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?
CHARLIE WEIS: I will be available if that person wants to talk to me. I would be happy to help answer any questions he'd have, and I wouldn't offer things just to answer questions because it's his deal, not my deal. I want Notre Dame to be successful. If Notre Dame goes and wins 'em all next year, everyone can say, 'See, now that they have a real coach, they can win games.' You want to know something? That's fine by me, just as long as these kids here are successful. I'm not rooting against Notre Dame.
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.
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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?
CW: I'm going to coach in the NFL next year. I have no idea for whom. All those stories about there being a hundred teams that have contacted me, that's a bunch of garbage. First of all, I wouldn't talk to anyone until after I was fired.
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.
CW: What people don't understand is that in the day of the Internet and tweeting and everything else that's out there, when people put things out that are not based on fact, they all come back to your family. They all come back. As hardened as I am and as many blows as I've taken, I'm still standing, fellas. They didn't beat me down. But they beat my wife down and they beat my son down. Hannah doesn't know what she doesn't know. So they didn't beat her down.
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?
CW: No regrets. No regrets. Probably one thing I could have done my third year here was come right out and say, 'Look, we're going to play a bunch of young pups and you're going to have to live with us' instead of saying that we weren't rebuilding when everyone in the free world knew we were.
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?
CW: I'm surprised that we lost so many games by such a close margin. I'm surprised at that. Every game by a touchdown or less (in' 09). The last game we could have lost by three (points) if you wanted me to let them kick the field goal and not have a chance to throw to the end zone the last play of the game. I did exactly what I should have done. I called a timeout to tell the defense, 'Okay, fellas, this might sound stupid, but let them score.'
Q: Under the circumstances, you didn't have a choice.
CW: I understand that, but you should have seen the look on their faces when I called a timeout and called the defense over and said, 'Let 'em score.' Then when we called a timeout, I figured (Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh) was going to have them kneel on it. But he didn't. They ran the play and they scored.
Q: People say you need head coaching experience to be successful. If you started today, would you be more successful?
CW: I think that anyone taking this job, regardless if he were Vince Lombardi…Notre Dame is different than any other job, and it's different because Notre Dame is its own separate entity. Anyone coming to take this job is going to have to go through a transition, whether it be a top assistant or a head coach coming from another program. There are things you have to adjust to. It's what you do with your resources and how well you adjust.
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?
CW: I've used the analogies of wearing different hats. You have to wear a lot of hats as the head coach here. It isn't just coaching football. There are a lot of things that come with the territory.
Q: Wouldn't that be the case everywhere, or do you think it's more so here?
CW: I think this place magnifies these situations so much more. Those situations may occur at other places, but everything here is magnified.
Q: You mentioned the difference between who you are and the perception of who you are. Why do you think that is the case?
CW: Let's rephrase that question. Let's make it this question: What's my reaction to the perception of me as a person? Those clips of me yelling at the officials from the sideline. Those are deserved. That's one. Probably the biggest mistake I made that caused this problem was "60 Minutes." The intent of what I felt "60 Minutes" was trying to do, and I believed the intent was right, but it certainly did not work out the way I had intended it to work out.
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?
CW: Oh, let me tell you, just the lead up to it alone…I called up (CBS) and I was like, 'What the - - - - were you doing?' He said, 'This is good stuff!' And I said, 'Good stuff for who!?!' It might be good for (CBS). But this was about trying to show the whole person and all they showed was me (swearing at Brian) Polian…(laughing) who deserved it by the way.
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?
CW: I don't want to talk about the buyout. Let's talk about the salary. The salary was so greatly inflated. Let's not talk about buyouts because that's such a sore subject. Let's talk about the salary. They had me making 4.2. My salary at this point has not gotten to three. So let's call it the way it was.
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?
CW: I'm not going to go over that because that's a private matter between me and Notre Dame. I don't want the Weis family or Notre Dame to look back as I walk out the door. This is not about saying anything derogatory about Notre Dame. The comment I made is an honest answer that those numbers that they said I was making are so far off base. It's not about how much Notre Dame is going to give me walking out the door. It's about what I was making as the football coach. The buyout stuff, let's just leave that alone.
Q: As it relates to the buyout, it's my understanding you gave your assistants a big part of that.
CW: The assistants all, for the most part, have plenty of protection. Let's just say that. They have plenty of protection. I don't want to go into what that means. They're not going to be on the food lines anytime soon.
Q: When did you know that the end was happening?
CW: I felt that when we lost to Navy that that did not bode well for where this was headed. I still felt that we had time to resolve the issues, but I thought that was a bad loss, especially since we didn't punt the ball the whole day. When you don't punt the whole day, you don't think you'd be in that situation.
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?
CW: We never discussed it.
Q: Would you have considered that? Coaching in a bowl game after you had been fired?
CW: (smiling) It's now a rhetorical question.
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.
CW: My message was similar to what I told the team last night. You pick the school; you don't pick the coach. Now relationships go a long way in recruiting. The longer you know guys, the better the chances you have. But my message was that you fit here, you're supposed to go here, they're going to have a good coach here. So you should come here, and for some of the highest prospects that are still out there, I did the same thing with them too, even though I knew where this was heading with me. You won't find one recruit out there that I didn't encourage to come here.
Q: How important is where the recruiting is and how it's set up for the next guy?
CW: I think it's critical that he still has a chance this year to get a really good recruiting class. The foundation is there. A lot of guys are in that wait and see approach. I think that could be stabilized quickly. There are some front line players that we're on the cusp on, and they'd have a legitimate chance of going out and getting them.
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)?
CW: I think they'll both let you know pretty quickly. They're visiting with their families this weekend. I've visited with Jimmy privately and I've visited with him and his family. I've visited Golden privately and I've visited with Golden and his family. I think they'll talk this weekend. They were in here for the banquet. Now that there's not a bowl game, I would encourage them to let everyone know at the university and let everyone know expeditiously what their plans are so everyone can move forward one way or another.
Q: How has this not working out been on you personally?
CW: I'm extremely disappointed. I'm extremely disappointed, personally and professionally. I'm not in the tank, but I'm extremely disappointed.
Q: Are some of the offers that have come your way since your firing all been for an assistant/coordinator role?
CW: Not all as offensive coordinator. That's all I'll say.
Q: Will you be a head coach again some day?
CW: I probably could interview…I don't know. I'd say there's a possibility, yes. It might be a possibility this year. Right now, this head coaching stuff isn't at the top of my list. But there has been potential for a couple of things that I'm going to have to consider as to whether I want to be in the mix or not. If they ask me to be in the mix, I have to decide if that is what I want to do.
Q: Are you done with colleges?
CW: I would say that the pros are where I'm heading, pretty clearly.
Q: Are you better off having had this experience? Are you a better coach? Are you a better person because of it?
CW: I'm 10 times better off. Let's assume I go to somebody's staff as an offensive coordinator. Not only do I have a different perspective now having sat in this seat for five years. But that head coach will have a sounding board of someone he can run things by because as a head coach, having that person to bounce things off is invaluable. It will help me personally, it will help me professionally, and it will help the guy I'm working for because my perspective is so different now.
Q: Are you watching the coaching search at Notre Dame now?
CW: I have no idea who the head coach is going to be. I can't say I don't care, but I'm not following it and I'm not tracking it. I don't know what the rumor mill is. I truly want to be one of those coaches who is always remembered for wishing nothing but the best for Notre Dame. That's how I left New England. I wished nothing but the best for them and I want it no different this time. I don't want to be rooting against him; I want to be rooting for him. I don't want to be rooting against a coach's record just so that people could say, 'I wish they would have kept Weis.' That would be selfish and I've never ever been selfish, and I don't want to start 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.)