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Ten years later, Davie heads back to the sidelines

Nov 16, 2011, 10:42 PM EDT

BOB DAVIE AP

Just shy of ten years from the day he was dismissed as the head coach of Notre Dame, Bob Davie will be heading back to the sidelines, accepting the head coaching position at New Mexico. Davie replaces Mike Locksley, who failed to last three seasons amidst a turbulent run in Albuquerque that included sexual harassment charges, fist-fights with assistant coaches, and 26 losses in 28 games.

Davie’s return ends a decade long sidebar where the former Irish coach went from in-over-his-head to talking-head, spending the last ten years becoming one of ESPN’s prized football analysts. That he’s landed at New Mexico — arguably one of the toughest spots in college football right now — is a testament to Davie’s desire to get back into coaching, and New Mexico’s potentially radioactive status in the eyes of other head coaching candidates.

In retrospect, the hiring of Davie at Notre Dame can only be seen as disastrous. Selected by the Irish administration over names like Dave Wannstedt and Gary Barnett (choices that very well could have been just as mediocre), Davie spent five seasons learning the ropes at a time when college football was in the midst of an arms race. After taking the Irish to a BCS bowl on the back of an opportunistic defense (also known as smoke) and an offense that didn’t make mistakes (better known as mirrors), Davie got a five-year contract extension, only to be fired a season later when the Irish stumbled to 5-6.

“I felt we were in a place that I could no longer say that we could actually stand up and say that we were putting together a program in place that could contend, if not win, the national championship,” athletic director Kevin White said. “I really believe we need to restart this thing.”

That restart is a process that’s still ongoing… a decade later.

Looking back at a slew of articles from the days after Davie’s firing takes you back to a far different time, but one with striking similarities. Even then, Irish fans thought they could lure Bob Stoops to South Bend, just a season off a national championship. Even then, Tom Coughlin — not a Super Bowl winning coach yet but a man with complete control of an NFL franchise — was seen as the perfect fit to many media members and Irish fans, even though the man had the Jacksonville Jaguars at his fingertips. (He even had a hand in hiring the secretaries.) And of course, who could forget the love affair known as Jon Gruden, Part One.

There’s no need to take people down that rabbit hole, but how it ends up isn’t pretty. In picking Davie, Notre Dame chose a first-year head coach at probably one of the most inopportune times to do so, sticking with the status quo when the game was changing around it.

In choosing George O’Leary, and then firing him because of inaccuracies on his resume, the Irish were forced to pick the second man who would say yes to the job, a far cry from Kevin White’s second choice for the job, as some inside the Irish program spun it.

But we come not to bury Davie, but to praise him. After five years in the Notre Dame pressure cooker, Davie got incredibly comfortable in the booth, able to provide viewers with enough Xs and Os amidst his football colloquialisms. He even got to a point where he was able to question other coaches clock management skills and playcalling abilities, deficiencies that once had Irish fans banging their collective heads against walls watching Davie struggle with the same things.

Again, this post isn’t to rip Davie, it’s to marvel at what’s to come for a man that’s been out of college football for ten years and is ready to re-enter a game that’s night and day different than the one he left. I for one am excited to see what Davie can do with the spotlight off of him and Notre Dame in the rear view mirror. It’s not Slippery Rock, but the once revered defensive coordinator will finally have a whistle back in his mouth as he gets set to coach some “footbaw.”

(Enjoy a greatest hits column from the old Blue-Gray Sky — the many faces of Bob Davie.)

  1. smurphdoggy29 - Nov 16, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    OK so I am prepared to set aside my instinctual feelings about Coach Davie and wish him well.

    Lets check back in 5 years to see what he has manufactured in the Desert.

    I wish him well and a modicum of success. He sure could coach defense

  2. papadec - Nov 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    Wellll, if he’s going to jump back in – following a 2-26 coach is probably the place to jump into. I wish him success.

  3. trbowman - Nov 16, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    Underrated coach, glad he’s back in the saddle! Ten years, but once you’re a coach the fire never dies.

    Boy, does he have his work cut out for him with that New Mexico job. LOL, ton of work to do there but he can get it done. Wish COACH Davie the best.

    • jomilly - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:31 AM

      How is he underrated? He took over a Lou Holtz team and accomplished little. He was the beginning of this ND 20 years of mediocre football. I like the guy, but maybe his niche is in the announcing booth. I dont have big expectations for his new job.

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 17, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    I guess he can’t do any worse than Locksley. If he goes 3-25, he might be looking at a nice extension and raise.

  5. dbldmr - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    True, but mediocre would be an unbelievable upgrade at UNM.

  6. nudeman - Nov 17, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Seems like a good guy and I hope he does well.
    I also hope he’s discovered the forward pass.

  7. akirish - Nov 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    Is this the Twilight Zone? The same group of posters that will hammer Kelly for a decision that turns out to be right, that attack a sophomore QB that has a winning record (better than Quinn or Clausen), are giving the architect of ND’s demise a pass and well wishes? Wow.

    • nudeman - Nov 17, 2011 at 12:24 PM

      Overstatement to call him the architect of their demise.

      Wasn’t a great head coach, but didn’t his tenure started at a time when the Administration tightened the screws on the program, wouldn’t allow things like early admissions and were completely inflexible on admitting borderline students?

      I know Jarret Payton wanted to go there, was a decent student at a respected Catholic HS in the Chicago area, his dad was named Walter, and HE couldn’t get in.

      So my point is I think anyone coming in at that time would have had problems.

      • 9irish - Nov 17, 2011 at 1:23 PM

        Agree fully….everybody forgets that. Not to mention the fact that Davie was skewered while he was the coach, too. Doesn’t mean you condemn the guy forever. I don’t get into the quarterbacking, internal issues very much….more time management, kicking FGs instead of throwing interceptions stuff that drives me crazy sometimes. But I always give them the credit for knowing a hell of alot more than I do.

  8. fitz79 - Nov 17, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Well I guess it’s time to forgive and forget when it comes to Bob Davie. I’ve never hated him as much as some ND fans. Never been a big proponent of his coaching skills or he lack there of either. He was clearly in over his head at ND. But I do wish him well in New Mexico. Lucky man, it’s a beautiful place by the way. Still though, I’m thankful we have Kelly. The right man for the job!

    • dbldmr - Nov 17, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      A beautiful place with some nice golf courses around also.

  9. runners00 - Nov 17, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    I want Coach Davie to succeed at New Mexico. Really. He didn’t do enough in South Bend, but it will be nice to see how he does someplace else.

  10. thefiesty1 - Nov 17, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    No expectations at New Mexico. If he manages to win 3 or 4 games a year, he’ll be fine. Some programs never win (consistently) no matter who the coach is.

  11. ndfanwabashman - Nov 17, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    One number that is larger than the number of wins this clown had was the number of NFL starters on his teams. Those teams were LOADED with talent and I sat around watching quarterback draw after quarterback draw. How in the world New Mexico thought he can win is beyond me. I guess if he doesn’t sexually harass anyone he is a step up from the current regime but that’s about the best case scenario.

  12. danno27 - Nov 17, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Thanks for the memories revisited, KA.

    In terms of Davie, all I can say is that his win loss percentage at ND was 71 %. What a beeyatch, amiright Ty… Charlie….? ….

    Brian?

    • 9irish - Nov 18, 2011 at 12:12 AM

      was it really that high? I was kind of busy during his tenure…I guess they had some kick ass seasons and some that were, well, not so good….seems to be a trend. They were always close, I thought….but, water under the bridge.

  13. snark95 - Nov 18, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    Here in Albuquerque, the hiring of Davie is big news. I’ve had lots of calls today “letting me know”, probably because everyone knows that I’m an ND Grad. But the good news for Davie is that the expectations out of Lobo Land are really quite low…ESPECIALLY after the Lockly era. This is not Notre Dame, and the pressure to win 13 out of 13 is just not here. Sure that would be nice, but as long as Davie beats New Mexico State and wins 6 games a year (starting in year two or three), he’ll have a job forever. If he ever manages to beat Boise State, they’ll name the stadium after him. It will be cool to see an ex-ND coach (regardless of record) frequenting the Frontier restaurant for breakfast burritos and sweet rolls. This might mean that I actually have to become a Lobo fan again.

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