Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Season's Thanks | by Pete

Mr. Charlie Weis
Football Team -- Head Coach
University of Notre Dame
C113 Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear Charlie,

Thanks a lot. I know that right now you're probably dissecting tape, talking to recruits, or some other general coaching activity, and I know you're not reading a football blog. The mere fact that I assume Notre Dame's coach is actually spending most of his day doing coaching type-things just shows how far the program has come in just one short year.

But to reiterate, thanks, Charlie, thanks for this year. I'm a senior, and as such, I've had the luxury of witnessing the entirety of the Tyrone Willingham era. Yes, I bought into it all at 8-0, but I was a freshman, and I also bought into the "Dude, they never card" and "Seriously, she's really got a great personality" philosophy. But I was there when it all came crashing down, where we all felt duped by those eight wins, and I spent the next two years swallowing smug grins from opposing teams' fans and 30+ point losses two or three times every year.

Then you came onto the scene, you took the reins of a team that everyone said couldn't do anything, that everybody said didn't have the talent to compete, and you made them do lots of things, and this nothing team is six points, even a single fourth-down-stop versus USC from playing in the national title game. With Ty, we were a single fourth down stop from . . . well, we never had the chance to have a fourth down stop against them, so who knows what would have happened. Wouldn't have been good, I'm sure of that.

It's been an incredible year, and I think it's one that Notre Dame and college football fans across the country will remember for a long time. People aren't saying that nobody cares about Notre Dame anymore, and people aren't saying that Notre Dame can't keep up in college football anymore, and it turns out that talented players do want to go to Notre Dame...they just need a reason. Most, if not all, is due to you, Charlie. You get "it," and you've brought "it" back to where it belongs.

Thanks for giving the great players on this team a chance. You gave players like the Shark, Stovall, and Quinn the opportunity to show the world what they could do when given the opportunity, and they've risen to the occasion. Beyond the millions of dollars you've made them by not burying them under poor coaching schemes, you've got all of us believing that they're some of the best in the country. And they deserve that, because they are.

Thanks for teaching college football that you can win -- and not just "at any cost". You've reminded us time and time again to readjust our perspective, which is something most Notre Dame fans sorely needed. From keeping your promise to Montana to congratulating USC on a tough win (I still don't know how you managed to do that) to showing the respect deserved of Navy and their alma mater, you've gone a long way towards pushing college football back toward games and school pride, rather than boosters and kinesiology. College football is a better place because of it, so thanks for reminding us.

Thanks for making people respect Notre Dame again. When I used to wear my gear around, I would get looks of pity, people seeing Notre Dame as nowhere near its former self, a real fall from grace. Talks about the team during Christmas break would include questions like "Man, what happened this year?" and "There's such a thing as the Capital One Bowl? Really?" Nowadays, I get big grins and questions like, "Heck of a year, huh?" and "Do you think you can make a run next year?" Trust me, coming from near the center of Pennsylvania, this is greatly appreciated.

But most of all, thanks for making me feel for Notre Dame football again. During games like the 38-0 Michigan game, the 37-0 Florida State game, and (take your pick of one of) the 31-point losses to USC, I found myself in a similar position every game: seated on the bench, head in my hands, wondering how soon I can go home from this masochism. I stuck around to support the players, because they needed it more than ever, but those were some of my deepest and darkest days as a Notre Dame student, mainly because I stopped caring about the games. I went because I knew it was the right thing to do, but I didn't think about it that much. It's been two months since the USC game, and I still let out an audible groan whenever I picture that ball grazing past Wooden's arm into Jarrett's hands. I don't think I'll ever stop groaning, and in a weird way, that feels really good. I care again, along with countless others, and I owe that to you. Thanks.

When you first showed up at Notre Dame, you shocked the "molder of men" mindset by saying, "You're going to have a hardworking, intelligent, nasty football team." We've all seen the hard-working, the team is playing intelligently (yes, eleven men belong on the field), and by God, I'm comfortable calling this team nasty. Charlie, you've taught this team to expect to win, and you've given them every opportunity to do so.

I'm trying really hard to not be cheesy or get all warm fuzzy on you, so I'll just leave it at this: it's been an incredible year, and Notre Dame has made leaps and bounds as a football team, and the credit goes to you, Charlie. I'm not sure what will happen against Ohio State, they're a great team, but I'm resting easy knowing that Notre Dame can play with any team in the country, rather than dreading a possible embarrassment in front of a national audience. I owe that to you, Charlie.

In summary...thanks for making me hate the fact that I have to graduate before next season.


A Grateful Senior