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Weekend notes: Buyouts, schedules, and more

May 20, 2011, 10:32 PM EDT

Jack Swarbrick

It was only a matter of time before somebody did a public search of Notre Dame’s tax records and found out just how much Charlie Weis actually got paid to walk away from Notre Dame with six years left on his ten-year contract extension.

Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune was the first to do the digging, and the number he uncovered was certainly a big one — with Weis getting paid $6,638,403 as a “termination payment,” after Weis was relieved from his duties after the 2009 football season.

The official wording on Notre Dame’s Form 990 tax return:

“Termination payment of $6,638,403 was made during the reporting period to Charles J. Weis under a separation agreement that includes much smaller annual payments through December, 2015.”

The dollar amount made waves across the internet today with main-stream media members and anonymous message-board posters alike taking some type of pleasure in an odd sort of gallows humor, as if Weis was somehow better off getting the severance payment than the six-years left on his deal. A deal that for the longest time was just assumed to be guaranteed, with numbers like $18-$20 million being thrown around by major media outlets as the cost of firing Weis back when he was on the Irish hot seat.

No doubt, the seven-figure check the Irish cut to Weis certainly hurt the bottom line (and supposedly isn’t completely over), but that’s the price of doing business with high-level executives, which is certainly something that the head coach of Notre Dame can qualify as.

If you have any sort of animosity, direct it at former athletic director Kevin White, who negotiated an unprecedented extension midway through the debut season of a first-year head coach.

***

If you’re looking for required reading, head over to the Notre Dame student newspaper, where Douglas Farmer, the Editor-in-Chief of the Observer, got an exclusive sit-down interview with athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Swarbrick was incredibly candid about a ton of hot-button issues, including a revamped — and much more difficult — football schedule, the potential for a Notre Dame Network, the conference realignment that almost swallowed the Irish, and the demands on his time.

Here’s the greatest hits if you’re too lazy to click over and read:

On toughening the football schedule:

If you’re going to be independent, if you’re going to give yourself the flexibility of building your own schedule, you have to embrace that. You have to try and build one that’s really good. I also think that if one assumes that the current BCS format remains in its current form or something like it, it’s really incumbent on Notre Dame to be able to make the case at the end of the year that it’s played the toughest schedule in the country, because there will be a strong presumption in favor of the SEC champ, the Big Ten champ, the Pac-12 champ, or the Big 12 champ to be in that championship game. If we want to be there, we better be able to make the argument that no one in the country played a tougher schedule, and so that’s how we’re going to build them.

On the potential for a Notre Dame Network:

We are very focused on building our digital media capacity. It’ll probably take a slightly different form because we work with a different set of assets than Texas. I think that Texas’ model is a great one; I think they’ll be hugely successful. But it is based on the remarkable passion for that school in a geographic area, so it fits over a cable footprint. I don’t have any market like that. I have interest everywhere, but not a concentration of it in one place. And so our opportunities will really come as broadband delivery increases and as you all are consuming media on a more content-by-content basis rather than a network basis. So as those two things evolve, that’s really going to play to Notre Dame’s favor, and what we want to do is position ourselves to take full advantage of it. So as broadband delivery on an a la carte basis, if you will, becomes the future of media, Notre Dame’s going to be really well-positioned.

On the conference realignment that reshaped the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Big 12:

I was consumed by it. I spent all my time it. The staff understood — it’s like the football search. When you make a change in football coach, you get with your senior staff and you say, ‘I’m out of here for a while. I have to put all my energy on this.’ Conference expansion was a lot like that. We had to stay very engaged. We had to make sure we understood what was going on, we had to conduct an internal evaluation to reaffirm our priorities, and so we worked on that every day.

This is incredibly interesting stuff and a great job by Farmer and the Observer. If there’s something that doesn’t surprise me, but confirms a lot of what I heard when it was happening, it’s that Swarbrick was one of the leading voices during Jim Delany’s potential Big Ten power-play, which very nearly changed the face of college football as we know it. Some people discounted Swarbrick’s role in all of this, but it’s pretty clear from his comments that he was far more involved than many people realized.

***

It’s that time of year again… Yep, it’s “Watch List” season, and Braxston Cave is the first of (potentially) many Irish names to find themselves on one.

The 42-man list (which is listed in its entirety here) includes only David Molk from the Irish’s upcoming schedule. It’s a good honor for Cave, who was singled out repeatedly by head coach Brian Kelly for his improvements throughout the season and spring practice.

***

Lastly, a special bit of congratulations to all the seniors at Notre Dame celebrating their graduation. It feels like yesterday (or maybe, the day before yesterday) when I was complaining about the cheesy license plate holder gift, trying to talk my parents into skipping my Business ceremony, and feeling really hung-over after a long week of partying. It’s a great celebration for families and students, the culmination of four great years in South Bend.

Now let me beat your parents to it: Go get a job…

  1. brendanunderscoreg - May 20, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    Nice article at The Observer. Almost everyone agrees that Brian Kelly is the right man for the job but it’s hardly mentioned that Swarbrick is, also.

    Keith, was hoping you might do an article on Dick Ebersol leaving NBC Sports and the potential impact it could have on ND getting it’s contract renewed. I think everyone agrees that if ND just wins then the contract will take care of itself. Still, with Ebersol leaving (and ND’s connections to NBC with him) I’d be curious to hear your take on the potential future of the relationship.

  2. danno27 - May 21, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    Yeah Keith, why don’t you write about your odds of having a job with NBC in 5 years?

    • danno27 - May 23, 2011 at 4:06 PM

      Holy crap, that’s a lot of thumbs down. Clearly you all didn’t understand me – what I meant is that it’s not real feasible for KA to write about the future of NBC and Notre Dame when he’s basically going to be discussing whether he thinks he’ll be on NBC’s payroll. If they get rid of the television deal, they’re not likely to keep the blog.

      • brendanunderscoreg - May 23, 2011 at 6:27 PM

        i caught what you meant. made me feel like a dumba$$, though, because i seriously hadn’t thought of that until i read your comment. ha!

      • danno27 - May 24, 2011 at 8:18 AM

        @brendan: thanks dude. I mean, if it weren’t for that issue, Keith would be ideal for that sort of story. I agree with you though – win and there will be another contract.

  3. ernestbynershands - May 21, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    The best thing to come out of South Bend is an empty bus.

  4. 1notredamefan - May 22, 2011 at 8:27 AM

    “Quote:
    Originally Posted by Whiskeyjack View Post
    Thank you, Kevin White. …

    No one bears more responsibility for the last ~15 years of mediocrity than White.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Whiskeyjack View Post
    I propose that all animosity normally directed at Davie, Willingham, and Weis henceforth be directed at Kevin White.
    Wrong guy on two both counts.

    Mike Wadsworth hired Bob Davie. Kevin White who wasn’t hired until 2000 fired Davie.

    Mike Wadsworth may or may not have fired* Lou Holtz but definitely didn’t help.

    The man who bears responsibility for the last 15 years of football mediocrity is the man who hired Wadsworth and White, pushed Holtz out the door, and insisted on hiring Willingham, Edward Malloy, C.S.C who became ND’s President in 1986.

    Malloy strove to make ND into an Ivy League school. He succeeded in doing so in many areas including academics, diversity, endowment, faculty upgrades, building program, almost succeeded into turning the football program into Ivy League caliber.

    Three times in ND history the ND President has been troubled by a “too” popular ND football team and a “too” popular ND football coach. Each time the ND President was relatively new at his job, each time a legendary coach was replaced with one lacking experience and the program was “de-emphasized”, each time with damaging success.

    In 1931 Father O’Donnell was in this third year as ND’s President when Rockne was killed in an airplane crash. A tragic loss and a solution to a dilemna to the rookie prez. Rockne had flirted with leaving ND a number of times. There was a considerable friction between the school and the coach over player academic qualifications, public relations. and who was running the show. The Administration was not at all pleased with the media’s mention of “Knute Rockne’s Notre Dame” they would have preferred “Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne”. The Coach was bigger than the school.

    Rockne died and ND promoted ND Assistant Coach Heartley Hunk Anderson. A former All-American under Rockne at ND. Heartley was Head Coach for St Louis University Football in 1927 and 1928 going 5-5 and 4-4-1. When Heartley became Head Coach he found the team smaller as several players were no enrolled and scholarships were cut. Anderson goes 6-2-1, 7-2-0, and then falls to 3-5-1 as his depleted team only scores 32 points in 9 games. The 1933 defense only allowed 80 points less than 9 points a game. Anderson found out he was fired when a reporter told him ND had already signed Elmer Layden to replace him.

    In the late 40’s “Frank Leahy’s Notre Dame” went undefeated for 4 straight years. Like Rockne the stress of the job had taken a toll on Leahy’s health and he asked for a medical leave of absence. The ND President, Theodore Hesburgh, in his second year as President said, “No”.

    ND hired another assistant who was also a former ND All-American under the guy he replaced, Terry Brennan. Similar story as Rockne/Anderson. Again come the cuts. Brennan goes 9-1, 8-2, then falls to 2-8. Bounces back to 7-3 then is fired after 6-4.

    Hesburgh doesn’t hire another rookie he brings in a pro coach who had won the NFL Coach of the Year Award. Kuharick was another ND football standout who played under Layden. ND’s slide continues as Kuharich teams never win more than 5 games despite sending a bunch of players to the NFL.

    In ’63 Hesburgh interviews Northwestern’s Ara Parshegian while a flock of reporters wait outside his office. When Ara walks out, the reporters congratulate him but Parshegian advises that he’s NOT the coach of Notre Dame. Parshegian had informed Hesburgh of things ND had to do to once again compete with the elite. Hesburgh said no and Ara went home. A few days later ND announced Parshegian as the new head coach.

    Devine was the first “replacement” coach to follow a legend at ND and do well. But those who remember him recall he was chided by ND fans for not having Ara’s charisma and keeping a lower profile.

    When Devine retired, Father Hesburgh didn’t see the need for an experienced major college football coach and opted for the legendary high school coach Gerry Faust. Once again proving that Notre Dame is NOT the place for On the Job Training.

    After the Faust years when nobody said, “Gerry Faust’s Notre Dame” the Administration once again heeded the outcry of the alumni and hired a experienced, proven winner in Lou Holtz.

    Within a year Father Hesburgh retired and Edward “Monk” Malloy became ND’s President. Friction returned between the Administration and the football program as the football team moved up the rankings. Vinny Cerrato recruited boatloads of “5 Star” caliber players to ND not all of whom were viewed with equal enthusiasm by the Adminstration. ND’s only experience with Prop 48 student athletes was during Holtz early years. Eventually Cerrato was squeezed out.

    **** Rosenthal who was hired as ND AD in 1987 retired in 1995. President Malloy hired Mike Wadsworth as AD. Wadsworth was also a former ND football player who played in the CFL than later became Canada’s Ambassador to Ireland. Wadsworth along with ND V.P. Father Beauchamp, Father Malloy’s right hand man were now running the football program. Where Holtz used to “meet” with AD Rosenthal, he now “reported” to Wadsworth and Beauchamp. Anyone who’s dealt with corporate politics or university politics knows that drill. Once again the ND Administration was asserting this isn’t “The Head Coach’s Notre Dame”.

    Holtz now retires with health issues (Rockne and Leahy) or is fired depending upon who you talk to. Here’s an interesting quote off The Wadsworth Family In America copyrighted website

    Mike Wadsworth ND Athletic Director

    Quote:
    … Never a stranger to controversy, Wadsworth fired Lou Holtz and hired defensive coach Bob Davie who proved to be a bust. By the time he resigned in February 2000 Wadsworth had pretty much overstayed his welcome at the Golden Dome. …

    Enter Bob Davie, the bungling of the Moore termination and lawsuit,, and mediocrity on and off the field.

    Wadsworth retired in 2000 and Kevin White became Monk Malloy henchman.

    Note that while the football program went on a downward spiral and stayed there during the Malloy reign, Olympic Sports blossomed. Women’s soccer, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, hockey, fencing, and lacrosse among others became highly competitive and won several championships. But no one referred to “Muffet MaGraw’s Notre Dame” or Chris Petrucelli’s Notre Dame”.

    Kevin White was NOT the party responsible for the football programs mediocrity, he was hired by Edward Malloy and did his bidding until The Board of Trustees and Father Jenkins took over.” Originally posted by BGIF over at Irish Envy.

    • bernhtp - May 23, 2011 at 5:28 PM

      This comports with my understanding of the history from both personal observation and from those knowledgeable. There’s often been a tension between the identity of Notre Dame as a football powerhouse and that of an elite academic institution. Some administrations at different times have dealt with this tension better than others. It’s clear that the current administration has come to terms with it; they clearly have made a serious commitment to reestablishing ND as a premier football program while simultaneously further elevating the academic side.

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