You would think Charlie Weis was a god the way everyone has publicized the Fighting Irish’s recent surge of football success.
There hasn’t been this much media attention at Notre Dame since the movie premiere of Rudy. People have even begun to compare Brady Quinn to the likes of New England quarterback Tom Brady.
In fact, given the football program’s current 6-2 record, Notre Dame has awarded their new football mastermind with a deal worth between $30-40 million; an agreement that would keep Weis in South Bend through the 2015 season.
Though it seems probable that Notre Dame will win out and qualify for a BCS Bowl Game this season, one can’t help but remember Tyrone Willingham’s inaugural season as the Irish head coach.
In his first season with the Irish in 2002, Willingham proved to be the four leaf clover of the Irish program leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Gator Bowl.
In the process, Willingham became the only first-year coach in Notre Dame’s history to win 10 games in his initial campaign. However, Notre Dame school officials refused to offer a similar deal to the 51 year-old black head coach.
There’s no doubt that Notre Dame has reversed their recent plague of disappointing seasons. Weis has certainly played an influential role heading this once illustrious program to an impressive season thus far.
However, he isn’t deserving of all the credit and accolades he’s received from countless sports writers and football analysts across the country.
Nor does it warrant a 10 year deal worth such a large amount. Let’s not forget, these are Willingham’s talented recruits that Weis is coaching. In the past two years Coach Willingham has had 12 players selected in the NFL Draft. He developed cornerback Shane Walton into a first team consensus All-American, Notre Dame’s first since 1993.
But it was perhaps Willingham’s coaching presence off the field that had the biggest influence. As a team, the Irish finished with a record high grade-point average of 2.911 in the spring semester of 2002 before posting a 2.835 grade-point average in the fall of 2002.
In 2003, eight players earned a spot on the Dean’s List, while 50 achieved at least a “B” average.
When you compare Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis’ introductory seasons as head coach at Notre Dame, Willingham clearly has the slight edge.
Notre Dame’s strength of schedule under Willingham in 2002 was ranked 38. Notre Dame’s current strength of schedule under Weis is ranked 42. Willingham also achieved wins over four top 25 teams. Weis has only tallied up three.
The fact is that when Tyrone Willingham took over as head coach for the Irish, his duty was to revive a struggling football program. Charlie Weis is simply trying to maintain the foundation Willingham built. Until Weis personally recruits every player on Notre Dame’s roster the jury should remain out to lunch.
Morgan McDaniel is a sophomore architecture student from Detroit. He can be reached at email@example.com