Friday, November 20, 2009

Rumors Swirling Around ND

As ND prepares for the final home game of the 2009 campaign, Saturday's matchup with UConn seems to be overshadowed by a potentially bigger issue affecting the football program. Since starting the season 6-2, the Irish dropped back-to-back games against Navy and Pittsburgh, leaving the team in danger of a fate similar to that of '08. Within the last week, much has been written, said and speculated about the future of Charlie Weis as head coach of the Fighting Irish. Many people seem to be looking past the final two regular season games, only to await the decision that will come from Jack Swarbrick and Father Jenkins.

As a long-time fan of Irish football and now as a student, I can see both sides of the debate. Coach Weis is an ND man. He saw a national championship during his time as a student. He knows what the Irish Faithful want to see from their football team and he's worked hard to return ND to football prominence. In players like Jimmy Clausen, Michael Floyd and Manti Te'o, he's attracted some of the top football talents in the nation to South Bend. He's dedicated to helping children who have developmental disabilities through his Hannah & Friends Foundation and he's a true Domer.

On the other side, I can see the argument for why this Saturday should his final home game as ND's coach. Unfortunately, none of Weis's positive traits have translated to the expectations that Irish fans and the national media have set for his recent football teams. It's been 21 years since ND last won a national championship, and although expecting a title contender each year is unrealistic, it would be nice to see the Irish return to BCS prominence. In his first two years as head coach, Weis took ND to back-to-back BCS appearances, but in each case the Irish lost. After struggling in '07 and '08, this was the year that the team was supposed to 'return to glory' and make an impact on the BCS or national championship picture. The funny thing about the '09 campaign is that if a couple plays had ended differently, we could be looking at a 10-0 team. On the other hand, we could also be looking at a 2-8 team. Instead, the Irish sit at 6-4. With wins over UConn and Stanford, the best case scenario for the Irish is a New Year's Day matchup (possibly with Miami) in the Gator Bowl. The worst case however, could be a return to the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
Many big names have been tossed around in the last couple of weeks as potential replacements, if Weis is in fact let go at the end of this season. Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Brian Kelly and Jon Gruden have been at the forefront of this discussion. Other darkhorse candidates include Chris Petersen, Kirk Ferentz, and Gary Patterson. If someone other than Coach Weis is to lead the Irish in 2010, I would like to see the University swing for the fence on this one. Go out and get a coach that's proven he can win at a high level, proven he can recruit, and proven he can inspire and motivate college players.
  • Urban Meyer: Coach Meyer seems to have it made in Gainesville. The Florida weather, an abundance of top recruits and a team that is in position to contend for its third national title in four years. On the other hand, Meyer's quarterback and team leader, Tim Tebow, will be graduating after this season. If the Gators win another national championship, Meyer could be in search of a new challenge. He's Catholic, and familiar with ND, as he spent five seasons as an assitant here. Meyer has also been quoted as saying, "Notre Dame is my dream job."
  • Bob Stoops: Coach Stoops is Midwestern, Irish and Catholic, three elements that define Notre Dame. He won a national championship with Oklahoma in 2000 and has led the Sooners to six Big 12 Championships. Like Meyer, his star QB will be leaving after this season. His name has been mentioned recently, and like any other coach in the middle of a season, he has brushed the rumors aside, saying that "Notre Dame doesn't have a job." The way he responded to the question has left some wondering if Stoops could be a potential candidate, if there is a job opening in a couple of weeks.
  • John Gruden: Gruden's name has also been mentioned amidst the rumors, but it's difficult to tell if there is any truth to ND's potential interest in the former South Bend resident. Gruden grew up in South Bend and attended Clay High School, when his dad was an assistant at ND. The former NFL coach just signed an extension with Monday Night Football, but his ties to the South Bend area have some wondering if he could be in the mix to replace Weis.
This being said, if Saturday is Weis's final home game as head coach, he deserves a proper send-off. No booing, no taunting, but in this Thanksgiving season, thanks for his hard work. He knows that 6-4 is not where ND Nation expected to sit at this point in the season, but he's given it is best effort, and deserves respect for it.

Saturday will also be a send-off for 33 seniors, and it may very well be the last home game for Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. So here's to hoping Clausen and Tate provide another glimpse of excellence, and that the Irish go out and win one against the Huskies. Win one for Charlie. Win one for the 33 seniors. Win one for the Class of '10, who will be seeing their last game as students in the stadium. GO IRISH! BEAT HUSKIES!

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