In the end, it figured that Gerry Faust would put Notre Dame`s image andbest interests ahead of his own.
Faust, a man who said he would never quit, announced his resignation asNotre Dame football coach Tuesday morning so the university could begin thesearch for his successor.
Athletic director Gene Corrigan took the cue, saying Tuesday night thathe expected to have a new coach by Monday.
"The history of Notre Dame is we don`t waste a lot of time in thingslike this," Corrigan said. "We want to get it done as soon as possible."
Corrigan, who was among those surprised by the timing of Faust`sannouncement, said he began Tuesday to contact potential replacements. Untilthen, he said, the university had not actively pursued any prospects.
"We have had people call us and ask about the job," Corrigan said.
Corrigan said "unquestioned integrity" would be the paramount qualityhe looked for in a new coach. He added, "We need someone who is experiencedat this level and has had success at this level." That would be in markedcontrast to Faust, who came to Notre Dame from Moeller High School inCincinnati.
Several names have been bandied about as Faust`s successor for the pastcouple of years, most notably those of Virginia coach George Welsh, UCLA coach Terry Donahue, Minnesota coach Lou Holtz and former UCLA and Philadelphia Eagles` coach Dick Vermeil.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday in Los Angeles, a testy Donahue said: "I have not talked with anyone representing Notre Dame. I don`t know why thisspeculation keeps coming up, and I don`t know why I should answer questions on unfounded speculation."
Welsh said Tuesday he would have no comment. Earlier this season, hesaid, "I just signed a 10-year contract, and I like it here."
Holtz was less evasive, and on Sunday said Notre Dame was the only school that could lure him from Minnesota. Holtz, whose 1984 endorsement ofconservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R., N.C.) may cause some consternation amongNotre Dame administrators, seems patently to be lobbying for the job.
"I haven`t been a recipient of his lobbying," Corrigan said. "I don`tthink we`ll hire somebody because of his political beliefs. When I talk about integrity, I talk about running the football program."
"I came to Minnesota two years ago with certain feelings," Holtz saidTuesday, "but right now I don`t know what my feelings are."
Vermeil, a CBS television analyst, has repeatedly denied any immediateinterest in returning to coaching.
"Next year will be tough," said Irish sophomore quarterback TerryAndrysiak. "We`ll have to learn a new system."
The likelihood of a change, which increased after the Irish were routed36-6 at Penn State Nov. 16, became a certainty when Faust stunned listeners on what is usually a routine weekly telephone conference call by resigning,effective after Saturday`s season finale at Miami. In so doing, he took theuniversity out of the uncomfortable position of not rehiring a man whoseethical and moral qualifications for the job remained beyond reproach.
What Faust failed to do was win consistently at a school where nearly all of the 23 previous coaches had. The identification of football with theUniversity of Notre Dame du Lac is so complete that the mosaic of Christpreaching on the exterior of the school library is called "Touchdown Jesus." Faust`s 30-25-1 record includes more losses than any other football coach in Notre Dame history. Only two Irish coaches, Joe Kuharich and Hugh Devore,had an overall winning percentage worse than Faust`s .545, and Devore wasmerely an interim coach on two occasions.
Yet the university had stood by its contractual obligations to Faust,previously deferring all comment on the coaching situation until his five-year contract expired this season. The coach`s decision to resign, made Mondaynight after consultation with family and friends, was sudden and unexpectedeven to university insiders.
"I`m a fighter to the end," Faust said. "This was tough for me to do,but I think it`s best for everyone.
"This university has been so great to me and my family, I wanted to give them the opportunity to get out and get another coach before recruiting starts this next week. I didn`t want to be holding them back."
Faust, 50, said his future is unclear, although it will almost certainlynot be another job at Notre Dame. He clearly intimated that by saying "as Itake leave of this beautiful campus" in his letter of resignation to NotreDame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh.
"I`ll sit back a couple weeks and hope I get some calls," Faust said."If I have a head-coaching opportunity at another major college, I`ll lookat it. If a business opportunity comes along, I`ll look at that. I haven`tbeen thinking or talking to anybody about that stuff.
"Sure, I`d like to be 11-0 and 50-5 and coming back. But there`s areason for everything."
There had been good reason to expect Faust could carry on his successfrom Moeller, where he built from scratch a program that had a 174-17-2 record in his 18 years as head coach. The choice of a high school coach to replaceDan Devine, who resigned under both imagined and real pressure despite a53-16-1 record and three New Year`s Day bowl appearances, was the beginning of a controversy that dogged Faust`s footsteps.
"I think any job is a big jump," Faust said. "It is more important toget off on the right step.
"If we came into a rebuilding situation, anything that happened wouldhave been positive. One win in the first three or four games would have beenpositive. At a place like Notre Dame where you`re expected to win, if youdon`t start all right, you`ve got a lot of problems."
Faust`s first Irish team actually began with a 27-9 victory overLouisiana State that moved them to No. 1 in the national polls. When the Irish dropped the next two games--and four of the next five--his slide had begun.
Notre Dame`s 5-6 record in Faust`s first year was its first losing season since 1963. The current team (5-5) must upset Miami (9-1) to avoid anotherlosing year. His best regular-season record was 7-4 in 1984.
"You have to put the blame somewhere, and it should go with the coach," Faust said.
Interviews conducted before the resignation with past players who wererecruited and coached by Faust suggested that:
-- As far back as 1982 there was a loss of confidence in Faust.
-- The coach did not listen to constructive criticism from his captains.
-- Five years of mediocrity have eroded the competitive advantage thefootball team once had simply by being Notre Dame.
"I`m not surprised about what has happened," said Larry Williams, now a rookie guard on the Cleveland Browns` injured reserve list. "It went back and forth the last five years, but no one could ever break through themediocrity."
Faust`s five records--5-6, 6-4-1, 7-5, 7-5 and 5-5 with one game to go--clearly suggest a team taking one step forward and one step back. Of the30 victories, just 10 came against teams that either finished the season with winning records or have a winning record so far this year. In 13 of the 25losses, the opponents scored the winning points in the final period.
"I think there were times when they showed flashes of brilliance andother times when they made a lot of fundamental errors," said Ara Parseghian, who had a 95-17-4 record and two national titles in his 11 years as Irishcoach. "You might say there has been inconsistency, if anything, in theperformance of his teams."
Some of that probably came from changes in both Faust`s character and the character of his staff. In his five years, the Irish had three offensivecoordinators, two defensive coordinators and four defensive line coaches.
"I had too many different coaches," said linebacker Mike Golic, now arookie on injured reserve with the Houston Oilers. "One year we`d be doingthings one way, and another year it was another way.
"It just didn`t seem that Coach Faust got out of the players what theplayers could do."
Asked Tuesday about the changes in assistant coaches--and, inevitably, in style of play--Faust said:
"Win or lose, some things still change. Since the USFL came into beingwith 120 more jobs, the movement in coaching has been unbelievable. I don`tblame people for trying to better themselves."
"Gerry would change every year, too," said defensive tackle Mike Gann,now an Atlanta Falcon rookie. "My first couple years he was real lenient.Later he became more of a disciplinarian, getting all over people. Some of the players resented him."
"We`d have meetings every week, and he would ask the same questions,"Golic said. "He would listen to your answers and then not do anything aboutthem."
Despite, or because of, the changes, Faust`s Irish teams did not getappreciably better except in brief stretches like the four-game winningstreaks in 1984 and 1985 that rescued one season but fell short of doing itagain the second time. The Irish continued to beat themselves with a varietyof mistakes, including embarrassing mental errors like too many men on thefield, lining up offside and exhausting timeouts well before they would become critical.
"We never played together; it was just a lot of individual-type stuff," Gann said. "When that happens, it looked like there was no organizationwithin the team.
"We began to lose confidence in the coaches my sophomore year. The lasttwo years, I don`t think there was a healthy attitude. Expectations were sohigh, and when things didn`t go our way, you had to put the blame on someone. Coach Faust should be blamed for some things, but not all of them.
"People got so uptight, especially if they did something wrong. Ifsomething bad happened early in a game, people started thinking, `Here it goes again.` It was in the back of your mind that somehow we`d screw up. It waslike a car wreck in slow motion or a bad dream--you could see it coming until it would finally happen."
It was to avoid such pressure that Faust chose to resign before the Miami game. He said his mind was "pretty much set" after LSU scored with 3 minutes 22 seconds to play to beat the Irish 10-7 Saturday, "but I wanted to sit onit because you don`t make any decisions after a great win or a bad loss.
"I wanted the pressure off the players. I wanted them, especially theseniors, to enjoy this game and to win it for themselves."
Faust had gone to Father Hesburgh two weeks ago and offered "to do whatis best for the university." According to Faust, Father Hesburgh`s responsewas, "Hang in there. Go out and get the last two (games), and we`ll make adecision after that."
After making his decision, Faust called Father Hesburgh in Baltimore,went in to see Corrigan and Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, the school`s executive vice president, and then told his assistant coaches. The coach planned to have nospecial team meeting before the team`s final home practice. They leaveWednesday for Miami.
"After every practice, we have a team meeting and say a prayer fordifferent people," Faust said Tuesday morning. "Maybe they`ll say a prayerfor me today."
Instead, when Faust`s last practice at Notre Dame was over, he had theteam pray for the six Iowa State coaches and cross-country runners who died in a plane crash Monday. In the end, that was what anyone who knew Gerry Faustcould have figured he would do.