Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prognosis Negative | by Pat

There isn't much to rehash in ND's ugly 27-22 loss to Pitt this past Saturday. It featured many of the same issues that have become all too familiar lately: a running game that disappeared, curious play calling, lackluster defense, questionable interpretations of "indisputable" by the replay officials, some amazing plays from Golden Tate, and ultimately a game that came down to the final drive, this time with ND coming out on the losing side of the ledger. And as the game wound down to the unsatisfying conclusion, Brent Musburger accurately noted that with the loss "the long knives are now out for Charlie Weis".

Out they are as no one in the media (and, to be fair, any ND message board) can resist chiming in on Charlie's future and a possible ND coaching search. From official calls for his job to lists of potential replacements to the always fun and rarely accurate "my sources say" types, it's only the beginning of the media crap storm that will dominate ND-related news the next few weeks, to say nothing of the inevitable brainless op-eds from clueless outsiders on how ND should run the football program and to-be-expected reports of people mentioned as possible candidates suddenly getting contract extensions at their current job. (And as a reminder, when it comes to coaching searches, it ain't over, 'til it's over.)

In the meantime, ND is offering little to no chum to the shark-infested waters begging for an official proclamation.

Q. Charlie, one dreaded big-picture question from me. To your knowledge, has a decision been made with regards to 2010 for your future?

COACH WEIS: Oh, no. I don't think that, you know, that any decision has been made because I probably would know, you know. And I don't know. So with that being said, you know, full speed ahead. That's full speed ahead with UConn, then full speed ahead to Stanford and full speed ahead to going on the road recruiting and that is exactly the way we're approaching it.
And yet, while Swarbrick is offering up generic AD-speak like the following...
"It's not like you don't evaluate during the year; you evaluate all year. But my practice is to make sure I've got the full season's worth of information and then conclude the evaluation."
...it's hard not to read too much in to quotes like this...
"Let's let it finish out," Swarbrick said Sunday. "We said at the beginning of the season that we wanted to be in contention for and in the discussion of the (Bowl Championship Series) bowls, and for a while we were. But we didn't stay in contention as long as any of us would have liked.
...and this.
"I want to be clear: This has nothing to do with Notre Dame saying, 'Oh, gosh, given our resources it's [Charlie's buyout] not a factor.' That's not why it's not a factor. It's not a factor because there are other things more important relating to our goals for the program and the experience of the student-athletes."
So what does it all mean? It means it is extremely likely that another Notre Dame coach, an alum who clearly loves the University nonetheless, has failed and will be fired. Granted, nothing is official and there are still two regular season games left to be played, but those last two statements from Swarbrick are hard to read any other way. And when you add in the rumors that ND did some cursory looking around at the end of the 2008 season before deciding to bring Charlie back, his chances of returning in 2010 realistically seem slim. If the expected does come to pass, this will be the third straight failed coach for Notre Dame, an unprecendented streak in the long and cyclical history of the program. This current nadir has lasted longer than any previous one and with the '00s coming to a close, for the first time since the AP poll started in 1936, ND football will see a decade come and go without finishing a single season in the AP Top 5. Whatever decisions are made over the next few weeks, there have rarely been more important ones made concerning the future of ND football.