In his most important and high-profile decision in four months as University of Notre Dame Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick has elected to retain Charlie Weis as the school's head football coach.
Swarbrick said that he and Weis would meet when they were both in South Bend on Monday, Dec. 8, but the University sent out a release today saying Weis will be back for his fifth season in South Bend for 2009.
Weis has not returned from the USC game, staying on the West Coast to do some recruiting in California and Hawaii. He has been assuring recruits and their families that he would be back and he will.
Weis seemed to be on the hot seat after an embarrassing home loss to Syracuse and with no public assurance from Swarbrick that his job was safe, common wisdom was that Weis was toast after Saturday's 38-3 loss at Southern Cal dropped the Irish to 6-6.
But Swarbrick had said all along that no decision would be made on Weis' future until after the conclusion of the regular season and that appears to have been the case.
After the USC loss, Swarbrick said that the football program would be evaluated just like every other athletic program on campus and that a number of factors including the team's grade-point average, graduation rate and student interest would be taken into account.
The price of Weis' buyout has been speculated in recent weeks, with reports putting the number anywhere between $4 million and $20 million. It is not known what, if any, role that figure played in the decision. Also not immediately clear is whether Weis will make any changes to his coaching staff.
Critics will say that Weis being given the time to build the program is inconsistent with the way that his predecessor Ty Willingham was treated and others will point to the decision to keep Weis as proof that Willingham was given a raw deal.
It will be easy for those on the exterior to look at the records of the two coaches while in South Bend and see that Weis has a slightly lower winning percentage than Willingham. But anyone who closely follows the program would agree that the program is in much better shape than it was when Weis took over four years ago.
The only debate would be whether that progress is significant enough to merit another season for Weis. Obviously, Swarbrick and University President Rev. John I. Jenkins felt that it is.
Weis' work ethic is unquestioned and he has proven to be a monster on the recruiting trail. He has signed three straight top ten-caliber classes, including the number one class last year, and is working on another top ten class for 2009.
The USC game was bad and the Syracuse loss was even worse, but there is plenty of evidence that the program is headed in the right direction. However, those signs cut both ways.
Again, there is the outstanding recruiting efforts that should allow the Irish to compete with the elite on the field, but also place more pressure on Weis and his staff to produce.
There is the fact that of Notre Dame's six losses, the Irish led by double-digits in half of them. The Irish could very easily be sitting at 9-3 right now, but they are not and that too could be blamed on coaching.
Judging from his own words at his introductory press conference in late 2004, Weis knows that 2009 will need to better. When he took over the job Weis said that he told the team ‘you are what you are.' Right now the Irish are 6-6, at the time they were 6-5 and just like he said then, ‘that's just not good enough.'
It ended up being good enough to earn him at least one more year, but it is unlikely that it will be good enough in the future.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Charlie Weis will continue as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, University athletics director Jack Swarbrick announced today.
Swarbrick, who made the decision in consultation with University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., met with Weis in California on Tuesday to review this past season, discuss plans for 2009 and communicate his decision.
"Though this past season fell short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program, I am confident that Charlie has a strong foundation in place for future success and that the best course of action is to move forward under his leadership," said Swarbrick.
"He, I and the others involved in leading our football program are committed to doing everything necessary to ensure a successful 2009 season. We are examining every aspect of the program and will make changes wherever we think they are needed."
Weis' four-season record at Notre Dame is 28-21 – after his first two Irish teams in '05 and '06 finished 9-3 and 10-3, respectively, and made Bowl Championship Series appearances. The Football Writers Association of America named Weis its 2005 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award winner as the national college coach of the year.
A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis previously spent five seasons (2000-04) as the New England Patriots offensive coordinator and helped that franchise to three Super Bowl championships during his tenure. He also was a member of the New York Giants staff during the 1990 Super Bowl championship season.