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October 30, 2005


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Notre Dame being Notre Dame, Charlie Weis will be thrown under the bus too if he records back-to-back seasons of 5-7 and 6-5. In fact, he'd better get have his team playing for the national championship by Year 3, or he's in trouble.

I'm partially sympathetic to Willingham understanding that his predecessor was allowed to fulfill his contract. But I suppose that was an anomaly, or at the very least a point to which the school's athletic department was never going to return... Notre Dame being Notre Dame.


I can't say that I think Weis will get the boot. After all, the pattern has been to grant a grace period. Notre Dame may only lose one or two games this year, but could lose as many as 7 games next year...and they could start 0-4 with games (@Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, @Michigan State). Do you really think that ND will buy out a 10-year deal anytime before year 5 to "save face." It's not likely. Faust was given time, Davey was given time. Weis has been given time. Willingham was not. At this juncture, it is entirely too speculative to suggest that a coach with a 10-year contract will not be granted considerable latitude.

Moreover, the essence of this story is not what Willingham did in Year 2 or Year 3 - it's ENTIRELY about what he did in Weeks 1-8 of YEAR 1. These are the only parallels that we have between he and Weis. At the same juncture in their tenure's, Willingham was 8-0, ranked nationally at #6, and had just defeated Florida State on the road. Weis is 5-2 and has lost to Michigan State and USC. They're ranked in the top ten because they played USC close and because they're ND. So, strictly on the comparative merit of the situation, there are significant differences here.


Keep in mind that Willingham was paid on the remainder of his contract, T3. I'll also remind you that in sports entertainment, a coach or player is graded on their most recent performances. The standard is enforced more rigorously today than ever before.

Again... I'm sort of (kind of) sympathetic to Willingham because of the precedents you cited, e.g.; Faust and Davie. But the world of big time college athletics has changed so dramatically over the last decade, that coaches are no longer afforded the luxury of seeing their own recruits reach senior eligibility. Success today is not about merely winning seasons for these programs, but winning championships. The Notre Dame alumni, fans and faculty are not willing to settle for less, especially at a program who negotiated their own football television contract! Notre Dame's like the Yankees; a veritable American institution.

Weis will get a temporary bye... maybe two to three seasons tops before he'll be expected to compete for a national championship. I suspect you're correct he'll be given a longer grace period (presuming the program's continued subpar performance) because of the contract -- itself something of a novelty in the world of college football and Notre Dame. The contract extension was as much the school's concession that Weis has A LOT more leverage than Willingham and other coaches whom would apply for the position than it is about institutionalized racism.


From what source did Weis derive his merit? The reported inquiries into buyout clauses in his contract at ND by NFL coaches? The ND job is a bit of a stinker these days...more coaches will decline the job than accept it...Weis took the job because he wants to be a lifer.

Bottom line - we can't say what role institutional racism played unless we control for differences...you seem to be assigned value to Weis even though his PERFORMANCE has been SUBPAR. That's usually how institutional racism works...so, it's paradoxical to deny its impact while affirming its method.

Paraphrasing your position, Weis (with his subpar performance) has more leverage than the higher performing Willingham because of unexplained factor X which is probably not institutionalized racism.

I would say that Willingham being paid for the life of the contract is immaterial. There really is nothing to discuss about Willingham's tenure beyond the Sunday morning after the Florida State game in Year 1. 8-0 record, #6 National Rank.

To me, it's a lot like the Diallo shooting in New York or the Rodney King beating in LA. Are you gonna believe all the bullets and baton blows - or are you gonna believe the press secretary? My argument has not been that Willingham did not get an offer because of institutionalized racism. it's their institution...they can hire who they wanna based on cultural preference, good old boyism - which is not always the same thing as "RACISM" - even though they often have the exact same impact. moreover, excellent coaches of all stripes get passed over all the time. Hell, I don't even think that's the point. The nation has always has an undying gratitude of white mediocrity rather than Black excellence...and what we have here is an example of a Black coach doing an excellent job - and not being rewarded and a white coach doing a mediocre job and being rewarded. I'm sure there is another reason - but it ain't tied to merit - precisely because there has been no demonstration of merit. Whether or not it's institutional racism is beside the point. The question is why does a major program make a decision of that magnitude that is CLEARLY NOT BASED ON MERIT? that's all.


Uh... Weis has 3 Super Bowl rings as an offensive coordinator, the latest coming just this past January. He's got enough leverage to go wherever he wants to go -- college or pro -- and name his salary.

Head coach of Notre Dame football is the job in college football; if not all of college athletics as well as any sport on any level.

You continue to harp on Willingham coaching ND to 8 straight wins to begin a season three years ago. Last year, Notre Dame was 6-5; the year before, they were under .500. I have no idea what you're using for a standard to judge them as "subpar" this year given they've got a very legitimate shot at 9-2 and a BCS bid. AAMOF, they came within a controversial play at game's end to defeating USC. What are you talking about, "subpar"?

You say it's "immaterial" that Willingford got a substantial buyout and still managed to walk into a head coaching gig at a major school in a major conference. I seriously doubt he's crying about his tenure at Notre Dame, or the conditions under which it ended. My point is there are many, many other examples to illustrate the discrimination against Blacks in collegiate coaching than to argue Tyrone Willingham got screwed. Had he coached Notre Dame into a single BCS bowl game, he'd still be coaching today.

If a record of 21-17 after 3 years (including 5 blowouts of 31 points or greater!) is your idea of 'excellence', then we've got no reason to be optimistic about Black advancement on the merits.

"The question is why does a major program make a decision of that magnitude that is CLEARLY NOT BASED ON MERIT?"

It's clearly not based on your idea of 'merit'.


Dude...this really isn't that complex. I didn't say Willingham shouldn't have been fired or that he was best thing since sliced bread at the school. They got smoked plenty of times...after Week 8, Year 1.

I said that at similar points in their tenure, he outperformed Weis and did not receive a contract extension. I also said a consideration other than merit must have entered the equation since ND performed at a higher level (according to record and poll ranking) at the same stage in the season under Willingham than under Weis. If you disagree with that let me know. If not, let's move through this.

Second, since Weis is still in Year 1 of his contract, Willingham's performance in subsequent years is not an equivalent or meaningful measure of the criteria applied to offering a FIRST YEAR COACH a ten-year extension. If you disagree with this, let me know. If not, let's continue.

Third, I never said that Ty getting a gig at another school was not a big deal, let alone immaterial. That's a huge deal. In fact, it's great and hopefully it suggests that opportunities are expanding. I said his being paid by ND was immaterial (to the discussion) - though not to him.

Fourth, I called the ND gig a stinker (a bit of hyperbole intended to illuminate the number of candidates who decline the position) - that doesn't mean it is not the premier job in college athletics. That's obvious. It does mean that applicants are more apt to turn it down (for a variety of factors) than they are to accept it. The Yankee job is very similar to the ND job - tremendous "down side" - incomparable "up side." The last two rounds of hiring at ND are proof of the limited appeal of the gig. The job is not as widely coveted (even though it is more prestigious) as other jobs in college football - like University of Michigan or USC or Alabama (when they're not on probation) or Oklahoma or Texas or Ohio State. Notre Dame clearly has more prestige, more history, it's own TV deal, etc., but coaches have not lined up to take this job since Bob Davie left. If you disagree here, let me know...yada yada yada...

Next...on the question of merit...Weis, for all his success, was not even the first choice of ND. Urban Meyer declined the job and opened the door to Charlie Weis. So, your suggestion that his merit derives from NFL success did not measure as much in the ND athletic department as much as it may have in the blogsphere. In other words, if his NFL tenure was so sterling, he should have been catapulted to the front of the search. He was not. If you're saying the contract extension was offered because he coached in the NFL, I would say that's a leap. If you're saying something else, I'm all ears. Weis could turn out to be like Joe Torre...Torre was the sixth choice of the Yankees after several candidates dropped out. Still, Weis' contract offer would be akin to Steinbrenner offering up a 10-year deal to Torre after the team started 35-6 through June (and all six losses were to the Red Sox, one week for the signing). Folks would be looking to rent a rubber room for the Yankees owner if he did something so absurd. AND most importantly, my question of merit is not about Weis' merit BEFORE he came, but rather SINCE he's had the job.

Next...If the point of football is moral victory, then we don't need to discuss scores. I don't think you intended to make a big deal about the end of the USC game...after all, the call wasn't that controversial...the ball clearly went out of bounds. No replay - the on-the-field call was correct. ND lost.

Next...why is this year's team performance subpar? It's really only subpar in comparison to the 8-0 start of ND under Willingham in Year 1. While it is true they have not beaten a quality opponent (unless you want to count a three-loss Michigan team who played without Michael Hart), this was not expected of ND. Still, Weis should not receive too much credit (don't know much exactly, alot, but not all) for an inferior ND team battling a top-ranked team to the death. They've only done that forever - in all sports...it's what they do. His game plan was excellent, but there is more to playing in the game of the century than the effort of a coach - home field advantage, hype, Joe Montana on the sidelines...it's all huge stuff for college kids...wake up the echoes, etc. So, it's not 2-5 subpar...it's relatively subpar - it ain't 8-0.

No less of an authority on ND football than Lou Holtz consistently reminds viewers on ESPN that this team hasn't beaten anyone and has actually played SCRUBS like Pittsburgh, Purdue, BYU and Washington. They will still play more SCRUBS like Syracuse, Stanford and Navy. So, 7 scrubby teams and a 3-loss Michigan team. Some might argue this is hardly an opportunity for a man of Weis' prodigious talents to prove his worth. You might say he should be insulted at the offer. Imagine if he went 5-2 with W's over teams like USC and Alabama and Virginia Tech.

Finally, I think I sniffed the inauspicious beginnings of a STRAW MAN defining my idea of MERIT as something other than the standard definition used by Athletic Departments. If it's not wins and losses, what is it? When ND was ranked #6 under Ty, it was all peaches and cream, but there was no contract...now they're 5-2 and it's all peaches and cream, and a big ole mess of peach cobbler with a nice crust to boot + a contract extension. That's cute to put my idea of merit in little quotes, but it hardly answers the question. It's dismissive - in an anti-intellectual sort of way - very academy-esque.

If you choose to respond, simply identify the meritorious acts of Weis that were superior to those of Willingham during the first 8 weeks of their tenure.

I am surprised to be having this conversation with you since we've been back and forth a few times and you've yet to deal with the on field records of these two men at parallel times in their careers. I'll wait or you can simply ignore my comments. Your choice...


Thanks MIB...I getting to explore some nuances here I might have otherwise ignored.


T3, in the world of big-time athletics, coaching contracts aren't determined on the basis of what the last guy did 3/4ths of a season 3 years ago.. If that were the standard, then Willingham -- and Davie before him -- would have been terminated in their first seasons since Lou Holtz went undefeated once, won 1 nat'l championship, and coached ND to the championship game multiple times. In fact, Holtz would probably still be coaching there. Coaching contracts, including renewals and extensions, are as much about what that individual can command in the marketplace.

As I wrote earlier, the environment of college football has changed dramatically... even from the time Willingham was hired by Notre Dame. Top-flight programs compete for top-flight coaching talent. At present, Charlie Weis -- with a professional resume that includes 3 Super Bowl rings as a NFL offensive coordinator -- has the leverage to exact pretty much whatever security he wants from any college program. Ty Willingham didn't have those credentials after going 8-0 to start his first season; neither did Urban Meyer (whom may have considered himself not-quite-ready for the Notre Dame job).

Three, that Notre Dame honored Willingham's contract illustrates he really didn't get jobbed.
Perhaps Kevin White and the ND alumni didn't support the program consistent with the demands required of a national champion. Maybe Willingham's outsider status combined with his subpar (for Notre Dame) record after three years
were factors in his termination. But, Willingham's termination is an issue exclusive from Charlie Weis' hiring and recent extension and probably deserves its own thread.

Four, coaches are evaluated using the immediately preceding season as the point of reference. Compared to last year, Notre Dame's ahead of the curve in the eyes of most observers. That's why 5-2 right now isn't "subpar". Next year, the goalposts will be raised for Weis.

Five... you can't criticize Weis for whom ND isn't scheduled to play. It's not like he gets to pick and choose who the Irish will line up against. Besides, ND's schedule is roughly the same every year: Michigan, Michigan State, BYU, Navy, Syracuse, USC and Stanford. Usually, they play BC too. I suspect the ever-changing conference alignments -- with Miami and BC joining the ACC -- have as much to do with this year's schedule as anything else.

IMO, it's crazy to offer any coach on any level a contract beyond 5 years before he's guided that program to a national or world championship. Yet, ND felt their decision was justified for reasons that aren't entirely qualifiable. I'll maintain the extension's purpose was primarily about conceding the market value to a sterling candidate (and alumnus) with impeccable credentials. Injecting Ty Willingham into the conversation is nothing more than a straw man.

Notre Dame plays the same basic schedule every year: Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, USC, BYU, Navy, Syracuse and Stanford. You can't hold them accountable for whom they don't play -- a result of ever-changing conference realignments and




To my understanding, then, the two factors you've identified beyond merit that entered into the decision of the ND AD were:
1) Insider Status
2) Perceived Value

You're still suggesting things that are far from where I'm going with this. How does your statement that, "T3, in the world of big-time athletics, coaching contracts aren't determined on the basis of what the last guy did 3/4ths of a season 3 years ago.." I've never suggested any such thing. When you start out like that, misunderstandings are inevitable. It's real simple...something other than the on-field performance of the ND football team led to the decision, period. By your own admission, those things are the perceived demand for Weis (from the NFL) and his insider status as an alum of the school. Thanks again. Let's not get it twisted - my contention was not that race or racism was the factor - my contention has been that MERIT (as in what has been done this year on the field) was NOT the factor. And none of this has anything to do with why Ty was fired - but it may have something to do with why that option was not on the table when he was 8-0. ESPN analyst believe it was because Willingham was not in demand - and because other colleges believed he would be locked in until his five years were up. Makes sense to me. But, I don't think we can say that 5-2 and an inflated national ranking are grounds for a 10-year extension unless we're talking about desperate folks who've taken leave of their senses.

Do you really think Urban Meyer would put an ESCAPE CLAUSE in his contract for a job he felt unprepared for? Not likely. As an assistant under Holtz, he was very much aware of the complications and stresses of the job - but there are several complicating factors that suggested the job was not stable - ie, Willingham's premature bounce. Family questions and ties to UF with a stronger recruiting base were also factors. There may have been a number of reasons why Meyer didn't step in - but a lack of preparation was not one of them.

As for their schedule, we all know you can only play your schedule...the point is simply that the schedule is not conducive to actually strengthening the negotiating position of the coach - that was my point...getting through a tougher schedule makes the coach look better than getting through cupcake city, to borrow from Dickie V.

As for Holtz' accomplishments, he retired for four years after leaving ND - and leaving the school on probation. He was awesome during his tenure there...but, how soon we forget...Holtz, under no circumstances would still be coaching at ND. The rumblings started during that 6-5-1 debacle and two consecutive losses in bowl games. Dook...I'm done here. Selective memory is not conducive to a healthy back and forth.


You can't have it both ways re: selective attention and cognition, T3.

It's quite arbitrary and narrow to limit 'merit' to the team's on-field performance for slightly more than half of a season when assessing a college coach's performance. What you're mimimizing as 'perceived value' include Weis' career credentials that speak to his competence (earned on a much higher level, BTW, than coaching at Stanford or Utah). A Weis -- much like a pre-nat'l championship Pete Carroll at USC, or Dennis Erickson at Oregon State -- can leave that caliber of program to go back into the NFL. For the Ty Willinghams and Urban Meyers, Notre Dame is a gigantic step UP.

I'm guessing that's you're trying to say with,

"ESPN analyst believe it was because Willingham was not in demand -- and because other colleges believed he would be locked in until his five years were up",

but again, I'm trying to focus you on the reality Notre Dame's negotiations with Charlie Weis should be kept in the context of normative free market relationships, which are oftentimes impossible to qualify -- especially against previous relationships involving either party.


Yeah, I'm messing with you...I think you make a good argument about those two factors. Thank don't make Ty a straw man unless someone's trying to say ND was racist...and neither of us put forth that claim.

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