Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Summer Sit-Down | by Pat

It was around the 4th last year that Charlie Weis sat down with Lou Somogyi for a long off-season Q&A session. This year he did more of the same with Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.

The difference was while last year was more about the team and Charlie the coach, this year's version was more about Charlie the person. It really does fit in with the off-season theme we've witnessed so far from Charlie. In addition to reworking the depth chart and coaching staff in the wake of last year's disaster, Charlie has being undergoing a bit of a public perception makeover.

From his post-season autograph signing session to hanging with the team in the weight room in the early winter mornings to team dinners at his house to the Armed Forces tour of the Middle East to hitting the alumni club circuit to interviews like this, it appears that Charlie has been working to alter (repair?) how others perceive him and possibly even how he treats others. When is the last time that he has come across as contrite in an interview?

When Weis began this offseason of soul-searching, he sent a letter to Dr. Richard Pierce, a revered professor of history at Notre Dame who specializes in African American, urban and civil rights history and social and political protest. Weis wanted an idea of how he was perceived.

He got more than he could imagine.

Pierce relayed anecdotes from others about interactions with Weis. They talked -- "as colleagues at universities should," says Pierce -- about strengths and faults and finding ways to move on and move forward.

"Charlie didn't understand what got him in trouble were offhand comments and people's perceptions," Pierce says. "Those interactions you have with people -- be it the media, a campus police officer, a food service worker -- spread like a virus. And he had no way to combat it."

Maybe that's why after two straight BCS bowl appearances to begin his tenure at Notre Dame, one bad season raised bad feelings across campus. Or maybe those two BCS games simply hid something that was there from Day 1.

"I don't care that they said it, I care why they said it," Weis says. "If I said something to insult someone, I owe them an apology. I'm not a monster; I'm a husband and a father."
In addition to the main article, Hayes threw up a supplement with the rest of the quotes from the interview that didn't fit in the story. I really don't know what this season will bring for Charlie and Notre Dame football. But there is no denying that Charlie is working hard to correct the mistakes of last year, both on and off the field. Now, this doesn't mean we're going to see a new kinder, gentler Charlie at all times this coming season. He's still going to be brash at times and supremely confident.
"I'm not worried about job security," Weis says. "We're going to be good. This football team expects to be good."
But the fact that Charlie would let a prof on campus read him the riot act of how others perceive him is something that most Irish fans would have considered more than unlikely a year ago. It's very possible that this is nothing more than just another off-season fluff article and won't mean much when the going gets rough. On the other hand, this off-season could mark a notable transition in Charlie's continued evolution as a head coach. We'll find out this fall.