Friday, June 27, 2008

Eyes On A Foe: Scapegoat Wanted Inquire Within

Ever since Kevin White tucked his tail between his legs and fled South Bend for the AD job at Duke, the Irish are still without a person to sign Charlie Weis’ paychecks. It’s a strong indication of how much times have changed. In the past, candidates would have been jumping out of the woodwork for the opportunity to head Notre Dame Athletics. Nowadays, it seems the Domers are waiting for the first person to call back, and the phone isn’t ringing.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise, and maybe they should have viewed their earlier coaching search as a bad omen. They failed to land Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer, and ended up digging deeper than expected, before Charlie Weis' name was called. Not that I can ridicule them for that, considering that back in 2000, Pete Carroll wasn’t the first choice for USC, but happened to be one of the few willing to accept the position. But the difference between Weis and Carroll has made the Notre Dame AD search a little more difficult.

Pete Carroll came out of the box strong, and continued to roll as the years progressed. Weis had success, with Willingham’s leftovers, before bringing the Irish to one of the lowest points in their proud history. With a positive outlook, an AD search is swift. But as it stands, no one is readily jumping up to be Charlie’s boss. It speaks volumes that White fled one of the most prestigious programs in America to lead the athletics at Duke, of all places. You can have your football team go 3-9 at Duke, without feeling any pressure or having anyone look twice. But 3-9 at Notre Dame, with your signature endorsed on the coach’s paycheck, and you’re the scapegoat.

Anyone can confidently join the Notre Dame staff, knowing they will not be responsible for the hiring of Weis. But as the new sheriff in town, and if failure continues, you bear the burden of firing him and having the University eat his contract. If this occurs, you’re also in charge of a new coaching search, when you already know that no one wants that job. Which money hungry X’s and O’s man still finds the Notre Dame coaching job attractive enough to willfully dive into the pressure cooker? Rich Rodriguez is on a slow boil in Michigan, so he won't be available.

And then there’s the commitment with NBC, who recently extended their contract with the Irish to run through 2015. NBC won’t be willing to tolerate many losing seasons and poor ratings for long. The contract is executed, but if losing becomes the Irish way, the new head man would have to consistently check the caller ID, and treat NBC execs as he would a telemarketer.

The function of the Notre Dame athletic director is to continue the marketing of his product. In a sense, as it stands right now, it would be like trying to sell Atari game systems in this age of PS3. At one time, they owned the market, but now the others have passed them by. And take it from a Trojans fan, who suffered through the misery of the 90s. If you don’t stop the slide now, and manage to fall too deep, the climb back to the top can be very long and painful. Notre Dame is not a place where one would likely choose to accept a new position of darkness, because it's a very tall reach to grasp a glimpse of light. Is an extended AD search surprising? No. Big names have always dreamt of robbing the Irish of their riches, but no one wants to get caught holding the bag.

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