Sunday, September 23, 2007

Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14
or: The Charlie Weis Fact Sheet

"They played the way they did in the first half because of the full-contact practice. But... they played the way they did in the second half because of the full-contact practice." - Mike

"You gotta believe. This school was founded on faith and on belief. I told you last week how when Notre Dame burned down, Father Sorin said the mistake we made was that we didn't build it big enough. Everything here at Notre Dame has been done on faith and a commitment to excellence. A commitment to each other. At the luncheon yesterday I was asked what Notre Dame meant to me. One, it means religion. Two, it means family. Where people care about you. Not just because you win or because things go well, but they genuinely care. The other thing it means to me is a set of standards, a commitment. In 1986, people were saying Notre Dame would never win again. We had a group of guys that wanted to win but didn't know how. Then we progressed to the point where we had guys that wanted to win, knew how to win, then we progressed to the point where we have a group of guys that know how to win, but we sometimes don't exhibit it. That's a thing of the past. We're not going down defending anything. We're going out to fight for it, to compete for it. Nobody gives you anything in this world. The people can give you money, can give you wealth, can give you fame. The one thing nobody in this world can give you, men, is respect. The self-respect you have for yourself, the way you play the game, and the way you believe. The way you do things. This is a game of respect. You are Notre Dame. You are special. You represent Notre Dame. You represent everyone that came before you, and everyone that'll come after you. At Notre Dame there's a spirit. The spirit is something that's within you. And you gotta listen to that spirit, you gotta fight for it, and you gotta believe." - Lou Holtz

A new reader on the message board asked why no one seems to be calling for Charlie Weis's job, and why Notre Dame was so quick to fire Ty Willingham. I pulled up the Ty Willingham Fact Sheet not as another rationalization of Ty's firing. Instead, I'm using it to determine if and when Coach Weis should be put on the proverbial hot seat.

1. Tyrone Willingham has lost 8 games by at least 3 touchdowns. By comparison, Bob Davie lost 4 games by 3 touchdowns and Gerry Faust lost 3 games by 3 touchdowns. That means that in 3 years Tyrone Willingham has lost more games by 3 touchdowns than Bob Davie and Gerry Faust did in their 10 years combined.

Counting a 20-point loss to USC last year, Coach Weis has three such losses in each of the last two years. That ties Davie and Faust's totals.

2. Notre Dame was shut out by at least 30 points twice in 2003. The last time that happened was 1904.

It's already happened once in '07, and there are still eight games remaining.

3. In Tyrone Willingham’s first 3 years, Notre Dame has lost by at least 30 points 5 times. For perspective, in the previous 40 seasons (1961-2000), Notre Dame lost by at least 30 points a total of 4 times. Bob Davie only lost by 30 points 1 time, as did Gerry Faust.

There have been two such losses so far this year.

4. The 38-12 loss to 6-6 Syracuse was Notre Dame’s first 3 touchdown loss to an unranked team since 1960.

It's still early, but the Georgia Tech and Michigan losses both fall into this category.

5. From the 44-13 loss to Southern Cal in 2002 until the 20-17 loss to a 5-6 Brigham Young team, Notre Dame lost 10 games over a 15 game stretch. That was the worst 15 game stretch since 1960.

Notre Dame is 8-7 in their last 15 games, the worst 15 game stretch of Coach Weis' tenure.

6. Tyrone Willingham is the first Notre Dame coach since Joe Kuharich (17-23) to have fewer wins by 3 touchdowns (5) than he had losses by 3 touchdowns (8). Bob Davie had twice as many 3 touchdown wins as losses (8 wins, 4 losses). Gerry Faust had over 4 times as many (14 wins, 3 losses).

Coach Weis has 10 wins of 20+ points, and three more wins by 19 points. As noted above, Weis' teams have 6 losses by 20 or more.

7. In 2003, Tyrone Willingham became the first Notre Dame coach to have consecutive 4 TD losses to Southern Cal. In 2004, he had his 3rd in a row.

In the last two years, Notre Dame has lost to Michigan by a combined 62 points.

8. Tyrone Willingham has been a Notre Dame coach for 3 years out of the school’s 117 years (2.6% of the seasons) and has coached in 36 of Notre Dame’s 1,106 games (3.3%), however, he has coached in 23.8% (5 out of 21) of Notre Dame’s losses by at least 30 points.

Weis has overseen two 30 point losses, out of 23 for the program. That's 8.7%.

9. After starting out 8-0, Tyrone Willingham’s record since has been 13-15.

As stated above, the worst stretch of Weis' coaching career is his current 8-7 run.

10. When Tyrone Willingham took over, Notre Dame had the #1 all time winning percentage, with a record of 781-247-42 (.749), ahead of Michigan’s 813-265-36 (.746). At the end of the regular season of 2004, Michigan now has the #1 all time winning percentage, with a record of 842-274-36 (.747) while Notre Dame is #2 with a record of 802-261-42 (.745).

Michigan still has the lead, but it has shrunk to a mere .001, at .744 to .743. Obviously, though, both teams have slipped since the original fact sheet was written.

It's probably obvious at this point, but Coach Weis really needs to cut down on the blowout losses. He has had more big wins, but that doesn't serve to excuse or cancel out the big losses. But looking at criterion #1, Weis is in the same category as Faust and Davie, and that's not a good place to be.

Faust, Davie, and Willingham were all asked to make changes among their assistants following bad years. Coming into this year, Coach Weis brought in a new defensive coordinator. Presumably, more will be on the way after this year. If not, Weis may be the one moving on.

Finally, it's fairly easy to recruit following winning seasons. The difficult task is recruiting after losing seasons, or - Our Lady forbid - multiple consecutive losing seasons. Coach Weis' first recruiting challenge presumably comes this offseason, and it will be followed closely by the Irish faithful.