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December 5, 2009
The Weis interview - Part I
QUESTION: Do you want to talk to the new coach, will you be allowed to talk to the new coach, and what would you tell the new coach about the job?
That's the problem in the coaching profession. That's why (Bill) Belichick and I are (close to one another). The reason why Belichick and I are (close) is because when I left, I wanted them to do better than when I was there. To this day, we talk every single week. We've always talked every single week. There are people in New England who say, 'There's a rift between Weis and Belichick.' We've never been closer because I've stuck by him. While all this stuff was going down in New England, there was one person who was sticking by him, and that was me. I think that's the right way of doing it.
When I leave here, I'm not going to be rooting for them to lose, for (the new coach) to do worse than me so everyone says, 'I wish they would have kept Weis.' I wish they would have kept Weis. I wish they would have kept me. I really wish we would have won, but we didn't. So I don't want the next guy to come in and feel like I'm hanging over his shoulder. Nothing would please me more than for me to be sacrificed to have this ominous could lifted off of this program so the sun could shine through and we could actually move this in the right direction.
Q: There's been a lot of talk about you going back to the NFL and all the offers that are out there. What is the reality of it?
I've probably had guys from 15 different teams text me and say, 'How are you doing?' including some guys you probably wouldn't even expect. Mark Sanchez. 'Coach, I just want to know how you're doing.' The same Mark Sanchez who I texted last year and told him how great he played, and he said, 'Is this somebody just messing with me?' He thought it was just someone who was busting his chops.
I'll coach on Sundays next year. I don't know where. But the dust will settle, and in January, I'll probably end up taking a job.
Q: You talked about the negativity with the media and the community, and the irreparable harm that it's done on your family.
But the pain that Maura went through and Charlie went through, I'll never forgive them is the term. You can take all the shots you want at me. Fire away, but you have to understand that when they're personal, they go directly to your wife and kids, and that's really inexcusable. Those people really should be ashamed of themselves. As a matter of fact, I'll make sure that the next time I'm at the Grotto, I'll light one for all those people so that maybe they can see the light and stop being so vindictive. It's a shame. It really is.
Q: Regrets? Mistakes? Anything you wish you could do differently?
But I believed by saying that that I would have been selling out the seniors who were there, and I just didn't think that ethically that was the right thing to do, to give up on the seniors and tell everyone you were rebuilding. But for those guys, we knew what was happening. You didn't need for me to tell you, and I wasn't lying to you. I just wasn't giving up on the seniors by saying, 'Look, we're going to be playing all these freshmen and sophomores and we're going to be going through some growing pains.'
I could have taken some of the pressure off me by doing that. But I'd sell out the seniors by doing that, and I just don't think that's the right way to do business. So could I have covered myself and made things easy on me? Yeah, I could have bought myself some time and a little less agony. But in the grand scheme of things, I felt like I had a responsibility to the guys not to just sell out the season.
Q: You are a very confident man. When you look back on the way things transpired, does it seem surreal to you? Are you just surprised that it all happened the way it did?
Q: Under the circumstances, you didn't have a choice.
Q: People say you need head coaching experience to be successful. If you started today, would you be more successful?
Would I be better prepared to be named the head coach at Notre Dame today? Absolutely, but that's because I just lived it for five years. If there's anyone who understands all the idiosyncrasies that come with it, it's yours truly. But that being said, there are things that are different about this job than any other job.
Q: Can you expand about what you think is different about Notre Dame?
Q: Wouldn't that be the case everywhere, or do you think it's more so here?
Q: You mentioned the difference between who you are and the perception of who you are. Why do you think that is the case?
There was a lot of good stuff in there that just never made it in there. There was tons of stuff, tons more. The reason to do it was to show the football coach when you're not a football coach. That was the reason I was willing to do it. I was willing to do it for Hannah & Friends, and it didn't turn out that way.
Q: So when you saw the finished product, did you cringe?
Q: I've got some questions about the finer points of the end of this. The buyout was always talked about. I don't know if you want to say what that number was. But is it as great as they've said it is?
When you sign up for a long-term deal, they start you low and they work your way up and I wasn't at three yet. Everybody had me at 4.2. Where did that come from? And they had it like it was a substantiated fact. That's why I've said numerous times that I'm willing to give my tax returns to anyone that is willing to write a check that pays the difference between what I make…I'll even give the money to Hannah & Friends. I won't even take it. You want to see last year's tax returns to substantiate that? Give me a donor. Hanna & Friends will take the million bucks.
Why do people try to say that I was the second highest paid coach? Where does that come from? Where did that number come from? My wife keeps on saying, 'Are you making 4.2?'
Q: Just getting back to the buyout, is it realistic to think that you would sign a contract that would pay you for every penny that the remainder of the contract was for on a year-by-year basis?
Q: As it relates to the buyout, it's my understanding you gave your assistants a big part of that.
Q: When did you know that the end was happening?
But the Monday after the Connecticut game, it was over, and it was not a bad conversation. Jack (Swarbrick) and I just sat down, closed the door, and I said, 'Look it, we're grown men here. Where are we?' And we agreed to where this was headed. It was Thanksgiving week. I did not talk to any of the assistants about it because I felt that it would distract them from getting ready for Stanford, and I thought the best thing to do was not say one word to them. Then on Friday morning, I told all those guys where this was heading. I didn't talk to the team until last night at the banquet.
Q: Was there a thought to you coaching in a bowl?
Q: Would you have considered that? Coaching in a bowl game after you had been fired?
Q: There was mention from one of the (recruits) who is committed for next year that before you were fired, you had some talks about them sticking with their commitments to Notre Dame.
Q: How important is where the recruiting is and how it's set up for the next guy?
He'll be able to (recruit nationally). We're a national recruiting school. He'll be able to do that. Whoever they hire will be somebody that can recruit nationally. They'll hire a good coach. There's no doubt in my mind. I don't know who it's going to be. You guys would have a better feel for it than me, but they'll hire a good coach.
Q: Any comments on Jimmy (Clausen) and Golden (Tate)?
Q: How has this not working out been on you personally?
Q: Are some of the offers that have come your way since your firing all been for an assistant/coordinator role?
Q: Will you be a head coach again some day?
Q: Are you done with colleges?
Q: Are you better off having had this experience? Are you a better coach? Are you a better person because of it?
Q: Are you watching the coaching search at Notre Dame now?
If you had heard me (at the banquet) last night, I talked about everything that you would have expected me to talk about with those players. None of it was about me. I used my life to try to show them what a Notre Dame education can get you. I mocked myself, made fun of myself, and I actually had people laughing because I felt they needed somebody to break the ice because so many people are in the tank. At the end of the day, my message to those kids was do not look back; look forward. Do things right academically, stay out of trouble, get a new head coach in here, support him and get going. Ten, 15 years from now, you'll understand why.
Let me just wrap up with this. I ask this one thing of all five of you. As I answered this Q&A as honestly as I possibly could, I want to thank you guys for being fair. But I ask this because it's really important to me. I'm not looking for you to make me into something I'm not. But this is very important to me because I am a man of high integrity. However you present this, I want to be somebody who cares about Notre Dame, somebody who cares about his wife and kids, somebody who cares about the community, cares about Hanna & Friends, and understands the fact that I'm gone because of my record and I want something negative that happened here to turn into something positive.
Maybe the positive thing and the big thing will be unilateral support of the coach and the players. That would be a wonderful thing. I don't know if that is utopia. I don't know if that could ever happen. But (I would like) to see people take a backseat on the vindictiveness and let's back off a little bit and remember that these kids are 18-to-23-year-old kids. They're not NFL football players and they live this life and it wears on them. I wish they would be totally supportive of them and that message can be for the community, the alumni and the student body. All of them.
They're still kids. They don't get paid for a living. People say, 'They're on scholarship.' Hey, they earn those scholarships. The days these guys have, the time commitments they have, it's brutal. And I really want to leave here with a positive message, not a negative message.
(Editor's note: Look for Part II of The Weis Interview Sunday.)
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