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Kickoff karma hits Notre Dame hard

The good fortune of USF’s football team appears to be a classic case of good karma. It is also a testament to the solid decision-making by the athletic administration. This program has come from being a Division I-AA independent program operating out of mobile homes in the athletic district to becoming a national powerhouse capable of selling out the 67,000-plus seats in Raymond James Stadium. All the while, the Bulls remained loyal to one head coach, whose vision of building a strong Florida-based football program has become a reality. USF football’s rise to prominence has to be considered one of the feel-good stories of college football.

In keeping with the theme of college football programs getting what they deserve, I must touch on the fall of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are off to the worst start (0-5) in their

119-year history.

I believe the recent bad karma of Notre Dame football can be traced back to its highly questionable firing of head coach Ty Willingham in 2004. Willingham, who was fired after just three seasons, did not even have the chance to coach his Top 5-recruited class of 2003 as juniors, a class which included star quarterback Brady Quinn and standout wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. Willingham led the Fighting Irish to a 21-15 record as coach, but was dismissed by the program before he was scheduled to coach in the second bowl game of his tenure.

Following Willingham’s departure, Notre Dame hired Charlie Weis, the alleged Spygate co-conspirator behind the New England Patriots Superbowl run, to be its new head coach. Weis’ tenure got off to a great start in 2005 (albeit with Willingham’s recruits who were then juniors). Yet just six games into the first year of his six-year contract, the Fighting Irish inexplicably rewarded Weis with a new contract through 2015 after a close loss against college football powerhouse University of Southern California (USC).

Am I the only one who thinks this is absolutely ridiculous? Ty Willingham starts 8-0 at Notre Dame with someone else’s recruits and is not given any extension at all, but Charlie Weis starts 5-2 with Willingham’s recruits and is given a 10-year extension. While Weis was very successful in 2006 – when Willingham’s recruits were seniors – he has contributed to Notre Dame’s abysmal nine-game bowl-losing streak. That said, I still fail to see how the Fighting Irish’s performance under Weis warrants a $30 million to $40 million contract.

I also think what’s happening to the Notre Dame football program is karmic justice: You fire a guy before he even has the chance to coach his recruits. as seniors, only to watch his overrated replacement fail miserably with his own recruits. Ty Willingham’s worst season at Notre Dame was a record of 4-6 – a record that Weis will almost certainly break this year after starting 0-5 with the next 3 games against Top 30 teams, including two Top 10 programs.

If Weis’ 19-11 record falls to the same as Willingham’s three-year record (21-15) at the conclusion of this season and the losing continues over the next couple of seasons, it will remove Notre Dame’s athletic administration’s reputation of being impatient, overbearing and unfair, instead earning a new reputation for being foolhardy, biased and consequently irrelevant. Somewhere in the state of Washington Ty Willingham is saying “I told you so”.

Ryan Watson is a graduate student in mass communications.