Nov. 4, 2005
by John Heisler
So, you’re wondering exactly what Charlie Weis has gotten himself into with this new contract, aren’t you?
Remember the story former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz used to tell on the banquet circuit back in his days with the Irish.
Holtz used to kid that it took him a while to grasp what alumni really expected when they told him they wanted to win.
As Lou pointed out, his initial team in 1986 lost five games by a total of 16 points, then went 7-4 the second year and played in the Cotton Bowl. Not bad, huh?
Well, no, they told him. When we say win, we mean win them all.
So, in his third year, in 1988, the Irish did just that, going 12-0 and claiming the national championship.
Well, no, they told him. That’s not what we meant, either. We meant win them all – and win by a lot of points!
Okay, so that’s what this head coaching business is all about.
Holtz always drew a good laugh with the story, but it more than illustrated exactly what head coaches at virtually every major Division I-A program confront from week to week and season to season.
Simple mathematics tells you that half the coaches in the country win on Saturday and the other half lose. That doesn’t make it easy to find yourself on the positive side of the ledger every single week. But, that’s the reality of what we’re all hoping to see every August when practice begins.
If you could get your hands on an official position description for a major college head coach, here are the items it might contain, in no particular order of priority:
* Win football games. And we don’t mean three or four per fall – that’s not good for anyone’s longevity in the position. What we really mean is 10 most all the time and 11 as often as possible – and we’d really like it if you’d make it 12 on some regular basis.
* Graduate your players. Not many years ago, there were few indications of exactly how an institution’s football players were performing in the classroom, save the yearly Academic All-America roster. Now, there are NCAA graduation rates and the new Academic Progress Rates and plenty of other official or unofficial measuring sticks. If your players aren’t doing well, everybody knows about it.
* Entertain the media and act like you enjoy it. And, by the way, be witty and glib and funny – even if, heaven forbid, you happen to lose a game. Not so long ago, the writers and broadcasters following teams covered games and little else. Those days are long gone. Now, there are press conferences after games, after practices, teleconferences on Tuesdays and Sundays, satellite feeds galore. The competition for sound bites is fierce, and there are more media outlets every day, especially as the World Wide Web environment explodes.
Consider just the elements of ESPN. The cable giant started as just that. Now it has five television networks, a magazine, a radio network and a major Web site. Play a major football game with GameDay in site, and you need a media coordinator just to deal with the ESPN requests.
* Speak to every alumni and fan gathering to which you’re invited, no matter what time of year it is. Oh, and, by the way, be witty and glib and funny. Sign every autograph you’re asked to sign, even when you and your family are trying to eat a rare dinner out. Never mind that most of the un-personalized versions end up on eBay.
* Recruit 25 five-star high school studs every year. Anything less and you’re at risk. Oh, and, by the way, be witty and glib and funny in the family rooms of recruits, too.
* Be nice and respectful to the opponent players and coaches. Beat them, but don’t run up the score. Make sure all your players spend all their free time doing community service and being perfect citizens off the field. And make sure they, too, are witty and glib and funny with the fans and media, while they, too, are signing every autograph requested at every turn.
* On top of all that, make sure you’re coaching at your alma mater, because if you aren’t there will be more than the usual amount of suggestions that you really don’t understand our culture and you really aren’t saying the right things about our program and, finally, that you really just don’t get it.
Think that’s about enough? Maybe.
But, don’t measure up in any of these categories and we’ll quickly decide that Pete Carroll or Mack Brown or Phillip Fullmer or Bob Stoops are a little bit better at one thing or another and maybe you ought to do it more like they do.
In case you were wondering, that’s what Charlie Weis has signed on for, for the next 10 years.
Great work if you can get it, huh?