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Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Next Pete Gillen?

Fighting Irish fans had better hope not.

Notre Dame inked head football coach Charlie Weis to a 10-year deal that expires in 2015. After serving as offensive coordinator for New England's three Super Bowl teams, Weis signed a five-year deal before the beginning of this football season. Because in seven games he's instilled hope in the N.D. faithful that he can help wake up the echoes of past greatness, he was rewarded with a long-term deal.

Time, of course, will tell whether the Irish did the right thing. It could well be that Notre Dame has found the next Ara Parseghian. Heck, they'd settle for the next Dan Devine or Lou Holtz, both of whom won national titles at Notre Dame. They're certainly not getting Gerry Faust.

But you'll recall Gillen as the wunderkind Xavier coach who went to UVA with all sorts of high expectations, got a ten-year contract, and then failed to get the Hoos out of the ACC's second division in hoops. So bad was Gillen's plight that UVA bought him out of his contract with many years to go after last season, as it was clear that Gillen had not done for the Hoo hoop program what the faithful had thought he could. When signed to his long-term deal, some thought that he could rekindle the days when Ralph Sampson and friends went to the Final Four. Instead, his Hoos played like they were Delilah.

For Irish fans, there are many factors that make the comparison a bad one. First, Notre Dame doesn't play in a grueling football conference the way Virginia plays in a very tough hoops conference. The Irish are independents, and they get to pick their schedule. I've blogged on that before, and I'm convinced that Weis will pick the right blend of sure wins, challenging wins and very tough games to make the blue and gold a perennial contender. Second, Notre Dame's recruiting challenges, if anything, are as tough as Gillen's were, but for different reasons. Now, Gillen did have to go up against Duke, Carolina, Maryland and Wake, but Weis has some pretty stringent academic requirements at his school, far more stringent than say, Florida State's or Oklahoma's. That said, he can counterbalance those with the Notre Dame mystique; still, Notre Dame isn't for everyone. Third, Weis's pedigree is different. On the one hand, he hadn't been a head coach before he got to South Bend. On the other hand, he was an integral part of a hugely successful pro team in a time where parity is used much more frequently than dynasty. If you believe that winning begets winning, you'll think that Weis has a better edge than Gillen, who, while successful, didn't win at the level that Weis did. It's really and applies and oranges comparison.

Still, a ten-year commitment based on seven games is a huge one, and Notre Dame is making a big bet. They have to like what they see, but the ultimate proof will be several years down the road, when Weis's recruits become more entrenched (or should become more entrenched). The records of teams in 2007, 2008 and beyond will tell all college football fans whether this signing was a wise one.

It's also the most lucrative contract in all of college football. While that fact might make the Pete Carolls and Mack Browns jealous, at least for a while, it bodes well for them too. As Weis gets more money, so will they, and that, in turn, is good for all head coaches (and, presumably, the coordinators at the elite football schools). Whether Weis earns that money will be borne out by the results in 2008 and beyond. To have earned it, Notre Dame should be part of the BCS Championship conversation in the pre-season almost perenially and play in one of the elite bowl games almost every year as well.

And, in one or two of the ten years, win a national championship.

The echoes that all college football fans are hearing this morning are not the echoes of thunderous applause for the Rockne, Parseghian, Devine and Holtz teams, but, rather, the echoes of the change hitting the cash register at the Notre Dame Athletic Department.

At least for now.

Is Charlie Weis another Knute Rockne?

Or another Pete Gillen?

Or somewhere in between?


Blogger Temple Football Forever said...

Pete Gillen is correct.
Maybe Al Golden should think about this story before he ever decides to leave Temple.

10:49 PM  

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