Swarbrick decides Weis should return to coach Fighting Irish

Published 2:40 am Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charlie Weis and his boss discussed the future of Notre Dame football for more than 2 hours, coming up with a plan to make the Fighting Irish great again.

The plan includes having Weis as the coach of the Fighting Irish for at least one more year.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he decided to allow Weis to return for a fifth season because they agreed on what steps need to be taken to restore the luster to the nation’s most storied college football program.

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“The question you’re ultimately asking yourself is: Is he in a position to help direct the changes in the program, to help steer it back to where he and I really want it to be?” Swarbrick told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “That really focused on a discussion about a series of very specific things that constitute the plan going forward.”

Swarbrick, who took over as athletic director in August, would not discuss specific changes are necessary under what he called “the plan.” He and Weis found common ground during a 2-hour, 15-minute meeting in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.

“There are pieces of it that will still emerge. There are pieces of it we have to work on. It’s comprehensive. There are a lot of pieces to it because you have to look at every aspect of the program,” he said.

Swarbrick, in a written statement released earlier in the day, said the team fell “short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program.”

He said he also wants the Irish players to participate in helping to set the goals.

Some fans and members of some in the media had speculated that Swarbrick said after the 38-3 loss at USC on Saturday night that he needed time to evaluate the program, which led to speculation that he was out testing the waters to see if any high-profile coaches were interested in coming to Notre Dame.

Swarbrick denied that, saying neither he, anyone on his staff nor anyone with the university had talked to any coach or considered any coach other than Weis.

“It absolutely didn’t happen,” he said.

Weis has seven years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, but some fans had been clamoring for his firing after the Irish got off to a 4-1 start this season and finished 6-6.

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a record of 28-21 in four years, a .571 winning percentage. That’s slightly worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.

Weis, though, also led the Irish to BCS bowls in his initial two seasons at Notre Dame, first to the Fiesta Bowl then to the Sugar Bowl.