Monday, September 12, 2005

The Rise of Notre Dame and the Fall of Coaching

Well, it would appear Charlie Weis is doing what Tyrone Willingham was poised to do this year at Notre Dame. ND has scored two major victories--a pasting of Pittsburgh in the season opener and then a massive, massive upset of Michigan this week. Now, don't misunderstand me, it's way too early to make any definitive judgments, especially since the Irish still have to play USC. But this made me think about something I've been mulling a little more seriously. I think that college coaches these days are not given enough time and leeway to do what they are hired to do. Ty Willingham is a prime example--those were his players that beat Michigan on Saturday, not Charlie Weis'. For all we know, Willingham could have smashed Michigan to the ground. But no, he was axed after three years, long before the effects of his recruiting and his coaching could really be felt. It didn't used to be this way! Take Tennessee as a case study. Granted, Tennessee already had a strong foundation talent and coaching wise, but it took Philip Fulmer at least 4 years to really get where he wanted the program to be. We lived through the Heath Shuler years (which were great) and still couldn't beat Alabama, but we stuck it through and let him recruit, teach, and coach, until one day Peyton Manning signed with UT. It then took another year or two for Tennessee to be totally where Fulmer had aimed the program--national title contenders. And that is exactly what we were Peyton's junior and senior years--serious contenders. We realized the fruit of all this time when Peyton left--a national title with Tee Martin. If not for the talent and increased level of play Peyton Manning brought, we'd have never had that opportunity. And we owe it all to giving Fulmer time to get his system and players into place. Tyrone Willingham could have had Notre Dame back as a serious contender next year, while spending much of this year showing the fruit of his labor. But in today's microwave culture, we must win and we must win now. There is no longer a sense of "work hard and reap the rewards later." We want to have our cake and eat it too.

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