For Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, any hype of a matchup between himself and his predecessor Tyrone Willingham was removed after the pair went head-to-head in Weis' first year in South Bend.
"The only time that really, in my case, came into play was when we were playing them back in 2005. Because it was so soon after the changeover, but I think that once we got past that game, I think he and I were both happy to get past that game," said Weis of the 2005 game that the Irish won 36-17. "As far as the analogies (between the programs), we have gone our separate ways from there. I think that was probably the one hurdle that we both had to get through just so that we could get through. I've gone my way, he's gone his way, as our programs have as well."
Weis said that he could feel the tension between the programs three years ago, but that now Notre Dame is only focused on finishing up its 2008 season.
"In 2005 it was definitely there. You could act like it wasn't there. This dog and pony show that we always talk about, that's how I felt," he said. "I don't feel that way now. Now I feel that it's the second half of the season, we need to get off to a good start. We just had a nice, long weekend off, we've to get off to a good start and Washington happens to be the team that we're playing."
The two most recent Notre Dame coaches are not tight, but they are polite when they encounter each other.
"We don't know each other very well, but we're cordial when we see each other," said Weis. "But no, I don't call him and he doesn't call me. The last time I saw him I think was last January at the coaches' convention. But other than that we don't call and ask how the families are doing or anything like that."
Willingham is in the midst of an 0-6 season and ‘security' is not a word that is mentioned much when referring to his job. Weis feels compassion for what Willingham is going through.
"I never wish bad on anyone," said Weis, who shares an agent with former San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan, who was fired yesterday. "It's important as you get involved in coaching to never wish bad on another coach. That's really a bad thing because when you do that you're wishing bad on him and his family and his assistant coaches and their families before you even get to the players that are in the program. So I always wish goodwill on anyone."
Meanwhile, it's likely that Willingham could relate to the struggles that Weis went through last year in South Bend. Weis talked about the challenges that come with being the head coach at Notre Dame.
"As the head coach at Notre Dame you have to understand that you're a national figure whether you like it or not, OK you are. There's good and bad that comes with that," he said. "You're the head coach at one of the finest universities in the country. Whatever you do you're going to be scrutinized positively or negatively. It comes with the territory. Probably one of the more disheartening things about it is the fact that you no longer have any personal life. Because with that job comes every time you're in public you're like a marked man.
"I'm not saying that's all negative, that's just the facts of life. I think that that brings an added set of circumstances that most other people don't have to deal with. Because most times you're scrutinized for how your players play or how they do in the classroom or do they get in trouble. You're scrutinized for those, but in addition here there's so many people that follow Notre Dame, either they're rooting for us or root against us, you have to realize that you're a public figure and that's the way it goes."
In addition to having Willingham across the field from him, Willingham's predecessor Bob Davie will be in the booth as an announcer for ESPN2, but don't expect Weis to seek counsel from either on the pressures of being the head coach at Notre Dame.
"When I call people up I usually like to talk to the guys who left here with a good taste in their mouth. When guys leave here before they're ready to leave, they're not the people that would be the best people for me to talk to," Weis said. "It's not that we're not cordial, it's just not the best situation. I don't want them to feel that they have to say something and I don't really want to ask them. That's why when I have question to ask somebody who's been in that boat I call Ara (Parseghian) and Lou (Holtz). Because they were here over a decade and I just feel that those are the guys that can kind of guide me the best. I feel bad for other people, but the bottom line is when people leave before they want to leave it's never a good conversation."