Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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62 OCT. 28, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I f I can make it there, I can make it anywhere," sang Frank Sinatra many years ago of New York City. When it comes to the head coach of Notre Dame's football program, there is an inverse corollary: If you don't make it here, you're probably not going to make it anywhere. Charlie Weis became the most recent example when he was fired by Kansas Sept. 28 af- ter compiling a 6-22 record. Still, combine the reported l o n g - te r m pay f ro m No t re Dame through December 2015 with the severance from Kan- sas, and Weis could be among the five (certainly 10) top-paid college coaches in 2015, any- where from $4.6 to nearly $5 million, depending on what figures you review. Brian Kelly's three predecessors at Notre Dame — Bob Davie (1997-2001), Tyrone Willingham (2002-04) and Weis (2005-09) — have combined for a 25-80 ledger (.238 winning percentage) since their departures, although, in fairness, they did not inherit ideal situations. Willingham, now on the College Football Playoff selection committee, was 11-37 at the University of Wash- i n g to n f ro m 2 0 0 5 - 0 8, e n d i n g h i s coaching days with an 0-12 mark his final season. Entering the weekend of Oct. 4, Davie was 8-21 at New Mexico, although the 4-9 and 3-9 records his first two sea- sons don't tell the whole tale of some positives achieved at what has been a football wasteland. All three averaged exactly seven wins per season during their time at Notre Dame, acceptable at many places, but reviled with the Irish. Davie was good with X's and O's but was thrust into a chair he was not primed to handle as a first-time head coach. Willingham had become com- placent and lacked the needed fire in the belly. Weis was the classic lieu- tenant who was good at carrying out orders but was out of his element as the field general directing the overall operation. They continued the pattern of former Notre Dame head coaches never get- ting their football legs underneath them again as the boss. • Hunk Anderson (1931-33) received a second chance at North Carolina State, but he was ousted again after three sea- sons with an 11-17-1 mark, including 3-7 in his final one. • Joe Kuharich (1959-62) bolted on his own to his NFL wheelhouse, where he ended up under .500 four of his five seasons at Philadelphia, capped by a 2-12 mark in 1968. • Gerry Faust (1981-85) gave it a good nine-year try at Akron, where he had three winning seasons before a 1-10 mark in 1994 ended his coaching jour- ney there at 43-53-3. Maybe just as notable as what this job can do to you is what happened with the extremely successful coaches after stepping down. Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-53) had four national titles and seven unbeaten seasons … but never coached again be- yond age 45. Ara Parseghian (1964-74) was only 51 when he stepped down for- ever — two years younger than what Kelly will turn Oct. 25. Dan Devine (1975-80) was still a rela- tively spry 56-year-old when he opted to never coach again. Elmer Layden (1934-40) had a better winning percentage here than national title win- ners Devine and Lou Holtz (1986-96) but was done forever with coaching at 37. Terry Brennan (1954-58) had three top-10 finishes in five years and a top-20 showing in his fifth, but never coached be- yond 30 after he was axed. Even Lou Holtz left South Carolina rather ingloriously a decade ago after finishing his final three seasons with 5-7, 5-7 and 6-5 records. The Notre Dame job can ex- haust every pore of one's be- ing, including academic hearing cases, which is what has made the Irish fortunate to have Kelly sitting in that chair. There aren't many coaches whose résumé includes 12-0 regular- season finishes within four years at two different schools. Objectively and realistically, look at who else has such a pedigree that could fit in here now, or try to form a "succes- sor list" should Kelly opt to fly the coop some day. The Sabans, Meyers and Stoops of the world aren't coming. Art Briles is ensconced in the state of Texas, just as Jim Mora Jr. has been in the West Coast, and a Gus Malzahn is on his way to becoming an Auburn icon. It takes a special, experienced, hardened, proven individual. One doesn't have to agree with all Kelly does or says, but his track record provides continued support that he can excel as the boss in this pressure-cook- ing environment. As has been learned often, it's easy to do much worse, and not so easy to keep the ones you need. ✦ Charlie Weis is an example of a coach that struggled in the pressure- cooking environment of Notre Dame and at his next coaching stop. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦ LOU SOMOGYI ✦ OCT. 13, 2014 Notre Dame: If You Can't Make It Here … EDITOR'S NOTE: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football, and it was his mission in life to share it with others. Those of us at Blue & Gold Illustrated would like to continue to provide his wis- dom and unique perspective from his more than 37 years covering the Fighting Irish for this publication. "

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