Weis has something yet to prove at ND

Published 5:41 am Saturday, January 6, 2007

By Staff
I realize this column is likely to cause me some grief, and I'm not looking forward to that. However, I've never been able to hold back when I feel like something needs to be said, so here goes: I'm so disappointed in Charlie Weis!
There. I said it. I simply had to.
Apparently, I'm the only person in the world who doesn't think Weis is the second coming for Notre Dame.
I'm not calling for his resignation or anything like that. However, I did make the comment that if he had any personal integrity, he'd step down after the debacle that was the Sugar Bowl. He'd step down if he knew the grief I had to go through with my baby brother, an LSU grad, and my niece, also an LSU grad.
Mine is an LSU family – all except me. My mother's brother, Charles Kelly, played football at LSU back in the early 1950s and I grew up going to ballgames on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium. I can't count the number of Saturday afternoons when I was young that we hopped in the car and drove the 90 miles from Natchez, Miss., to Baton Rouge, just to go to the LSU bookstore and stop by Mike the Tiger's cage, located next to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Having chosen to make my home in Niles, I have come to love Notre Dame. I love its tradition. I love its Catholic values. I love what having it 10 miles down the road brings to our quality of life.
Mostly, I love that it puts academics first. I've always thought that a Notre Dame victory meant so much more than a victory at other schools because Notre Dame players are real Notre Dame students in every sense of the word. That's not the case at many major university football powerhouses.
I love that Notre Dame, with its less-than-10,000 undergraduate student population, competes with equal or better footing with schools that have 65,000 or more undergraduate enrollment.
That's something very special.
It's also very fragile – increasingly so.
I was never on the Charlie Weis bandwagon. Others were so excited for Notre Dame's football future and I was hopeful, too. I just couldn't catch onto the Charlie Weis hype. There was something that bothered me from the start.
It was all about Charlie.
I was turned off by how proud he was of his rude, tough-guy image. You know, the whole 60 Minutes interview stuff.
What about football? What about Notre Dame?
What about winning?
Then came the Michigan game and, more importantly, the games to follow. I was so disappointed by how Weis let the Michigan loss color the remainder of the Notre Dame season.
During the coach's press conference before the Sugar Bowl, I cringed when a pompous young journalist with obvious LSU bias asked Weis something like, "What are you going to do to make Notre Dame competitive in this game."
It was a stupid question, meant as an insult, and the journalist who asked it should be ashamed. However, Weis didn't go nuts on the guy, like I thought he would. He just told him Notre Dame was there to win, not be competitive, and that he'd answer his question if he re-phrased it.
Turns out, the guy's question was valid. Notre Dame didn't compete. They weren't competitive.
I don't think you can blame that on the talent. Notre Dame has no less than five players who are expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft – talent that Tyrone Willingham brought to Notre Dame. That may sting some of you to read, but it's the truth.
However, you can blame it on lack of focus, poor preparation and a poor game plan. Mostly, you can blame it on poor leadership.
Charlie Weis has a lot to prove at Notre Dame. So far, I haven't seen anything all that impressive.