Former ND coaches start over

Bob Davie and Charlie Weis have fresh starts at New Mexico and Kansas

Originally Published: August 15, 2012
By Matt Fortuna | ESPN.com

Bob Davie's and Charlie Weis' season finales were one and the same.

The broadcaster and the Florida assistant were joking before the Gators' senior night loss to Florida State last November. Davie was barely a week into his new job, and Weis was closing out his first regular season in Gainesville. And here they were, chatting it up on the Swamp sideline, the nexus between the coaches on the verge of tightening once more.

"We were down there laughing a little bit, and all of a sudden a couple weeks later he's the head coach at Kansas," Davie, now New Mexico's head coach, said of Weis.

[+] EnlargeBob Davie
Scott Halleran/ALLSPORT/Getty ImagesBob Davie will try to turn around a New Mexico program that has endured three consecutive 1-11 seasons.

Act II for the former Notre Dame head coaches is underway, each scaling a precipice steeper than Touchdown Jesus, sans all the ballyhoo. Each has embraced his new locale, where the records that cost them their first head-coaching jobs would be cause for celebrations.

The tasks, however, remain the same.

"I want to win," Weis said. "That is what I want. I want to win. I want this team to win. They haven't been winning -- that is what I want to do, win. The more wins, the happier I am.

"It puts a big damper on things, when things don't go well. I want to get this program where we are winning more than we are losing. I think when we get to that point, then we will aim even higher, but let's get to that point first."

Davie has admitted to being more comfortable in his own skin his second time around, no longer feeling the need to over-prepare or rehearse on a daily basis.

"At the end of the day, it's all the same process," Davie said. "The process for me at New Mexico is no different than it was at Notre Dame, and Notre Dame is no different than anywhere else -- coach the football team. It's all the same thing.

"Just coach your football team like you're coaching anywhere else and go with your instincts. Don't get so tied up in, 'Oh, we've always done it this way. We've always done it that way.' Let it rip, man."

It will be easier said than done for the two. The Lobos are coming off three consecutive 1-11 seasons that were notable for former head coach Mike Locksley's off-field troubles, and they could be 10 scholarships short of the 85-man limit this season. The Jayhawks, Orange Bowl winners just five seasons ago, have gone 18-31 in the four seasons since, with Mark Mangino and Turner Gill losing their jobs along the way.

Each school was projected last at Mountain West and Big 12 media days, respectively.

Weis will have a familiar leader in Lawrence, having landed one of his biggest recruiting coups from Notre Dame in quarterback Dayne Crist. The transfer, who started the Irish's past two openers but was plagued by injuries and a crowded position unit, said fans on the Big 12's most basketball-centric campus will come out so long as the production is there on the field.

"There's a great deal of excitement," said Crist, who is joined by former Irish teammates and Weis recruits Mike Ragone and Anthony McDonald. "The fans are very encouraged with what they've been seeing, and you can tell that it's just a fan base that's very eager to win. It hasn't been too long ago when they were in the Orange Bowl and things like that, so fans are ready to cheer for the football team. We just have to give them a reason to."

Ten years as an ESPN analyst gave Davie access he otherwise would have never had. Shortly after coaching against Michigan and USC, he recalled, he was meeting with coaches Lloyd Carr and Pete Carroll as a broadcaster, getting up-close looks at how their programs operate.

"You go from, you're lucky to even share a handshake, to all of a sudden you're sitting in their office watching them practice," Davie said. "So that was a tremendous opportunity to get out and do those things. But there's nothing like actually coaching. You can analyze things and comment, [but] the great part of coaching is you're actually doing it, and there's just nothing like that.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Weis
Peter G. Aiken/US PresswireCharlie Weis says he's motivated to get Kansas back on track.

"I can still smell the grass at Notre Dame Stadium, what it felt like on Saturdays, and that never goes away. You always have that -- the simple things that are hard to explain."

In taking over at Albuquerque, where nearly half a century has passed without a conference title, the 57-year-old Davie is hoping to replicate some of the rebuilding jobs he has seen on the road over the past decade. Bill Snyder's resurrection of Kansas State -- the losingest program in FBS history upon his arrival 23 years ago -- has particularly served as inspiration.

"Just seeing -- and I'm not saying I'm Bill Snyder or saying I can ever do a job like he's done or be the coach that he is -- but just going around the country seeing different programs, to see what Bill Snyder has brought to a Kansas State, for example, is something to me that's tremendously rewarding and tremendously fulfilling, to try to do something like that," he said. "I've been to Manhattan, Kan., done games there. To me, that's what's fun. It's fun to really take a place and put your name on it, try to build it. I'm not saying we can do that but that's kind of the mission."

In late October 2001, just more than a month before being fired by Notre Dame after a 35-25 record over five seasons, Davie and his family built a house in South Bend. They didn't move to Scottsdale, Ariz., until three years later, when the Irish made a new hire.

"I'll be forever grateful for Charlie Weis because he bought my house in South Bend, so I'm a huge Charlie Weis fan," Davie said with a laugh. "I'd still have that house sitting there."

A 35-27 career record did Weis in five years later, and now, like Davie, he is hoping the lessons learned from the spotlight of one of college football's biggest platforms translate to a second, smaller stage.

"I am more motivated than I have ever been to make this program successful," Weis said. "There might be more unknowns, but I have the same obligation to the administration, to the fan base and to the university. I have the same obligation to work as hard as I possibly can to get us as good as we possibly can be as quick as we possibly can.

"I mean, OK, Notre Dame has a big, national fan base down there, but what does that mean? Fans are fans; alumni is alumni. It's still the same to work as hard as we can collectively both as a coaching staff and players to try to get this right as fast as we can. That's why I'm here. Now it's time to go to work."

Matt Fortuna | email

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