Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Well, Notre Dame took a savage beating at home this Saturday. Inevitably, the national media is now tearing down the monster that they built. Notre Dame was overrated. Who would have thought that, if the ones doing the rating didn't? I don't know whether the Irish are a worse football team than the Wolverines. Obviously on Saturday, an inspired and well prepared Michigan squad entered Notre Dame Stadium and embarrassed a flat, uninspired team.

Whether Notre Dame could have beaten Michigan if they played with the same emotion they showed against Penn St. or not, and whether Notre Dame had a hangover from the home opener or not are questions that might be worth discussing, but I am not in the frame of mind for that speculation tonight. I'm interested to see how Michigan comes out to play this week. If they come out flat and lay an egg, what will their recent victory tell us. Will Notre Dame look worse, or will Michigan be regarded as a good team that caught ND at the right time? Time will tell.

I had intended to write at length about the questions in the paragraph above, but then a friend (a cynical Penn St. fan) emailed me this story. After one season and two games, apparently it's RIP Charlie Weis. His legend has been declared legally dead. Obviously, if you read the piece, you'll get the impression that the author is a Tyrone Willingham fan. I liked Tyrone Willingham. I think he's a good guy with a strong commitment to the high academic standards the University of Notre Dame has for its student athletes. He was not a wartime consigliere, though.

Among some of my personal favorite Ty moments: the green jersey game against mighty Boston College, the hit or miss emphasis on regionalization and the look on his face when the breaks beat the boys and the game slipped away. First and foremost, unless you are a BC fan or a moron (and alas, the two conditions often flow together like the Allegheny and Monongahela to form an Ohio of ignorance with Chestnut Hill as its Steel City), you know that Notre Dame and Boston College are not rivals. Notre Dame's rivals are USC, Michigan, Michigan St and Purdue. BC sold out the Big East to go from Big East 3 to ACC 5. But they maintained the illustrious position in the Come To Boise And See Our Blue Field Bowl. Notre Dame wears green jerseys for USC or Michigan, not middle of the pack ACC teams. Good call on the green jerseys, Ty. Way to make an average game into a huge victory for BC. No wonder the echoes stayed asleep and no thunder shook down.

Then there was his emphasis on regionalization. Ty thought that since ND recruited on a national stage, players from the area in which they played road games would play better closer to their homes. It worked against Tennessee, when he started little used WR and Tennessee native Matt Shelton who caught 2 touchdowns. It blew up on him when he started Mike Richardson, a little used cornerback against USC in LA, his hometown. USC's receivers beat poor Mike like the CHB beat the Curse of the Bambino. In case you care, Mike Richardson has earned his way back into the starting lineup, and was not victimized for any of Mario Manningham's long TD receptions this past week.

Finally, there was the look of utter mystification that would descend on his face when Tyler Palko set a record by throwing 5 TD passes against the Irish. Or the Gator Bowl, when NC State crushed the Irish. Or when Pat Dillingham threw a TD pass to a BC linebacker in the infamous green jersey game I mentioned.

I linked to the article because I found it fascinating and maddening. The tone of the article suggests that Charlie Weis has been overrated and overhyped because he did little more than surprise some overrated teams with Ty Willingham's recruits. Maybe Tyrone Willingham should have been given a 5 years to succeed like his predecessor, Bob Davies. Maybe it was racial, maybe it had to do with the fact that he was never the first choice, but he was stable and his resume was honest (in short, not George O'Leary of the 13 days). I personally think the latter option led to the short window. If he'd won more consistently, he'd still be at Notre Dame. And it's not like Washington is contending in the PAC 10.

As for Charlie Weis winning with a team largely recruited by Tyrone Willingham, consider this. When Tyrone Willingham signed on to coach Notre Dame, he took over a program with no players and built a winner. Or he had the best start since Ara with Bob Davies players, but there is no mention of that in Charlie Weis' requiem. And this was a 26 point loss to Michigan, but that still puts him 4 26 point losses behind Ty for his career. Bob Davies only had one such loss in his career.

Another interesting point raised in the article is that Charlie Weis beat Navy and Washington last season. So he did, but Navy was a bowl team last year. And if we look back at Tyrone Willingham's record, he was undefeated against Navy and Washington, but Pittsburgh and BYU gave him fits. Weis is undefeated against those teams too. And last October, Weis put his team in a position they haven't been in since the Bob Davies era. They fought the number one team to the brink, and USC needed a TD on the game's final play to win. Ty managed to lose to USC all three times in his tenure. And they weren't close losses, either. And he dropped all three games to the not so mighty Eagles of BC.

It might not sound like it from what I've written above, but I liked Ty Willingham. I really did. But I thought he needed to go. He brought class and stability to the program when they needed it after the George O'Leary mess. But he didn't win, and as Herm Edwards says, you play the games to win. Charlie Weis has brought the Irish to more BCS bowls than Ty Willingham. I think he can weather at least one more loss like this before he gets the gate.

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