The Jury Talks Back

12/7/2008

Irish eyes are colorblind — or not?

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunursa @ 5:28 am

Despite a second consecutive disappointing season, Notre Dame announced last week that football head coach Charlie Weis would be retained next year.  This decision has led to speculation of a double-standard.  Weis, who is white, has a 4-year winning percentage of .571 (28-21).  His predecessor, Tyrone Willingham, who is black, was fired after compiling a 3-year winning percentage of .583 (21-15).

According to Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, when Willingham was let go in 2004 the Fighting Irish cited his teams’ dismal efforts against archrival USC, poor showing against quality opponents, and the “lack of progress” of the program.

Yet in the past three years, Weis has lost to the Trojans by scores of 44-24, 38-0, and 38-3….  [I]n the past two years, Weis has one victory over a team with a winning record, Navy… [and] the Irish are 9-15 — the worst two-year record in school history.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Willingham did not complain about the apparent leniency offered to his successor.  (Several weeks ago the University of Washington announced that Willingham would be let go at the end of this season; the Huskies finished yesterday with a record of 0-12.  His subsequent tenure, however, cannot explain his earlier termination from Notre Dame.)

I frown upon knee-jerk cries of racism, and yet I admit to being perplexed at how Notre Dame can justify the respective decisions to remove Willingham and retain Weis.

9 Comments

  1. I don’t know if there is racism involved because I don’t know enough about the people that make these decisions for Notre Dame. I assume it’s the Catholic hierarchy at the school.

    However, my outsider’s opinion is that during Willingham’s tenure Notre Dame still believed it was a national recruiter and powerhouse. It enjoyed its own football contract with NBC and what seemed to be an unlimited number of quality national recruits, so Willingham’s record wasn’t acceptable when viewed from that perspective.

    Now that recruiting and wins have gone downhill in the past 8-10 years, the realization has set in that Notre Dame doesn’t have the resources to compete with the first tier football colleges. But since Weis is a likeable guy, a decent coach and a fair recruiter, I suspect Notre Dame’s hierarchy realizes that’s as good as it’s going to get at Notre Dame for now. And if the timeframes of their coaching stints had been reversed, it might be Willingham at Notre Dame now and Weis that would be long gone.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/7/2008 @ 10:08 am

  2. Those speculating about a double standard based on the respective races and won-loss records of Willingham and Weis are themselves using a double standard. There are innumerable factors which go into the selection of a coach, some of which are noted by DRJ.
    aunursa writes,

    “His subsequent tenure, however, cannot explain his earlier termination from Notre Dame.”

    Actually, perhaps Willingham’s subsequent record confirms what the powers at be saw in Willingham-a coach whose coaching and recruiting skills were about to decline or were in decline.
    By the way, take away Willingham’s 8-0 start at Notre Dame, he had, for the latter 2 and a third years a less that 50% winning record. Willingham’s won-loss record was even worse at the University of Washington.
    Weis’ won-loss record has been up and down and now appears to be heading back up.
    Hey, aunursa, I’m perplexed that the subject of race would even come up.

    Comment by Ira — 12/7/2008 @ 11:01 am

  3. Willingham didn’t have a 10 year contract with a $12 million buy out clause – Weis did.

    Comment by Perfect Sense — 12/7/2008 @ 12:25 pm

  4. ND fired Willingham for laziness and slipshod management of the program, specifically recruiting.

    Did y’all see how many scholarship seniors ND had last year? Five. Out of a possible 25, they had five. Ty’s last class was pathetically weak. He also, the year before, failed to sign a SINGLE offensive lineman.

    Further, his time spent on a university golf course as opposed to in the office, is the stuff of legend.

    The current coach’s capacity for work, to go along with his universally acclaimed excellent recruiting classes the past three years (#1 last year despite going 3-9!!!!), well mitigate any decision to retain him.

    Finally….in the ten + years Ty has been a head coach, he has failed to hire a minority co-ordinator. Not one. For the past two years, ND has filled both co-ordinator positions with African-Americans.

    Racism? In a pigs’ eye!

    I can cop to Notre Dame’s administrative ineptitude in several ways. Perhaps retaining Weis was a mistake (I believe it was) too. But to ascribe racism to the school is beyond ludicrous.

    Comment by Ed — 12/7/2008 @ 4:17 pm

  5. DRJ: However, my outsider’s opinion is that during Willingham’s tenure Notre Dame still believed it was a national recruiter and powerhouse. It enjoyed its own football contract with NBC and what seemed to be an unlimited number of quality national recruits, so Willingham’s record wasn’t acceptable when viewed from that perspective.

    Fair enough. Let’s compare Williamham to a couple of earlier Notre Dame coaches who led the Irish immediately following extended periods of national prominence.

    Gerry Faust took over in 1980, after Notre Dame had been national champions in 1973 and 1977 and played in eight New Year’s Day bowl games in the previous twelve years. Faust’s 3-year winning percentage was .544 (18-15-1) ; with a 7-5 campaign in his 4th season, Faust improved slightly to .554 (25-20-1), and wasn’t let go until after his 5th season.

    Under Lou Holtz Notre Dame had a record of 100-30-2 (.765), nine consecutive New Year’s Day bowl games, and the 1988 national title. Bob Davie followed Holtz, compiling a 3-year winning percentage of .568 (21-16) . Yet Davie was given a 4th (9-3) and then a 5th season (5-6) before he was fired.

    Thus Faust and Davie both coached while Notre Dame was considered a perennial national power. Both had 3-year records that were poorer than Willingham would have, and yet both enjoyed 4th (and 5th) opportunities to turn the program around.

    Comment by aunursa — 12/7/2008 @ 7:18 pm

  6. Haven’t the performance/grace periods for most coaches gotten shorter? It seems that way to me. Fans have always been quick to complain but I think new coaches were traditionally given a 4-5 year grace period with college administrators. In other words, they were given time to recruit and field a team with their own recruits, instead of a mixture of their own and the prior coach’s recruits. Today’s new coaches are expected to come in and produce in much less time.

    Comment by DRJ — 12/7/2008 @ 9:44 pm

  7. Willingham’s performance at Washington takes a lot of weight away from this argument. I couldn’t honestly say that I think he is a good coach at this point, which makes speculation about race much less significant. I believe Weis is not being fired entirely due to his contract, which I imagine the university regrets greatly. If the Kevin White, the AD that gave him the extension, was still at Notre Dame, I’d bet good money he would be getting the boot instead.

    Comment by Justin — 12/8/2008 @ 5:00 am

  8. About the grace periods, I think it’s yes and no. Nobody expects a coach to come in and go from bad to good in a year or two. I kind of hate to admit it, but Nick Saban has done an amazing job at Alabama in doing just that (maybe they started off decent, though).

    But, you do need to show consistent improvement. As a Miami fan, I was happy to see Larry Coker go, for example, because the team got worse every year he was the coach.

    Comment by Justin — 12/8/2008 @ 5:06 am

  9. I have a ND story. I remember back when I was trying to get an internship at an “alphabet” agency, the first question I was asked by the doctor was, “How do we, Notre Dame, get rid of Dan Devine? You did it at Green Bay.”

    Comment by PCD — 12/8/2008 @ 11:58 am

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