Still the Worst Football Coach in the Universe
Notre Dame's Charlie Weis somehow manages to keep his job.
On Wednesday, the University of Notre Dame announced that football coach Charlie Weis will be retained for at least one more year—this despite the fact that Weis' teams have lost a combined 15 games in the last two seasons, the most ever for the Fighting Irish. Back in 2007, Jonathan Chait asked the following question: "In the entire history of American sports hype, has there ever been any fraud more grossly fraudulent than Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis?" The answer to that question and Chait's entire piece are reprinted below.
"Charlie Weis has returned Notre Dame to relevancy. Just two years ago, as Notre Dame spiraled toward mediocrity under Ty Willingham, a shot at a national title seemed improbable. But the schemes and the discipline Weis has installed have revived past glories. The only question on the Irish offense comes on the line. But considering the way Weis turned castoff linemen into solid starters with the New England Patriots, that should not be a huge concern."— New York Times, Aug. 27, 2006
In the entire history of American sports hype, has there ever been any fraud more grossly fraudulent than Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis?
Weis' Fighting Irish now stand at 1-7. This record is only the faintest indicator of just how awful Notre Dame is. They have lost nine of their last 10 games, by an average of 24 points. None has been close. While Notre Dame has suffered very few injuries, three of its opponents have had to play the Irish without their starting quarterbacks. Two of those teams, USC and Michigan, nonetheless beat Notre Dame by a larger margin than either has beaten any other opponent so far this year. Notre Dame's lone win came against UCLA, which had been forced to use its third-string quarterback, a walk-on. In that game, Notre Dame compiled just 140 yards of offense, but won with the help of seven Bruin turnovers, five of them hand-delivered courtesy of the hapless walk-on signal-caller.
Just how bad is Notre Dame? Of the 119 teams in Division I-A, ND is 119th in total offense, 119th in rushing offense, 112th in passing offense, and 118th in scoring. If Notre Dame had doubled its scoring output, it would still rank 108th. If it doubled its rushing output (currently 34 yards a game), it would barely eke out Duke for 118th place.
You get the point. I should stop now.
OK, one more. Notre Dame is averaging 1.09 yards per rush this year. The NCAA statistical archive goes back only to 1999. The worst yards per carry recorded in that period belongs to a 2001 University of Arizona squad that gained 1.46 yards per attempt. So, the worst rushing team recorded by the NCAA in the last nine years was still about one-third better than Notre Dame.
This is not merely bad. This is ineptitude on a staggering, world-historical scale. Such a performance would be prima facie evidence for firing the coach even at a doormat program like Indiana. At a school like Notre Dame, well … it's simply impossible to describe how awful this performance is. It's true that Notre Dame has suffered a dip in its talent level, attributable to poor recruiting by Weis' predecessor Tyrone Willingham. But if you go by recruiting rankings, Charlie Weis still has as much or more talent on hand than most of the opponents who have been beating him soundly.
Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at the New Republic and author of The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics.
Photograph of Charlie Weis by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Photograph of Charlie Weis on Slate's home page by Jeff Gross/Getty Images.