Tue, Dec 14, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Notre Dame signs up alumni to coach its football team


Charlie Weis was hired Sunday night to coach football at Notre Dame, the school the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator graduated from and where this season's 6-5 record led to the firing of Tyrone Willingham.

Weis agreed to a six-year deal that will pay him a reported US$2 million per year. His hiring ended an embarrassing two-week search by the Fighting Irish to find a coach for perhaps the most storied college football program in the nation.

The 48-year-old Weis arrived at the school Sunday night just hours after the Patriots beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Within an hour, he was off to meet with players.

"Here's what we have to do. I believe there is a proper protocol, and right now, the most important thing is that I go talk to the players," Weis said. "So, tomorrow is our time for the press conference ... Let's do it tomorrow."

The players met with Weis for about 30 minutes and seemed excited about their new coach.

"It's nice to have a little bit of closure and know we have a coach and know what kind of system we're going to have next year," offensive guard Bob Morton said. "It's a good night for Notre Dame."

Morton said Weis told the players he'll be around as much as possible, but would be staying with the Patriots through the playoffs.

"He's a great man. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy, like they say he is," senior offensive guard Dan Stevenson said. "It seems like he's going to be a lot of fun."

In Foxboro after the Super Bowl champions' 35-28 win over the Cincinatti Bengals, quarterback Tom Brady told CBS, ``Even though he's leaving I think everyone's going to enjoy these last few games and hopefully we send him out the right way.''

Weis will attempt to restore Notre Dame to the powerhouse program it was when he attended the university as an undergraduate while Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine coached the Fighting Irish. Weis never played for Notre Dame, and graduated in 1978.

The door for him to return to Notre Dame opened after Willingham was fired on Nov. 30 with a 21-15 record over three years. Utah coach Urban Meyer, considered by many a lock to replace Willingham, instead accepted the job at Florida.

Willingham, who coached at Stanford before going to South Bend, returned to the Pac-10 by accepting the job at Washington on Sunday night.

Weis has been the Patriots' offensive coordinator for the last five seasons, including two Super Bowl championships.

He has occasionally been considered for NFL head coaching jobs. But an NFL rule prohibits assistants from being hired while their teams are in the playoffs, and the Patriots' long playoff runs have hindered his attempt at a promotion.

Weis nearly died in the summer of 2002 from complications of gastric bypass surgery, commonly known as stomach stapling. The coach said one of the reasons he underwent the procedure was to make himself more marketable to teams looking for a head coach.

He was forced to get around on a motorized chair but has since returned to full duty. His stock has risen with the Patriots' success as they won two Super Bowls in the past three years.

Weis is the first Notre Dame alumni to coach the Irish since Hugh Devore was interim coach in 1963. Devore replaced Joe Kuharich, who was from South Bend and a Notre Dame grad. Parseghian, who became coach in 1964, was the first Irish coach in 45 years who had not played for Notre Dame.

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