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Notre Dame fires Weis

Charlie Weis was dismissed as Notre Dame’s football coach Monday, a move he knew was coming for a week and most everyone expected for longer. He did not speak to his team as a whole, having a few conversations with individuals and mulling when and if and how he might say his piece publicly later in the week.

Upon arrival, Weis could not comprehend failing, and he had. A 35-27 overall record and another 6-6 season overflowing with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations spoke volumes amid Weis’ silence. Those numbers are why Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick cut ties with six years and at least $10 million remaining on the coach’s contract.

“We will miss him,” Swarbrick said Monday. “But for us it’s time to move forward. It’s time to move forward because it is critical to this program and to its place in this university and college football that we compete at the highest level, that we compete for national championships.”

The rumor mill about who will replace Weis has churned for nearly a month. Potential successors range from Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and ex-NFL coach Jon Gruden to a list of perhaps more attainable candidates such as Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly and Texas Christian’s Gary Patterson.

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Weis was an emotional touchstone for Irish fans, the first alum to be head coach since Hugh Devore served as interim coach in 1963. He restored the talent pipeline to South Bend, scoring top-10 recruiting classes in 2006, 2007 and 2008. In his first two seasons, he won 19 games and went to two Bowl Championship Series bowls, stoking a fan base desperate for a return to relevance and more.

Weis was rewarded with a 10-year contract six games into his first season by then-athletic director Kevin White. As Weis’ agent, Bob LaMonte, said in 2005: “Charlie Weis doesn’t own the Golden Dome, but he has the keys to it for the next 11 years.”

But the last three years Weis’ teams went 16-21 without a victory against a ranked opponent. The continued failures against elite teams coupled with inexplicable, eviscerating defeats -- two straight home losses to Navy, two straight Senior Day losses to sub-.500 teams -- simply became too much to bear.

“As you look at the entire course of the [2009] season, it led you to the conclusion that you couldn’t have enough confidence that a jump-up was imminent, that you could know with sufficient certainty that next year’s results would be significantly different,” Swarbrick said.

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At his first news conference, Weis, who had been offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, famously declared his teams would enjoy a “decided schematic advantage” -- a phrase filled with hubris that was the signature of his time in South Bend. It dogged him his final three seasons and ultimately doomed him.

No one seems to know when Weis will address his now-former players. Those who did have an audience with their ex-coach acknowledged a hurt in Weis’ voice but didn’t paint an otherwise gloomy picture.

“I think it was hard for him because he’s very accountable,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “He takes it personal that the team didn’t achieve what we thought we should have achieved. That’s why he was down the most. I think he will be OK. He will have other opportunities that will be great.”

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bchamilton@tribune.com

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Falling short

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How Charlie Weis fared each season at Notre Dame:

2005... 9-3

2006... 10-3

2007... 3-9

2008... 7-6

2009... 6-6

TOTAL... 35-27


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