Saturday's showdown with Notre Dame might be the only time in Rich Rodriguez's debut season at Michigan when he's not the most controversial coach on the sidelines. Instead, that dubious honor will belong to South Bend's flat-topped, three ring-wearing ball of raised-ire, Charlie Weis, who's the focus of this Mythbusters' installment.
Careful readers of this space may recall that in the most recent Mythbusters column, we reference the likelihood of Weis losing his job. Time to come clean: We slightly bent the truth in order to write a lame joke. (That's probably the first time that's ever happened in journalism, especially on the Internet).
It's widely assumed that if Weis doesn't spearhead a dramatic rebound from last season's 3-9 debacle in South Bend, the Notre Dame brass will kick him to the curb at the end of this season. Detractors point out that predecessor Ty Willingham got only three seasons (with a record that looked eerily similar to Weis' at the same point). And many of them believe it's a grave injustice that Weis even got this season to potentially redeem himself.
The litany of Weis' misdeeds is well known to anyone who follows the sport. He arrived on campus claiming his pro experience provided a "decided schematic advantage" -- he just didn't specify that the opposition would be the ones with the advantage. To Irish fans he was confident, but to outsiders he was intolerable, exuding cockiness while taking shots at ND rivals, vowing to settle the score for all the injustices Irish fans had suffered (back before the 3-9 brought the suffering to new lows).
Soon even the die-hard Irish faithful grew tired of his act. He's gone 0-3 against USC and in those games, the Irish have lost by an average score of 39-18, including last year's record-setting 38-0 whitewash in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus (Fortunately that loss didn't sting so badly, since 38-0 losses to arch rivals were becoming commonplace by then). At one point last season the Irish were dead-last in virtually every offensive category except, well, being offensively bad. Weis' teams have been blown out of two BCS bowl games that nearly everyone outside the state of Indiana felt they didn't belong in in the first place.
And then there was that little stumble against Navy. On the surface, it's not so bad. Lots of folks have lost to Navy. It's just that usually they're evil foreign armadas, not the most storied football program in America. Word has it Weis was also responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the Russia-Georgia conflict. Things have gotten so bad, the Pope considered convening Vatican III to sort it all out.
But Weis-haters beware. Unless the Irish have a repeat of last season's gridiron self-lobotomy, his flat-top will be back on the sidelines next season.
Let's start with those BCS games the Irish didn't deserve. The university didn't mind cashing a check it didn't deserve for those games, and the fact remains: Not many coaches have taken the same school to two BCS games in three seasons.
Also, the campus leadership hasn't forgotten about the blowback from the Willingham firing. Their reputation took a hit, and they're probably still smarting from the critique that they were too quick to pull the trigger.
Don't forget, Notre Dame has always prided itself on being above the normal dirty fray of big-time intercollegiate athletics. It has always strived to represent more than simply winning and losing and the bottom line. But Willingham's firing dragged the Irish into the twenty-first century BCS money monster's teeth, and they haven't been the same since. Now, their football program is no different than USC, Ohio State or Oklahoma.
Except for the fact that Notre Dame can't win.
By cutting loose a good man who had the misfortune of being a crappy coach (prove me wrong, Washington fans), Notre Dame lowered itself to everyone else's level. They want to regain the moral high-ground and one way to do that is to be patient with Weis. Pink slip The Flat-Top after just four seasons and the itchy trigger finger reputation will only grow.
And then there's the simple matter of $30 million. That's the size of the extension they (perhaps foolishly) gave Weis just seven games into his ND tenure. And while that might be the equivalent of an Easter Sunday collection at St. Peter's, it's still big money in the college sports world. Nobody likes to waste that kind of money on a coach (well, unless you're Texas A&M).
And recruiting is another reason why the ND brass will cut him a little slack (OK, he's a big dude ... a lot of slack). Despite the Hollywood disaster movie that was the 2007 season, Weis managed to bring in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. How he did this, the world will never know. After all, who'd have thought that high school seniors would actually know a little something about history and tradition? Or even more stunning, that they'd care?
But the fact is, Weis has brought in a mother-load of blue chip talent. He did a pretty good job of molding Tom Brady into a decent quarterback (just ask him, he'll tell you). And most around the program want to see him get a chance to develop the potential stars he just brought to campus.
Weis has been consistently misrepresented. He's not really arrogant, he just has a highly inflated opinion of himself. OK, truth be told, he's a family man who is well-liked by most of his current and former players. What comes off as sniping about other programs is just fierce loyalty to his alma mater. And for the last time, he's not overweight -- he's just carrying a bunch of extra genius plays inside his shirt and waistline.
And so what if the guy hasn't beaten the Trojans yet? He pretty much owns the other teams from Southern California. He's 2-0 against UCLA and 1-0 against San Diego State. (So look out Pepperdine. You, too, Chapman College.)
So unless the Irish continue to almost lose to teams that lost to Cal Poly, Weis' job is safe for this year. Of course, if he loses 38-0 again to Michigan, all bets are off.
That's all for this week. Remember: Just because college football fans thinks it's true, doesn't mean it is.
Got a myth you want us to bust? Contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org.