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:D Gee Whiz. From News-Press.com Deron Snyder



Even detractors should like Notre Dame rebirth


Published by news-press.com on September 12, 2005




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You must hate Notre Dame if you see Charlie Weis' handiwork and don't crack a grin, don't feel a tingle as he puts a spit shine on the Golden Dome.


Those who despise Notre Dame couldn't care less that Weis and the Fighting Irish make a fabulous story two weeks into the season. Just as fans who abhor Duke hoops are immune to warm and fuzzies that the Blue Devils might emit.


But nothing besides playoffs could be a greater benefit to college football than a perennial power in South Bend, Ind.


Like the New York Yankees, Notre Dame is the gold standard of its sport. The Irish have the most titles and myths, the most legends and nostalgia. They have the largest national following, in turn landing NBC as their private network, with exclusive rights to home games.


No other school has a similar deal. Notre Dame rubs it in: No other school has a special BCS provision, either.


Surely, it's good to be Notre Dame, good to be rich and powerful.


Performing well is a totally different issue, though. Haters enjoy watching a premier program flounder — in Notre Dame's case, not winning a bowl game or finishing in the Top 10 since 1993.


Now the Irish are in the Top 10 for the first time in three years. They appear unlikely to start a new drought soon. Early indications suggest that Weis will keep them afloat during his tenure.


The 2-0 record bodes well. So does the company he keeps, as Weis is the first Notre Dame coach since Knute Rockne in 1918 to win his first two games on the road. Quick start aside, in dramatic (Michigan) and dominating (Pittsburgh) fashion, there's ample evidence that Weis is the man, though he'll probably fall short of predecessor Tyrone Willingham's 8-0 start.


Willingham recruited most of the current players, now a year older and stronger under Weis. But the Irish are distinctly different this season, "nasty," as Weis puts it. They took the opening kickoff and gashed Michigan on a 12-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that never reached third down. It was near-perfection.


The Wolverines eventually stiffened, but they looked downright clueless on numerous occasions in trying to stop Weis' attack. Judging by the open targets for quarterback Brady Quinn, and open space for tailback Darius Walker, you'd think Michigan's staff never saw Weis' work as the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator.


The Irish bear a striking resemblance to the Pats on offense, spreading the ball and throwing underneath, calling the exact play to exploit a weakness. There's no doubt that the level of coaching is significantly higher in the NFL than on campus, which was made abundantly clear by USC's Pete Carroll over the past two years. Weis is illustrating the gap further.


Urban Meyer was Notre Dame's first choice to replace Willingham, hired after the 2001 season. George O'Leary was Notre Dame's first choice to replace Bob Davie, fired after the 2001 season. We don't know what Meyer or O'Leary would've done with the Irish, but we know that neither was a coordinator for a three-time Super Bowl winner.


Weis brought his NFL juice to South Bend and it's invigorated the Irish and stimulated the nation. Even the Irish's most-ardent detractors should welcome the program's rebirth.


It's better to beat Notre Dame when it's up then kick it when it's down.


— E-mail: dsnyder@news-press.com


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