Weis speaks on the record


WNDU’s Jeff Jeffers, and a select group of media as close to the Notre Dame football program as any, got the lone sit down with Charlie Weis, spending 90 minutes with Weis earlier today.

WNDU released some of the snippets from the conversation, and it was incredibly candid.

I want Notre
Dame to be successful,” Weis said. “If Notre Dame goes and wins them all next year, everyone could say, ‘now that they’ve got a real coach we can win
games,’ you want to know something, that’s fine by me. Just as long as
these kids here are successful.”

That’s the essential Charlie Weis quote.

Weis holds no animosity toward Notre Dame, the school were he graduated from and spent the past five years as head football coach.

That said, Weis absolutely nailed the biggest problem with the current university administration, and was unabashed in his comments about the ridiculousness of Residence Life, the completely draconian system that runs the disciplinary system at the university. It’s a terrible system whether you’re an athlete or not, and cost the Irish key games from players like Rashon Powers-Neal, Will Yeatman, and Christian Joseph Fauria, great kids who admittedly made mistakes.

Here’s what Weis had to say when asked what the biggest problem on Notre Dame’s campus was:

it’s Residence Life, it’s not even close for second…I didn’t even know Residence
Life existed when I went to school. I think if you took a poll of the
students at Notre Dame on what’s the biggest negative issue, I would
bet at least 50 per cent of them would say Residence Life. Without
getting into the names of people who work at Residence Life, I just think that these are
college kids and college kids do what college kids do. Let’s say a kid
has been too loud because he had some alcohol, why wouldn’t you just
tell him to go to bed? Why would that be something that ends up in the
hands of Residence Life? I’m just saying that boys will be boys and
I’m just defendng them. We as parents know what we interpret with our
own kids what is out of line and we all wish the best but we know our
kids are going to be in trouble in their lifetime. But there are so
many things that I think border on petty.”

As far as I’m concerned, Weis was far too kind with his comments. While nobody has gone officially on the record about what cost Powers-Neal, Yeatman, and Fauria, it’s pretty well known that these indiscretions were penalized to the letter of the law, without using a lick of common sense. Again, this isn’t just a system that penalizes athletes, it penalizes everybody.  

Weis also hit on something that I’ve noticed when covering the Irish this season. Too many members of the media have an agenda when covering the Fighting Irish.

“I don’t think a lot of the media cares about Notre Dame. They care more about their story… The national
guys, they’re very agenda driven as we know. It could be the same story
but it’s about how you portray the story. There’s guys that we all
know that don’t even want to follow Notre Dame. I’ve been able to
fight through the negativity but you know, those 18- to 22-year old kids
that’s tough for them to not feel like this black cloud is hanging over
them all the time. Even when things are going good; the first time you
lose a game — BOOM! — it’s back again or you could win a game and one guy
could play crummy — BOOM! — it’s still there anyway.”

I fully expect media members and commenters to jump on this quote and claim that Weis is making excuses. But this is a very real issue, and something that I’ve noticed throughout the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame (and the Willingham and Davie eras as well).

You don’t have to be an alum or fan of Notre Dame to cover the Irish. While many writers will claim that any negative comments were merely a product of covering the team objectively, Weis isn’t filled with sour grapes. I completely agree with Weis’ sentiments. Even back after the Michigan loss, it was easy to sense the negative slant that many journalists took when covering the Irish this team. That wasn’t a disappointing loss, it was a piece of evidence used to build a case against Weis and the Irish. Win a close game? They should. Rack up ten wins? Notre Dame should, they play a cupcake schedule. (Nevermind that the schedule ended up in the top 25.)  Nuance and texture are very real elements in media bias.

(Don’t believe me, go read Bernard Goldberg.)

As I said during the late season collapse, the negativity that swirled around the program was an anvil that hung around the players necks, and it was especially weighty when the Irish played the final minutes of a close football game. And when you’ve got three straight weeks of ESPN speculating that your coach is on his way out, that’s something that is hard to avoid.

Weis also talked about the roots his family planted in the Michiana community. Hannah and Friends, Charlie and Maura Weis’ charitable foundation, is headquartered in South Bend. Charlie Jr. is a high school student. The family is very comfortable in the place where they live.

We’re committed
to this community to keep Hannah and Friends working. That’s why we’re
here right now, we’re committed so much that we’re thinking about
retiring in the current house that we have. That’s one of the things
that we’re talking about. Now we might sell it, we might not. Maura and
I have had this conversation because we’re committed to this place
being part of our legacy. It’s really important to us; we’re not
hypocritical when it comes to people with special abilities or
different abilities as Maura would say. We’re gonna make that go

I went to Martin’s yesterday. I’m not going into hiding. We went to Yesterday’s for dinner last night because we love the place. We’re going to dinner tonight. We’re not going to go into hiding. Just because we got let go as the football coach at Notre Dame, we’re not going to forget why we’re here.”

People get sick of me complimenting Weis, but these are the reasons why. Regardless of who replaces him, it’ll be tough to find a coach that has a better grasp on Notre Dame than Charlie Weis.

Whether it’s the negatives that come along with ResLife and the media’s scrutiny, or the positive that come along with the special place Notre Dame holds in college football’s fabric, Charlie Weis certainly knows the score, whether he won enough games or not. 

Evaluating VanGorder’s scheme against the option

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes for his fifth touchdown in the fourth quarter against the East Carolina Pirates during their 45-21 win on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Notre Dame’s ability to slow down Georgia Tech’s vaunted option attack served as one of the high points to the Irish’s early season success. After spending a considerable amount of offseason energy towards attacking the option and learning more, watching the Irish hold the Yellow Jackets in check was a huge victory for Brian VanGorder, Bob Elliott and the rest of Notre Dame’s staff.

But it was only half the battle.

This weekend, Keenan Reynolds and Navy’s veteran offense come to town looking to wreak some havoc on a defense that’s struggled to slow it down. And after getting a look at some of the new tricks the Irish had in store for Paul Johnson, Ken Niumatalolo and his offensive coaches have likely started plotting their counterpunches days in advance.

How did Notre Dame’s defense slow down Georgia Tech? Brian Kelly credited an aggressive game plan and continually changing looks. So while some were quick to wonder whether Notre Dame’s scheme changes were the biggest piece of the puzzle, it’s interesting to see how the Irish’s strategic decisions looked from the perspective of an option expert.

Over at “The Birddog” blog, Michael James utilizes his spread option expertise and takes a look at how the Irish defended Georgia Tech. His conclusion:

Did the Irish finally figure out the magic formula that will kill this gimmick high school offense for good?

Not exactly.

The Irish played a fairly standard 4-3 for a large chunk of the game. James thought Notre Dame’s move to a 3-5-3 was unique, though certainly not the first time anybody’s used that alignment.

But what stood out wasn’t necessarily the Xs and Os, but rather how much better Notre Dame’s personnel reacted to what they were facing.

Again, from the Birddog Blog:

The real story here, and what stood out to me when watching Notre Dame play Georgia Tech, was how much faster the Irish played compared to past years. I don’t mean that they are more athletic, although this is considered to be the best Notre Dame team in years. I mean that they reacted far more quickly to what they saw compared to what they’ve done in the past.

Usually, when a team plays a spread option offense, one of the biggest challenges that defensive coordinators talk about is replicating the offense’s speed and precision. It’s common to hear them say that it takes a series or two to adjust. That was most certainly not the case here.

James referenced our Media Day observations and seemed impressed by the decision to bring in walk-on Rob Regan to captain what’s now known as the SWAG team. And while VanGorder’s reputation as a mad scientist had many Irish fans wondering if the veteran coordinator cooked something up that hadn’t been seen, it was more a trait usually associated with Kelly that seems to have made the biggest difference.

“It wasn’t that the game plan was so amazing (although it was admittedly more complex and aggressive than we’ve seen out of other Notre Dame teams),” James wrote. “It was plain ol’ coachin’ ’em up.

“Notre Dame’s players were individually more prepared for what they’d see. Notre Dame is already extremely talented, but talented and prepared? You can’t adjust for that. That’s more challenging for Navy than any game plan.”

Irish prepared to take on the best Navy team in years


Brian Kelly opens every Tuesday press conference with compliments for an opponent. But this week, it was easy to see that his kind words for Navy were hardly lip service.

Ken Niumatalolo will bring his most veteran—and probably his most talented—group of Midshipmen into Notre Dame Stadium, looking to hand the Irish their first loss in the series since Kelly’s debut season in South Bend.

“Ken Niumatalolo has done an incredible job in developing his program and currently carrying an eight-game winning streak,” Kelly said. “I voted for them in USA Today Top 25 as a top-25 team. I think they’ve earned that. But their defense as well has developed. It’s played the kind of defense that I think a top 25 team plays.”

With nine months of option preparation, Notre Dame needs to feel confident about their efforts against Georgia Tech. Then again, the Midshipmen saw that game plan and likely have a few tricks in store.

As much as the Irish have focused their efforts on stopping Keenan Reynolds and the triple-option, Navy’s much-improved defense is still looking for a way to slow down a team that’s averaged a shade over 48 points a game against them the last four seasons.

Niumatalolo talked about that when asked about slowing down Will Fuller and Notre Dame’s skill players, an offense that’s averaged over 48 points a game during this four-game win streak.

“We’ve got to try our best to keep [Fuller] in front of us, that’s easier said than done,” Niumatalolo said. “We’ve got to play as close as we can without their guys running past us. I’ve been here a long time and we’re still trying to figure out how to do that.”


Navy heads to South Bend unbeaten, defeating former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco‘s team just two Saturdays ago. And while Diaco raised a few eyebrows when he said Navy would be the team’s toughest test of the year (they already played a ranked Missouri team), the head of the UConn program couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise.

“I have been competing against Navy for some time and this is the best Navy team I have seen for, let’s say the last half-dozen years,” UConn coach Bob Diaco told the New Haven Register. “I could click on footage from three years ago and see a lion’s share of players who are playing right now in the game as freshmen and sophomores. They have a veteran group, a strong group, a talented group and they look like the stiffest competition among our first four opponents.”

As usual, there will be those who look at this game as the breather between Clemson and USC. That won’t be anybody inside The Gug. So as the Irish try to get back to their winning ways in front of a home crowd, a complete team effort is needed.

“I’ll take a win by one,” Kelly said Tuesday. “That would be fine with me.”