Honorary Coaches Enjoy Experience

Following a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game two years ago, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis found Charlie Weis and congratulated him on being hired as the new head coach at Notre Dame. Bettis told Weis if there was anything he could do to help the program, just let him know.

"He took me up on it," Bettis said with a laugh at the press conference following the 77th annual Blue-Gold Game, Saturday. Bettis and Mike Golic helped coach the Blue to a 10-7 victory over the Gold and honorary assistants Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and Bob Golic.

Weis tried to lure Bettis last season for the spring game, but a scheduling conflict didn't allow it. Weis then put the heat on the NFL star.

"He says hey, you have to do something," Bettis remembered. "I said well coach I'll speak to the guys when they come to Pittsburgh (season opener). He said ‘that's fine but I need you to come in and be an honorary coach.' I said well coach I can do it next year and he said you are booked. He booked me a year and a half in advance and didn't let me get out of it."

Bettis retired after helping the Steelers win the Super Bowl this past season. The six-time Pro Bowler finished his career ranked fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards. This was his first time back at Notre Dame Stadium since leaving in 1993.

"I enjoyed it, got some goose-bumps going down the tunnel, so that was pretty fun," Bettis said. "Just glad to be back and be a part of everything going on."

Just because they were honorary coaches doesn't mean they got to do much coaching.

"Here's how it worked," Mike Golic began. "We had the headphones on and I could hear coach (Rick) Minter talking to the other coaches but I couldn't talk to them. My button didn't work."

He later said jokingly, "The only thing I was disappointed in was that the offensive coaches, Jerome and Rocket got to call one offensive play per half. Bob and I got to do nothing. It was 4-3 and if you blitzed, you only got to blitz one linebacker. How boring is that? We weren't allowed to do anything so that was my only point of contention."

Mike Golic, a nine-year NFL veteran, who is currently a co-host of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio, apparently didn't get the memo. His brother Bob did.

"I knew that right away," Bob Golic said. "Mike actually didn't find that out until the second quarter. He was calling all kinds of plays, defenses. Then he goes I don't think they are hearing me. Oh well, that's why you're the youngest."

Mike Golic contradicted himself because during his initial comments, he took most of the credit for the decision making on the final drive ending with Carl Gioia's game-winning 20-yard field goal.

"Just for the record it was my call to run the clock out and kick the field goal," he said with a straight face. "I looked to the coaches and said I think we should run the clock down and kick the field goal and they said, I know, we've got it covered."

The Golic brothers had the media cracking up with jokes left and right. Bob Golic was of course asked about his days as an actor on Saved by the Bell, the College Years.

"What are you going to do, four years of major college football here at Notre Dame, 14 years in the National Football League, one year on a kid's TV show and that's all people talk about," Golic explained. "The sad thing is the cheerleaders all run up to me to get a picture and just for a brief, the briefest of moments, I thought, I still got it. Then I realized my back hurts, my knees hurt, I'm going, nah they love my show."

All four of the honorary coaches acknowledged Notre Dame being back where it should be, a top program in the country.

"There is a different look in people," Bob Golic said finally getting serious. "There is a different look in the eyes of some of the players. There is a different look in the eyes of the fans. They see something. They see there isn't just a change for the sake of changing. The new leadership has come in and done it. They have made the first steps and everyone is seeing this is going in the right direction. This optimism, this excitement, people are actually enjoying going to the game.

Ismail, the runner-up for the 1990 Heisman Trophy, shied away from the hype he was given as a player. If he could do it again, he would have embraced it better. He didn't get much of a chance to talk with Notre Dame's current Heisman candidate Brady Quinn before the game, but was sure he would afterwards.

"My mindset was always very, I just didn't like attention," he remembered. "I didn't like the expectations that came with it even though I was able to do well at times. Now I feel like they expect that to come with the territory. When you come to Notre Dame those are the things that come with the Notre Dame experience. The expectations and the people predicting what possibly could happen, the hype that comes with being quarterback at one of the most prestigious Universities in Universitydom, I think that is going to help him to be able to enjoy it."

Ismail enjoyed every play Saturday when something good happened, even if it was for the Blue team.

"I was just out there loving the fact that any success that any side had encouraged me and made me really look forward to the great things that are going to happen this season," he said.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories