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Weis opens up for rare exclusive

Nov 23, 2009, 3:00 PM EDT

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame athletic program granted a rare look in at the embattled coach to FanHouse writer John Walters. Walters, a Notre Dame alum himself who has lived the last four years in the South Bend community, spent Sunday morning with Weis as he broke down film of Sunday’s heart-breaking loss, a game that may have put (yet another) final nail in Weis’ coffin. 

Weis granted Walters the access in advance of Saturday’s game, and still obliged the reporter even after the double-overtime loss. As usual, Weis was open and honest with Walters, and was a man still going about his business, even as he stared down the likely end of his time as the head coach of Notre Dame.

Here are some great snippets from Walters’ exclusive:

* While many people (me included) have railed on senior safety Sergio Brown, nobody is taking the loss harder than Brown himself.

“Earlier in the evening, Sergio Brown
stood bawling in Weis’s second-floor office in the Guglielmino Athletic
Complex (a.k.a., the Gug). Brown, the senior safety whose late-hit
penalty in the second quarter provided the game’s first tidal shift in
the Huskies’ favor, feels particularly responsible. Weis was having
none of it.”

We often forget that these players are not only kids, but kids under tremendous pressure, pressing to do everything they can to save the job of a coach they love.

* The assaults on Weis have taken their toll on the man and his family.

“The damage to Maura and Charlie Jr. is irreparable,” says Weis,
referring to the personal nature of the attacks he has been subject to
for years now. “It’s watching me get hammered. I’ll never forgive the
people who character-assassinated me without even knowing me. Those
people did irreparable damage to my wife and son, and I’ll never
forgive them.”

On Saturday, Maura Weis, for the first time since her husband was hired, opted not to attend a Notre Dame home game.

“They have the right to criticize the coach for being 6-5,” says Weis.
“They have that right. It’s all the other stuff. You think I don’t know
that I’m fat? Duh!”

There is nothing I find more appalling that the ease of which people routinely shred Weis for his physical appearance. It’s one thing for trolls in the comment threads of blogs or on message boards to crack a fat joke at Weis’ expense. But even this morning on ESPN Radio, Colin Cowherd openly read emails that joked about Weis’ weight and alleged eating habits. Many mainstream members of the media have reached for the lowest hanging fruit when discussing a football coach that you would assume has supplied enough ammo just by struggling these last three seasons.

While not equally despicable, the perpetuation of myths regarding Weis’ personality and arrogance also seem to have worn on the coach and his family. While Charlie did himself no favors playing to his alma mater’s emotions when he arrived in South Bend with quotes he’s still living down, many took the opportunity to use his comments to frame him as an arrogant, obnoxious jerk. Even though five years of behavior has showed us the complete opposite, Weis has never been able to live down a reputation bestowed upon him by people ever so eager to perpetuate a myth. 

* The damage done to Weis’ body in last year’s sideline collision was more devastating than people will ever realize.

On the play, a punt in the first half, Irish defensive end John Ryan
was blocked into the legs of Weis, who was walking down the sideline
and never saw Ryan. The blow was catastrophic, causing a tear of the
ACL, MCL and PCL in Weis’s left knee.

“And that isn’t the knee
I had to have replaced,” Weis says. “One-eighth of my right knee broke
off. And I didn’t even miss the second half.”

Walters writes elegantly about Weis’ physical struggle just to get up the stairs after a day of standing on the sidelines. While people shrugged off the injury as mere media posturing, the damage down to Weis’ body from that hit were catastrophic.

I could go on and on pulling excerpts, but you’re better off just reading the article yourself.  Congrats to John Walters for a great piece — an incredible get — and for providing all of us a great look at Charlie Weis the man. 

  1. TLNDMA - Nov 23, 2009 at 5:25 PM

    Anyone, even the critics, that have truly followed this program the last five years, should be saddened by the turn of events this year. Charlie Weis has done so many noble things in his time as ND’s football coach. From helping sick kids with their dreams and final wishes, to helping his players understand the sacrifice of the players at the service acadamies. He has brought fine young men into the ND family and made them better men. Their feelings for their coach were beautifully demonstrated before the UCONN game. He is a truly fine man. No ND fan should feel anything but sadness, that things have not worked out for him and his team. To the people that have been so repugnent, as to bring pain to his family, if only it were possible for you to feel the shame you should. Whatever happens, one thing is very clear, Charlie Weis will always be “Fighting Irish”.

  2. mrrandolph - Nov 23, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    If you want CW gone, fine. If you do not, fine. But, leave Sergio Brown alone, that was one play of over seventy for Connecticut (46 rushes, 25 passes). The Irish scored 6 points the last three quarters in regulation. That is two points a quarter. If they score one TD in the redzone, they win by four. Blaming Sergio is like blaming “Bartman” in Chicago or Bill Buckner in Boston. There were more plays after their mishaps. In the case of the Irish almost three full quarters.

  3. sharkey - Nov 23, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    A man with integrity is indeed rare these days. It’s a crying shame it didn’t work out. A crying shame.

  4. brandon - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:51 PM

    Well said. As I am one of the people who agrees his time is up at ND and so should it be for one reason only, his teams productivity. There is one thing that needs to be said about CW, and that is that he’s lost my support as the head coach for my team…..HOWEVER….. he’s completely changed my perception of him as a man. I also thought he was an arrogant prick who was full of hot air….but come to find out he is a very caring, hard working, family oriented man who loves Notre Dame football more then most of us “die hard” fans ever could. I respect Charlie as a man, a father, and as a mentor to the student athletes he’s had under his tenure. I wish him the very best and his family some peace and quite finally from all of us “should be ashamed of ourselves” Notre Dame fans…..

  5. Art Vandelay - Nov 24, 2009 at 1:32 AM

    I agree with the above posters that Weis is a great guy. That story of the “Pass Right” actually brought a tear to my eye when it happened. But he just isn’t getting the job done, if your definition of “the job” is to win and restore this program to greatness. What did they say about Ty when he was let go? Something like he was a great coach Sunday through Friday but just didn’t get it done on Saturday. Same logic applies here, unfortunately, no matter how great a guy he is. My favorite quote from the Walters article was Charlie saying, “I can promise you I don’t earn $3.2 million a year.” Well, Charlie, we know you don’t EARN it, that’s where the problem lies. It is just ironic that every arrow seems to be pointing up under Weis’ tenure in every other aspect of this program except W-L percentage. I’m sure there are probably some guys out there with great moral character who could also get more out of this team and find the ways to win at the college level. At least I hope so. Rest assured, the people out there that make fun of Weis for being overweight, the ones that make fun of his son, and those who, most reprehensibly, make fun of his daughter, are not true ND fans or even true Catholics, for that matter. That having been said (Curb reference), it is time to part company. Don’t feel sorry for Charlie…he tried his best and it just didn’t work out. There is an OC job for him in the NFL (where he says he’s more liked and respected anyway) and he’ll have some buyout cash to ease the pain of the transition. ND and Weis should part company on cordial terms and Charlie Jr. should be able to attend Dad’s alma mater if that is his desire. Can’t we all just get along? This is really going to be a “win/win” in the long run, I believe.

  6. StephenOfTroy - Nov 24, 2009 at 2:38 AM

    mrrandolph: Very good point re: Sergio Brown. I thought the same thing. No football game in history has ever been won or lost in the second quarter.
    Art: MY favorite quote from the Walters article was when, after sticking up for Weis against those who make fat jokes about him, Walters writes, without any apparent sense of irony: “To ask whether he has outside interests is funny because if it were not for his interest in football, he isn’t the type of guy you’d expect to find outside.” I really liked that one.
    I agree with your post in many respects, Art. If the point is that Weis is a good guy who doesn’t win, then he’s in the same boat as Ty Willingham, except that Weis is an alum and is a white guy. I know we cannot touch the latter one, but many people see things in, ahem, black and white terms.
    And after reading the Walters article, it wasn’t clear to me precisely how anyone was actually going after Weis’s family. He told Walters that it affected his family for them to see Weis himself “getting hammered.” I don’t think that criticizing Weis, even unfairly, constitutes attacking the family members. That said, anyone who actually criticized or mocked his family deserves their own special circle in Dante’s book. Somewhere between gluttons and traitors.
    Weis may well be more respected in the pros (What part does stealing defensive signals play in that “respect?” I guess the pros have a win-at-all-costs mentality, and a lot of OC’s are slapping their foreheads and thinking “why didn’t it occur to me that I could simply cheat?”). But it sounded a bit whiny for him to say so. What do you expect, when you ride into town on a white horse, bad-mouthing the predecessor (“if you want a .500 team, you got the wrong guy”) and then you fail to do as well as the predecessor? Not many people are going to respect you, aside from the loyal alumni and religious fanbase you have a death-grip on in the first place. Everyone else looks at your record. Weis has to go. Otherwise he shouldn’t have been hired, because they shouldn’t have fired the LAST “good guy who didn’t win enough.”

  7. mrrandolph - Nov 24, 2009 at 7:33 AM

    Weis- Offensive Genius and master Recruiter
    Tenuta- Defensive Genius
    Student/Athletes : Blue Chip and intelligent (passed admisssions)
    If CW is a master OC/Recruiter and teacher and our student/athletes are blue chip and intelligent, then the conclusion I come to is either CW can’t teach or our kids can’t learn. And since they will be ND grads, it can’t be they can’t learn.
    There is a saying they have in football lockerrooms and it is “He looks like Tarzan but he plays like Jayne.” If this is not the case, then it has to be CW. I know our players are intelligent.

  8. NDFAN401 - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:11 AM

    It is totally classless to attack Charlie Weis because of his appearance and for some to believe that his injuries on the sideline during that game were a media stunt is absurd. Charlie Weis has not been the rousing success that we had all hoped for, but I do think that the program is better off with him coaching than Bob Davies or Ty Willingham. We have recruited better talent because of him. What needs to happen is that we need that talent to start playing to expectations. The comment about Tarzan & Jayne I can tell you I have played a lot of football and I have never heard that before. The players that we have must raise their game to the college level. Look at this logically, by the time you reach the college level you should have mastered the basics of this game. The coaches can help and assist you at the next level but they cannot play for you, you can either get the job done or not. This team right now seems to be devoid of several things but the main thing is leadership on the field. Jimmy Clausen is the offensive leader and has done o.k., not great. There does not seem to be a defensive leader who demands that the defense stand up in key situations, therefore they have faltered in games this year. These type of traits cannot be coached they must come from within and these things are as big if not a bigger part of the game than blitzes, zone coverage and anything else you can name. I know as I progressed when I played, the game did indeed seem to slow down for me and I could almost see things happen before they happened on the field. This type of experience is something that the coaches can tell you about but it is very much something that you will know when it happens during a game. It is fair to say that this does not happen for everyone that plays, it probably does not happen for everyone that plays in the NFL. But Charlie Weis is not responsible for everything that has gone wrong, he may have made some bad decisions and they can be corrected, but overall I think his gameplans in most of the games he has coached have been good. The teams practice habits or the tone of the practices, well I can’t tell you I am not there. Charlie Weis can instruct you and guide you, prepare the scouting reports for you but as a football player it is up to you to complete the task and lead your teammates and win the game. Now that Charlie Weis is under fire, there are several questions that the players must ask themselves, how am I responsible?, and what must I do to insure my and the coaches and the teams success? If these questions go unanswered by the current players and the new players coming in Notre Dame will continue to struggle.

  9. NAJENT - Nov 24, 2009 at 12:22 PM

    STEPHENOFTROY: You’ve got it right; Willingham should not have been fired. Notre Dame should have honored his contract for the full-term. The “lust for Urban” prompted the school to act dishonorably. Ty was not an aggressive recruiter; that would be the reason why I would have let him go when his contract was up. I think CW should be retained for the full term of his extended contract. The program will be left in better condition than he found it. Any coach coming in to replace him better be an offensive genius capable of having his team put 40+ points per game on the board against every opponent; even the big-time perennial top-tenners. You’ll not see any “lock-down defenses” that will hold many opponents under 30 points per game in ND, because the 5-star defensive recruits just plain aren’t going to pass muster with the Admissions Department. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken feathers.

  10. NDFAN401 - Nov 24, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    NAJENT, The very thing you said about Ty Willingham not being an aggressive recruiter is why I wanted to see and was glad when he was asked to leave. College football is a strange game in that way that you have to compete for your players as well as your wins. Ty Willingham was not a motivated coach when it came to that and that attitude allowed the program to spiral downward out of control. Frankly, to be honest with you Charlie Weis is still dealing with that attitude and mentality. In college football you must be aggressive and you must be able to sell your University, football program, and everything else to the athletes you decide to pursue and Charlie Weis has done a better job of this than Bob Davie or Ty Willingham ever did.

  11. mrrandolph - Nov 24, 2009 at 6:14 PM

    How do you think Jack Swarbrick must feel? It was his predecessor who first gave Davie an extension and then let him go. I thought ND just didn’t renew his contract (boy I was wrong). Then he hires George O’Leary. Then he hires Ty and fires him 3 years later to pursue Urban. Found out Florida had been talking to him for a month. And, then he gives CW an extension after 7 games.
    found this at 12/4/04 Florida gets its man
    The look like Tarzan, play like jane (It must be a Southern Thing)
    I heard it from Mark Schlereth, Warren Sapp, Brett Favre, and a few others.
    I think I first heard it to describe Tony Mandrich.
    Also, Phillip Fulmer use to say it to describe alot of Parade All-Americans that would come into the Tennessee program.

  12. StephenOfTroy - Nov 25, 2009 at 3:47 AM

    NDFAN401: I usually agree with the majority of your posts, but I have to take issue with the notion that “by the time you reach the college level you should have mastered the basics of this game.”
    Many college football players are not playing the position they played in high school. Some high school tight ends become linebackers. Tailbacks become fullbacks. Corners become safeties. Etc.
    More to the point, even professional athletes get taught “the basics,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pat Riley and Phil Jackson were two of the few pro basketball coaches to teach footwork (drop steps, pivots, etc) to their players, and when it paid off in championships, all other pro coaches followed suit.
    I am certain that the best college coaches teach their players HOW to block and how to tackle. It would be malpractice not to do so. The game constantly evolves. Look at the arms race on the offensive line vs. the defensive line. Defenders use a multitude of moves to get to the quarterback. Swim moves, bull rushes, stunts, jujitsu-type momentum attacks, you name it. Everything but the head slap, which has been banned. You have to teach defensive players how to do those things effectively, and you have to teach offensive players how to counter those things.
    Many high school football stars were never asked to block. They always got the ball handed to them or thrown to them. Then they go to college and they’re not the #1 option on the team. So they either learn to block or they stand on the sidelines while some guy who knows how to play FOOTBALL gets to do his part to help the team win.
    Many star defensive players in high school never had to learn to wrap up. They just lowered a shoulder and down goes Frazier. But in college, and more so in the pros, you will find much stronger, much bigger runners, tight ends, and receivers. Arm tackles and glancing blows won’t bring them down. You have to have technical skills in equal proportion to the simple DESIRE to bring the man down. Quizz Rogers is a prime example. You have to wrap him up (if you can find him out there! he’s 5’7″). Same with Toby Gerhardt.
    It is all very well for players to stand up and accept responsibility for losses. But when the coaching staff hasn’t prepared them, either through the use of offensive and defensive schemes that are ill-fitting, or by not teaching them how to block or how to tackle, then it’s SHAMEFUL for the coaches to allowe the players to stand there and take the blame for things they couldn’t help. It would be somewhat analogous to soldiers in wartime who were sent on an impossible mission (and without proper training or equipment) coming back and trying to say that they failed because they didn’t try hard enough.
    The losses are at least as much the coaches’ fault as they are the players’ fault.
    I do not like the way Weis blames losses on an individual play(er). The cut block penalty at the end of the Navy game is a prime example. That’s not what lost the game for ND; not being able to stop the run even when your opponent only throws it 4 times in the whole game, and not being able to score touchdowns on offense is what lost the game. I also see a belated, insincere, and half-hearted attempt by Weis to say “I’m the head football coach. Who else is responsible?” You just KNOW that he’s looking long and hard for someone else to blame. And it took him a long time to get around to asking that plaintive question.
    As a fan of a rival school, on one level I’d like to see Weis stay at ND, because it means my team would keep beating ND. But I’d rather beat ND when ND is good, and ND won’t be good as long as Weis is there. And I’m not merely a fan of a rival school. I’m also a fan of ND, and I don’t like seeing ND go through this decade-long humiliation. Let’s get on with rebuilding, and do it right this time. We’ve suffered enough. GO IRISH.

  13. NDFAN401 - Nov 25, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    StephenofTroy, Read your post and I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree, and that is o.k. Everyone including yourself it sounds like is going to lay all of these failings at the feet of Charlie Weis. I do believe that he must shoulder a large portion of the blame. However, the defensive coach is also responsible, the o-line coach is responsible and the players are responsible. The notion that the basics should be learned by college is sound there are not that many high school players that are asked to change positions, it happens mainly when the coaches believe the athlete has the skill set to excell at the new position. The learning and advancing your technique is enhanced at every level and you must proctice it at every level but the basics of the game should be there. The raw ability and athleticism of these high school students is what is being recruited.
    The other thing that really concerns me is that I am not totally sold on Jack Swarbrick and there are no other standout coaching candidates. I’ve said it before if they fire Charlie Weis the person that they hire has to be a proven coach, because I just do not want to see the program struggle the way it has over the past years.
    Finally, I do not have a problem with your allegiance to USC and the fact that you are also a ND fan is great. I have found your posts to be insightful and I do agree with you most of the time as well. It seems you are just a fan of college football, as am I.

  14. StephenOfTroy - Nov 26, 2009 at 5:06 PM

    NDFAN, good post.
    But if you really read all my posts, you’d see that I’m not just a college football fan. I’m also an Irish whisky fan. Just not Bushmill’s. Give me Jameson and I’m happy. Then loud. Then angry. Then sleepy. Then thirsty.
    GO Irish!

  15. StephenOfTroy - Nov 26, 2009 at 5:13 PM

    NDFAN, good post.
    But if you really read all my posts, you’d see that I’m not just a college football fan. I’m also an Irish whisky fan. Just not Bushmill’s. Give me Jameson and I’m happy. Then loud. Then angry. Then sleepy. Then thirsty.
    GO Irish!

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