Notre Dame job may be more appealing this time
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – The biggest challenge Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick faces as he searches for a replacement for Charlie Weis is finding somebody who believes the job is as good as Fighting Irish fans do.
It’s been a problem for the Irish in recent coaching searches. During the last search after the 2004 season they couldn’t interest Urban Meyer even though he called it his “dream job.” The last time Notre Dame got its first choice of coaches was in 1985, when Lou Holtz was hired a day after Gerry Faust resigned.
Things could be different this time around.
College football observers say many obstacles that might have caused some coaches to think twice before considering the Notre Dame job in the past have been removed.
As recently as the 2004, Notre Dame had antiquated football facilities. Players dressed at Notre Dame Stadium and either walked or rode bikes to the practice fields on the other side of the Joyce Center. Team meetings were held in a cramped auditorium.
Now the players have a spacious facility just across the street from three practice fields, two of which have artificial turf.
Weis had three consensus top-10 recruiting classes in his five years as head coach and might have posted a fourth if he hadn’t been fired. The Irish schedule, once among the nation’s toughest, has been softened. Notre Dame, which once wouldn’t allow its football coach to be paid more than its top administrators, now pays both its head coach and its assistant coaches at a competitive level.
The school even allows early high school seniors to enroll in January, once considered unthinkable.
“They have everything that a head coach is looking for,” said Tom Lemming, CBS College Sports Network recruiting analyst. “You have great facilities, great academics, great TV exposure, a beautiful campus and tradition. Everything they’re looking for is there, and there is talent on the team.”
Allen Wallace, publisher of SuperPrep magazine and national recruiting editor for Scout.com, agreed, saying there is no reason Notre Dame shouldn’t be able to compete for national championships consistently.
“They eventually will if they bring in the right guy. The question is: Who’s going to be the guy that can take that challenge on?” he said.
That’s the question Swarbrick is trying to answer. So far, there are far more names being tossed out as candidates by the media and fans than people Swarbrick has identified as candidates.
“My sense is every name in America has been thrown out there,” Swarbrick said in an interview at his office Wednesday afternoon. “The interesting thing for me is it’s all completely inaccurate.”
Several coaches whose names have been identified in media reports as possible candidates spoke on Wednesday. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz dismissed speculation he might be a candidate, saying he’s content where he is. Connecticut athletic department spokesman Mike Enright would not comment on whether coach Randy Edsall has been contacted by Notre Dame. TCU coach Gary Patterson agreed to a new contract.
Swarbrick would not disclose how many people he has contacted about the job. He began reaching out to candidates Tuesday, and said he is consulting with a search firm.
He also said he’s contacted people who know the candidates he has identified. He has talked with former coaches and a former athletic director of “national prominence” about the search.
Swarbrick spent part of Wednesday meeting with assistant coaches to hear their ambitions and try to help them. He also met with some players to get their perspective on what the school should be looking for in a coach and whether the team should go to a bowl.
Swarbrick hopes to have a decision Friday on whether Notre Dame (6-6) will go to a bowl. He wouldn’t say when he might have a coach.
The last search, under then-athletic director Kevin White, took 12 days from the day Tyrone Willingham was fired until Weis arrived on campus. The school used former Notre Dame athletic director Gene Corrigan (1981-87) as a search consultant. Five people were interviewed.
Corrigan said the biggest challenge is finding someone who really wants the job. He had one search for a football coach during his tenure at Notre Dame and hired Holtz in one day. Faust was in the last year of his five-year contract when he resigned and Corrigan knew he was going to need a replacement.
“I had known Lou for 20-some years and I knew he wanted the job,” Corrigan said.
Holtz wanted it so much he took a pay cut, Corrigan said.
Corrigan said the only person he consulted before hiring Holtz was former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian.
“He and I agreed there wasn’t anyone out there better than Lou,” Corrigan said. “It was pretty simple. No agents involved. No nothing. … Jack’s got a much tougher job than I had.”
AP Sports Writers Luke Meredith and Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas, and Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.