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Willingham's failure doesn't make Weis better

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Here's what Notre Dame football fans don't seem to comprehend: 1. I've never stated that Tyrone Willingham was a great (or even good) coach; 2. I never blasted Notre Dame for firing Tyrone Willingham; 3. My problem with Charlie Weis and Notre Dame is the premature, undeserved lifetime contract he received after proving nothing and the reach-around Notre Dame and Weis received from most of the media during his first season.

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I've written two columns spelling out my position on the Great Weis Hope. Here and here. Notre Dame fans are having trouble grasping either column. They somehow think that Willingham's failure at Washington justifies giving Weis a record contract at Notre Dame. And they also believe that Willingham's demise nullifies the truths expressed in my previous columns about the Great Weis Hope. Sorry, Charlie. Even with the Irish sitting at 5-2, every word in those columns still rings true. Notre Dame and a hefty percentage of the sports media overreacted to Weis' hot start, and Weis' complexion played a role in the overreaction. As of today, we have little evidence that Weis is a better college football coach than Willingham. Notre Dame fans are repeating the same mistake they made in 2005 when the school overpaid for Weis. They're turning conceited based on a glossy record compiled against weak competition. San Diego State, Michigan, Purdue, Stanford and Washington — ND's victims — have a combined record of 9-32. Only Stanford, 4-4, has more than two victories. I'm not saying that the Irish haven't made progress. Hell, a year ago the Great Weis Hope finished 3-9 and lost back-to-back games to Navy and Air Force. Although, if you listen to Notre Dame fans, those losses, like all ND losses under Weis, were a byproduct of Weis having to play with Willingham's pathetic recruits. You know, Navy and Air Force routinely pluck four- and five-star recruits from across the country. A great coaching mind like Weis' couldn't be expected to overcome ND's obvious talent deficiency against the service academies. I'm losing focus. Has The Great Weis Hope so lowered expectations at Notre Dame that a 5-2 team incapable of cracking the top 25 is worthy of celebration and I-told-you-so e-mails?

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Man, I thought Weis was supposed to be the equal of Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll. Charlie claimed he'd never get outcoached, he'd never lose to Michigan State again and that after his first 5-2 start every team in the NFL was ready to fire its coach and land the offensive coordinator who carried Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to the Super Bowl. What happened to that Charlie? Stoops won a national championship in his second season at Oklahoma. Carroll won titles in his third and fourth seasons. Notre Dame fans need to get over their fixation on Tyrone Willingham. He's not their problem anymore. His inadequacies don't strengthen Weis' resume. Willingham's resignation at Washington isn't going to make Notre Dame a national-title contender or justify Weis' bloated salary. Charlie will have to do that himself. He can begin to do that over the last month of the season. Notre Dame's last five opponents — Pittsburgh, Boston College, Navy, Syracuse and USC — own a combined record of 22-14. OK, so it's not quite as difficult as the obstacle course Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns have been navigating (Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech), and it's not the equivalent of playing in the SEC. But it's a good little test for Charlie Weis in his fourth season. He's had a long exhibition season to build confidence and prepare his troops. If he goes 3-2, I'll consider it a passing grade and abstain from taking another potshot at him until next season. If he goes 4-1, I'll call it progress and agree that he's the coaching equivalent of Frank Solich. If the Irish overcome Weis' shortcomings and run the table, I'll strongly consider writing an apology column. If they fall on their face and lose three or more games, I'd speculate that most Irish fans would prefer Willingham be named Notre Dame athletic director than read my follow-up column. You can e-mail Jason Whitlock at Ballstate68@aol.com.

Tagged: Boston College, Syracuse, Michigan State, Stanford, Washington, USC, Navy, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Texas, Air Force

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