Nov. 19, 1996
An interview with Mr. Michael Wadsworth, Athletic Director and Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C.
MR. WADSWORTH: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We will not open with any statements with respect to the coach’s resignation, but we will in due course be happy to answer any questions that you may have with respect to that. I think he has been replete in his statement, and he has answered all your questions, so we’ll take any questions subsequent to our brief statement about what our plan is for purposes of succession. The Coach has indicated he finalized the statement with us just yesterday, but gave us a very clear indication a little over two weeks ago as to what his intentions were. And for the very reason he indicated he did at that time so we’d be in a position to put together a succession plan and attempt to get a person in position by early December for recruiting purposes. That continues to be our objective. We have initiated our plans. We’ve done our preparation in terms of what it is we want to look for. We have initiated some contact, but we will not be in a position now or in the future to answer my questions with respect to the people that we are contacting until such time as we have a new coach to introduce to you. We do that not to be uncooperative, but only because, obviously, we would have to protect the rights of the individuals with whom we will be speaking. And so we will not take any questions or at least answer any questions with respect to the identification of any people that we will be speaking with. I can tell you that the objectives of the search are pretty much in line with a lot of what Coach Holtz has talked about already this afternoon. First of all we’ll be looking for a coach who will be able to achieve superior athletic results, much along the lines of what Coach Holtz has achieved, himself, in 11 years. Secondly, we’ll be looking for a person who will be a role model for the student athletes as well as the students of Notre Dame; again, much like Coach Holtz has been. A person who understands the academic environment, that will put an emphasis in the academics in the charge of this new coach. And the third key operative we will have in our search is a person who has the dimension to be an outstanding representative for the University because of the very public, high profile position the head coach follow the football program at Notre Dame enjoys, the person must be capable of taking on that role and responding to the demands that will be made of the position, itself. Those will be our three key objectives and we will be putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that the individual must fit with the culture and values of Notre Dame, and there are many excellent coaches in the country, not all of them are familiar well the culture and values of this University, so we’ll be putting a premium on that value. We’ll be happy to take any questions that you have.
Q. What are the criteria for the head coaching experience you might consider?
MR. WADSWORTH: We would certainly consider assistants who have the experience as a coach and in management and supervision of other assistant coaches. What we’re looking for is a person who can really achieve those three objectives that I mentioned, while it may be a lot easier to take a head coach whose record demonstrates that, if there is an assistant coach that you know well who has the potential capacity that certainly substitutes for experience.
Q. Can you talk about initiating contact, making contact with prospects for the coach? How quickly (inaudible) this week or are you looking at another time table?
MR. WADSWORTH: We’re not in total control of the time table and as a result I think we can only say that our objective is to be in a position to make announcement by early December. We hope to stay on line with that objective. As I say it’s not totally within our control, so that’s as precise as we can be.
Q. If you were to hire a coach prior to that time or during that time, would you want him or would you want to break him in? Would he work at all with Coach Holtz in any capacity?
MR. WADSWORTH: We have discussed with Coach Holtz, he asked what our position would be, should the team be invited to participate in the bowl. And unequivocally Coach Holtz and the staff brought us to the position of a bowl invitation if that should has been to be the staff that takes us to the bowl. Coach Holtz has left open whatever might work with respect to a new coach who will be coming in, whether or not that individual may want to participate at that point in time, that’s an issue that we’ll really assess in the future.
Q. If you contact coaches from other schools, is it your policy to first ask the athletic director for permission to talk to the coach?
MR. WADSWORTH: The policy always is if you’re going to talk completely about another coach being a candidate at Notre Dame, that you would get the permission from the athletic director of another university. If you are having simply an exploratory conversation with an individual to see whether or not he is interested, then I think it would be inappropriate to seek permission from the athletic director simply because you are enlarging the circle of information too much and possibly exposing that coach to something that he doesn’t want to take on. So that only an exploratory conversation would be held. Once we go beyond that then certainly we would ask permission of the athletic director.
Q. How do you define an exploratory conversation?
MR. WADSWORTH: Until we find out whether or not the coach has any interest in Notre Dame.
Q. Talk about — is there a policy of not paying contracts?
MR. WADSWORTH: There’s no policy that I know of at the University of Notre Dame with respect to that. Father Beauchamp and I have talked about it but there’s no existing policy. We will take a look at any candidate with respect to the merits and objectives we talked about and make our evaluation based on those criteria.
Q. Do you think that would be a factor, if you didn’t have to pay a (inaudible)?
MR. WADSWORTH: I think I would be more concerned about what would be the motivation for that coach to want to move from where he is to Notre Dame, that would be uppermost in our minds.
REV. BEAUCHAMP: Coach Holtz in his statement laid out what his reasons were, and it was solely Coach Holtz’s decision. He had, as he indicated, had a conversation with us a couple of different times when he suggested he might be leaning in that direction. It became finalized yesterday, but we were not anticipating that this would be his last year at Notre Dame. But we have great respect for Coach Holtz and great respects for his wishes. In terms of did we try to talk him out of it, it wouldn’t be something you would do if somebody decided what was in the best interests and the best interests of what they wanted to do. So specifically, no, we didn’t. But that was only because Coach Holtz made it clear that that was his wishes, and that was his decision. But we were not anticipating at the beginning of the season or even into the season that this would be his last year.
MR. WADSWORTH: If I may add to Father Beauchamp’s comments. In fact, we had said to Lou after one of our early early meetings, Lou, we have too much respect for you and your own feelings. We are not going to attempt to talk you out of anything, but as he raised various things such as he has talked about in his own press conference here, Rockne’s record, et cetera, we disabused him, I think, that we feel in any way that those are factors, because they’re not factors. And we made certain that he knew we wanted him back as our coach for next year. But once he had a very settled belief in what it was he wanted to do we didn’t feel it was our place to question what his own personal motivation might be, just to make certain that it was a settled and firm belief on his part that he felt it was in the best interests of the program and Notre Dame.
REV. BEAUCHAMP: I think also we had a couple of conversations, yesterday it was the final meeting where it was made clear, and also we wanted to make sure that that was Coach Holtz’s wishes, that time passed between when he first suggested it to when he said finally this is it. So it’s clear that I think it was an emotional time for Coach Holtz, it’s an emotional time for the University, for the various constituencies. Notre Dame obviously will find another great coach, but Coach Holtz has been a wonderful coach at Notre Dame, a wonderful Notre Dame person in so many different ways, and we look to the future and we look to our search for a new coach. People have asked me, what would you look for, I suppose we could sum it up in one way is we would be looking for a person that has really the attributes of Coach Holtz in terms of coaching ability and representing the University and ethics and morals and commitment. So he’s been a wonderful, a wonderful addition to our campus, a wonderful part of Notre Dame, in fact I shouldn’t say was, he will always be a part of Notre Dame.
Q. Obviously coach Holtz’s resignation has a direct impact on the rest of the football staff. Have you had any direct conversations with the assistant coaches, how much total control over picking a new staff or the new coach do they have to keep some of these old people around with the transition?
MR. WADSWORTH: No. 1, we have not met with the assistant coaching staff as a whole. This was only really confirmed, as you know, yesterday as a settled decision by Coach Holtz. We do intend to speak with the assistants but we don’t want to do it at a time that is in any way going to interfere with the preparation they have at hand. But I think there are always questions that assistant coaches will have and we’ll make ourselves available to address those questions.
REV. BEAUCHAMP: Secondly, it is our belief in the football program and in all of our varsity programs that it is the responsibility of the head coach to select his or her assistant coaches, and we will not interfere in that. In our conversations with our candidates we will be interested in exploring with them how important it is for them to have some continuity in the staff. And ultimately the answers we get to that question will be part of how we evaluate our candidates, but nonetheless at the end of the day it would be the candidate’s decision an as to who will be on that staff.
MR. WADSWORTH: Quite honestly I don’t recall in February any serious discussion about that, although I’ve been known to forget things in the past, not usually things of that importance. But I do recall very clearly that during the course of my first season here, because you make particularly mental notes your first year that Lou mentioned once or twice that he never really knew where he stood with the administration, because there wasn’t a job description or anything of that nature. And so when we were through with the season that was something we attended to. And you may recall, some of you, that in fact, Father Beauchamp and I and Lou met for about three and a half hours in a meeting that was characterized by all of us as a very positive meeting, and a very positive meeting because what came of it was a very clear understanding of what it was Lou wanted to do with the program and what it was we expected of the program. And they meshed. It brought clarity to what mutual expectations were. We said at that time as a coach, and we stood by it ever since, as long as the coach’s performance is in accordance with our mutual expectations then he has coaching position at Notre Dame as long as he wants to remain. And he has continued to live up to those expectations. That’s why at all times the position was open for him to return next year. Now, that was a substantive meeting we had back in that time period.
Q. When was that again?
MR. WADSWORTH: It would be at the conclusion of last year, after the bowl game or after the scheduled season in December. Either the month of December or January, I can’t remember which right now, but that was the time frame in any event. And so that settled that issue, we thought, extremely well. So that this decision of Lou’s is one that is entirely personal to him and as he outlined already it was a matter we started discussing just a few weeks ago.
Q. You said several times that the decision was made because he felt it was the right thing to do. Do you feel the University was ready to go in a different direction (inaudible.)
MR. WADSWORTH: The University in fact intended to go in the same direction. We felt the football program was doing extremely well, not only in terms of performance this year, but in terms of the recruiting and the young men coming into the program. And so we are very confident with it being in Lou’s hands. At the same time I think if an individual who has had the experience that Lou has had gives very serious consideration over a period of time to a settled conclusion that he feels it’s right, then I think he’s the one that’s the best judge of that and while we made sure that it was a settled conclusion and we talked about it over a period of time, it was really his decision, the end result that we had to accept.
Q. (Inaudible.) Is that going to be a major factor in hiring a coach, that he be Catholic?
REV. BEAUCHAMP: That in and of itself would not be, Coach Parseghian was not a Catholic, Coach Rockne was not a Catholic when he started coaching at Notre Dame, so that in itself would not be a significant factor. What would be a significant factor that that coach understood what the values and culture were at Notre Dame and the person who came was committed to that, in fact that the reason that person came was because Notre Dame and what it stands for and what its values are. That’s going to be the uppermost thing, as opposed to whether that person in particular is a Catholic or not.
Q. Like you said you’re not going to mention names, but do you have a list, a so-called short list or are you still putting together a short list as you speak?
MR. WADSWORTH: This will not be an open search, it will be a targeted search based on names that we will put together.
Q. You’re still putting those names together as we speak?
MR. WADSWORTH: We’re pretty settled on who we’re going to speak to.
Q. Can you tell us how many, how large?
MR. WADSWORTH: It will be fewer than half a dozen.
Q. Have you, as we speak, have you contacted any athletic directors at any schools to ask permission to have what you called structured discussions?
MR. WADSWORTH: I’d go back to the first question, the first time that was answered, we have not gone beyond any exploratory talks with any candidate at the present time.
Q. (Inaudible.) Was there any sort of buy out situation?
REV. BEAUCHAMP: I can only tell you that Lou is on a year-to-year contract and when he raised the issue about not having any place to go, we simply said that the University will do anything at all that he would like us to do and we will take into account his request and he hasn’t come back to us on that yet. Obviously he’s more concerned at the present time in concluding the regular schedule and I’m sure we’ll address that in due time, but we’ll address that when it’s raised by him.
Q. So there’s a possibility that he could remain here (inaudible.)
REV. BEAUCHAMP: Conceivably.
Q. How much consideration, if at all, will it be when you hire head coaches already in the contract in the buy out of his contract, how concerned are you with (inaudible), and the reputation you have?
REV. BEAUCHAMP: I think it’s premature to really talk along those lines. We haven’t had discussions regarding that and we haven’t given it serious consideration. What we’re going to do is we’re going to look at all the people that we would consider for the head coach and when we’ve made a decision, assuming that person is interested in coaching at Notre Dame, what we think is the best coach and fits the best, I suppose at that point if that’s an issue that would be a consideration, but it’s really premature to really think in those terms.
Q. Traditionally Notre Dame has (inaudible.)
MR. WADSWORTH: Our salary administration policies will not change at all as a result of this new coach, whoever that may be.
MR. WADSWORTH: I think Father Bill knows the salaries better than I do, so I’ll leave that to him.
REV. BEAUCHAMP: Yeah, it depends on what college or university they’re in, but certainly there are professors at the University that make in the range and even higher than the salaries from the University for the head coach.
Q. In your exploratory talks with people, has anyone said they’re not interested?
MR. WADSWORTH: There was one person who for family considerations only has indicated that they would not want to pursue discussion.
MR. WADSWORTH: I don’t think there’s any question that Lou Holtz will be right at the very top of the legendary coaches who have been with Notre Dame, along with Knute Rockne and Ara Parseghian. As Father Bill has said, it goes beyond the win/loss column and the national championship, there are a myriad of things, and I’ve only been here a year and a half, that I appreciate Lou has done for this program. Many things very quietly. Not the least of which is his generosity to the University in terms of the scholarship that he has funded. He has just represented the University in every way in which we could possibly hope and as a result I think that will be recognized well into the future and will qualify him as one of the great legends of the University.
MR. WADSWORTH: I’ll tell you that the person we’re speaking with, we don’t concern ourselves if they recognize us. But some of the coaches may be concerned. And so we will meet with any candidate wherever that candidate feels most comfortable meeting us.