

9/29/2007 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No amount of excuses will hide the fact of racism at Notre Dame, and most big time football factories. Notre Dame is just so much more hypocritical with your talk of social justice. TW was treated on a different scale than CW. CW"gets it". He "understands ND football". He is "our type". What could be more obvious. These are all racist statements disguised as "Fan and Alumni Support".

9/29/2007 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

That's an unmitigated load of crap.

Charlie Weis "gets" that we want Notre Dame to win, not Texas A&M or any school on the West Coast. We're not interested in using Notre Dame to further our own careers, like Davie and Willingham both were.

Charlie Weis "understands ND football" and is "our type" in that he knows how important it is to connect with the alumni and build the goodwill that can carry you through bad patches. Bob Davie and Tyronne Willingham had no love for ND and saw it just as a stepping stone to somewhere else, which was obvious to anyone who spoke to them. Ergo, they did not build the goodwill, and when they failed, they had no support.

Corwin Brown is "our type" as well, and the boards have been full of praise for him and his recruiting ability. What color is his skin?

As long as Notre Dame is graduating black players at the rate they are and treating them just like white players (unlike at a lot of the "football factories" you reference), we'll talk about social justice all we want.

Willingham didn't want to be at ND. He acted like it from the minute he got there until the minute he left. He was looking for that UW escape as early as October, and the day before he was fired, told the admin he felt the team Charlie Weis coached to nine wins would be lucky to win five that next season.

He wanted to be gone, he got what he wanted, and got a hell of a lot of money from ND in the process. I don't see how he has anything to complain about.

9/29/2007 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Patrick Mikes said...

Fans, Ty Willingham left ND two years ago. Blaming him and Bob Davie for everything that's wrong with today's team is nothing but whining and lame excuses. On this site I've seen Bob Davie described as a "blood-sucking lowerer of standards" and Ty Willingham as someone who ascribed his firing to racism.

When are you going to get over this and place the responsibility for 0-5 where it belongs: on the shoulders of the players and Charlie Weis and his staff?

9/29/2007 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Fred said...

Perhaps people should focus on graduation rates of players (particularly African American players) and then re-evaluate which schools are institutionally racist and which ones are actually helping out young men and women who participate in college athletics. ND has done a tremendous job making sure its athletes graduate - something that most of the rest of the big time football programs cannot say. And for that they should be ashamed. Notre Dame has nothing to be ashamed of in this regard.

9/29/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger chitownfilos said...

At the risk of sounding aligned with "anonymous" who has been lambasted here, I find three serious flaws in this argument that range from extremely specific to general.

First, I question the motivation. The impetus was a challenge to you (Coffey) that you said was not "relevant" but it "stuck in [your] mind." Why did it stick in your mind? Why respond to an irrelevant argument? Why continue three years later to respond or even care about what people are saying about Willingham (or Davie)? It seems to me that there's something relevant about it or you wouldn't take the time to write this (and these same basic arguments have been articulated by you and your peers over and over again, and I suspect they will continue for quite some time).

Second, you claim to know the contents of both Davie's and Willingham's "heart of hearts." Unless you have an intimate friendship with them (and I'm quite sure you don't) it seems to me it would be highly unlikely to be able to make such a claim to this kind of knowledge. You also implicitly claim to know this much about Weis and I think that is a stretch as well. I suppose you may claim that the answer is revealed in their actions or something like that, but I think that when we don't have a close, interpersonal relationship with someone, it's difficult to judge "heart of hearts" simply by observing actions from afar.

Third, you claim that "The top priority for each was not if ND won or lost, but rather how he looked to his prospective next employer." There are some major flaws in this assertion. How do you know? The unfolding of subsequent events cannot help you reach this conclusion. What job was Davie really after when he took the ND job? The Cincinnati job he tried to get? The ESPN gig? What historical evidence is there that suggests taking the ND job can be a stepping stone to the job you really want? What job was Ty auditioning for when he took the ND job? Why would he leave a middle of the pack Pac-10 job to take the ND job so he could eventually take over a Pac-10 basement team? I don't know how you can possibly believe this. However, even if you do, and here is the real problem with your argument, how would not having winning as a top priority at Notre Dame (I would assume you mean winning with class and dignity as you would certain criticize programs that have winning as a priority over promoting graduation and recruiting decent kids, etc.) attract Davie and/or Willingham to their "prospective next employers"? Did they want to show the administration at the school where they really wanted to be that they weren't really concerned with winning and losing? This just doesn't make any sense.

Finally, I think thou dost protest too much. I think it might be helpful if ND Nation would realize that institutional racism isn't necessarily a bunch of white guys sitting in a room smoking cigars saying, "let's get rid of this Black coach and get a White one." It often operates less explicitly than this and is certainly subconscious in many cases. I think this is related to whatever is going on subconsciously with you and your peers who continually respond with fervor to what you claim are irrelevant arguments.

9/30/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Answers to your concerns:

The comment originally made was irrelevant to the post because race wasn't the issue of that post and I didn't want the comments to start skewing into an unrelated area. It stuck in my mind because it bothered me people would still be asking about this three years later, and I figured the topic, while not relevant to the first post, might be relevant to general discussion.

My heart-of-hearts comment is based not only on what those coaches did but also conversations with people who did know them and saw their actions up close as opposed to afar.

When someone fills not only his office but also the public areas of the football coaching offices with Texas A&M memorabilia, going so far as to take down all the ND-related stuff, and calls down to College Station at least once a week, he doesn't want to be at ND. When someone creates their ND contract such that the buyout numbers after year 3 are lower than they'd normally be, has his representatives start talking to a "Pac-10 bottom feeder" in October in the third year of that contract, and explicitly antagonizes his superiors at the end of that season, refusing to make assistant coaching changes and predicting a five-win season at best the next year, he doesn't want to be at ND. If you'd like to provide an explanation of how those things could show an affinity for their current school, I'm more than willing to listen.

I "protest too much" because racism is a very very serious charge in my mind, and when people lob it around like some kind of fashion criticism, it really pisses me off. The entire concept of "institutionalized racism" is bullshit, because it pretty much says every time a "majority" institution does something that is viewed as punative to someone of a minority race, they're somehow being subconsciously racist. That's crap. As long as the media (encouraged by Ty) continues to level that very serious charge, I'll respond to it in a serious manner, because it's meant to hurt the school I graduated from and paints ND grads with an awful brush.

Tyrone Willingham was fired because his teams were terrible, he made no move to improve them, he alienated school alumni (ask the LA clubs how much fundraising money he cost them by, without provocation, taking away their access to himself and the team for SC-related events that had gone on for decades, or the Chicago club by blowing off an event at which he was scheduled to appear in order to play golf in Michigan), and at the root of it, didn't care about ND.

Charlie Weis, for all his faults and mistakes, cares about ND and it shows in everything he does. If Tyrone Willingham had worked as hard on the recruiting trail as Weis, had replaced Bill Dietrich when it became obvious his offenses were terrible, and had shaken the hands extended to them instead of blowing them off, he'd have gotten a long leash too. But he didn't, so he didn't.

If the problems shown this year continue, no doubt Weis will be removed at some point. But 19 wins and two BCS appearances mean something to us (and to him). He'll get his chance to make corrections, and that has nothing to do with his skin color.

9/30/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a ND outsider, I thought your comments showed a lot of thought and insight. At the same time, I couldn't help but wonder two things. First, assuming that you are right that Ty wasn't particularly committed to ND, do you think that some of that might have been due to a lukewarm reception that he received in the first place. I don't think there is any question that Weis has been more welcomed - and celebrated -from day one. From my memory, Weis also has received much less hostile questioning about his team's performance than Willingham did. Frankly, I'm glad for Weis that he has this support. I don't know much about him as a person, but I think that many fans and media are much too harsh on players and coaches alike - it's not like they are trying to lose! I just wish that Ty had received the same support. Maybe it was there, but it didn't seem that way to me. I'm not going to say it was a racial thing - I don't think it's my place to pretend to know the motives of other people. But I can understand why some people wonder about that. The other thing that does really bother me is how everyone keeps blaming Ty for everything bad that is happening this year. Even if Ty wasn't the best recruiter in the world, ND is getting beat by folks who probably had worse recruiting classes. So maybe we can understand why ND doesn't beat USC, but ND should have at least won one of these games. Could it be possible that Ty taught fundamentals pretty well to these players, and Weis was able to take advantage of that through his schemes? Maybe he never really had to teach fundamentals during his time in the pros (since I would guess that pro players already have decent fundamentals). So maybe his schemes are great, but the younger players haven't really learned some of the basic skills that they need. I have no idea if it is true or not, but you have no idea how whiny and unfair it sounds to continually blame Ty for all the losses. (To Weis' credit, he has never done that). I also think that Weis will probably get it turned around, and I do think that he deserves time to get it done.

I hope that didn't sound too hostile. I think ND generally runs their program the right way. The fans are also pretty classy overall. (I had a friend who played for Stanford when they upset ND at ND in 90 or 91 - I forget which - and he said the fans were bummed, but behaved with class). In addition, ND is a great school that teaches values as well as knowledge. So I'm not a critic of ND at all, it's just that this whole episode has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

9/30/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Hu said...

Call for Change was dated on Jan 26. Signing day was Feb 4 that year.

The fact remains that the Willingham got the shortest leash of any coach in modern ND history, including Davie and Faust. Talking to another team by Oct of his third year seems entirely rational to me. The vultures were already circling.

9/30/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

The letter was printed for the Board of Trustees on January 26th. The Federal Express envelopes were sent, by my recollection, on January 30th, arriving at their various destinations on or around February 3rd. Unless any of the member of the BOT had children being recruited by Tyrone Willingham, they were the only people aware of the letter's existence for at least two weeks, which put any collateral damage well after NLOI day.

He got a short leash because it was obvious to people both on campus and off he wasn't working hard. His subpar offense and defense, which were bad from the minute he arrived, remained unchanged, and his recruiting classes were horrible.

9/30/2007 02:29:00 PM  

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