AD begins contacting candidates for Notre Dame job

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick could be hitting the road soon to find a replacement for fired coach Charlie Weis.

Swarbrick said Tuesday night that he has started contacting candidates about the job and the search could take him out of town as early as Wednesday. He wouldn't comment on any of the names widely reported as possible replacements for Weis or give any other details about the search process.

Swarbrick spent part of the day talking with Notre Dame assistants about the football program before seven of them fanned out across the country to speak with the 18 high school seniors who have committed to attend the school next season.

The traveling assistants have some work to do.

At least one of the seniors who verbally committed to the school said Tuesday he is looking elsewhere. Defensive end Chris Martin of Aurora, Colo., the highest-rated player among the commitments, confirmed in a text message to The Associated Press that he is reopening his search.

Others, though, said Weis' dismissal Monday won't change their plans. Offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Palatine, Ill., said he's still strongly committed to the Irish.

"I've said this time and time again, the coach isn't guaranteed; but the school is. That's why I picked Notre Dame," he said. "Nothing has changed with my commitment."

Receiver Tai-ler Jones from Gainesville, Ga., whose father, Andre, was a defensive end on Notre Dame's last national championship team in 1988, said the school has no need to worry about him changing his mind because Weis was fired.

"It was sad to see him go. I wanted to get the chance to play under coach Weis, but now I'm just looking to see who the new coach is they hire," he said.

Notre Dame players have expressed similar sentiments. Star receiver Golden Tate said Monday he was disappointed Weis was fired, but added that he supports Swarbrick.

"The administration made an educated decision and I have to support it. I'm in this program and I've got to support the decisions they make and try to make this program a better program," said Tate, who still must decide whether to return for his senior season. "When I signed up, I signed up to be a student-athlete and support all decisions made here at Notre Dame. That's what I'm doing. I'm trying to stay positive and keep this team together as a family."

Some of the most attractive coaching possibilities, including Florida's Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, have said they plan to stay where they are. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said Monday he doesn't plan to talk to other schools.

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly has tried to evade speculation that he could be a candidate for the job, saying Tuesday he is focused his team's game against No. 14 Pittsburgh on Saturday. TCU coach Gary Patterson was close to a contract extension, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said Tuesday.

Weis let the school know Tuesday that he plans to attend the team banquet on Friday. He has not spoken to the entire team since immediately after the Irish were beaten 45-38 at Stanford on Saturday night. The banquet, usually open to the public, will be private with only players, coaches, staff and family in attendance. The school did the same thing when Tyrone Willingham was fired five years ago.

Notre Dame also must decide whether it wants to go to a minor bowl game. Safety Kyle McCarthy, one of the captains, said team leaders will let Swarbrick know the players' feelings later this week.

"We're not going to go play in a game if 10 guys want to play and 70 guys don't. The only way we're going to do it is if we're full force ahead," he said. "We're going to talk to the team this week and decide."

University spokesman John Heisler said the decision on whether to go to a bowl will not be based solely on what players want, saying other factors are involved.


AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati, Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City, Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas, Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.


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