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Monday, December 13, 2004
Weis to be introduced as Irish coach Monday news services

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After failing to land one of the nation's leading college coaching candidates, Notre Dame signed one of the NFL's top assistants.

Charlie Weis
Charlie Weis is the first Notre Dame alum to coach the Irish since 1963.

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis made it official Sunday night, becoming the first Notre Dame graduate to coach the team since Hugh Devore served as interim coach in 1963. Only Weis didn't play college football.

He signed with the Irish 12 days after Tyrone Willingham was fired and eight days after Notre Dame officials returned empty-handed after flying to Utah to meet with Utes coach Urban Meyer. Meyer signed with Florida instead.

Weis agreed to a six-year deal that will pay him $2 million a year, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports. His hiring ended an embarrassing two-week search by the Fighting Irish to find a coach for perhaps the most storied program in the nation.

The 48-year-old Weis arrived at the school Sunday night, just hours after the Patriots beat Cincinnati in Foxboro, Mass. Within an hour, he met with the players.

"Here's what we have to do. I believe there is a proper protocol, and right now, the most important thing is that I go talk to the players," Weis said. "So, tomorrow is our time for the press conference ... Let's do it tomorrow."

The players seemed excited about their new coach.

"It's nice to have a little bit of closure and know we have a coach and know what kind of system we're going to have next year," offensive guard Bob Morton said. "It's a good night for Notre Dame."

Weis told the players he'll be around as much as possible, but would be staying with the Patriots through the playoffs.

"He told us to have fun, finish things off right with our exams, have fun at the bowl game, enjoy break and come back ready to go," offensive tackle Mark LeVoir said.

In Foxboro after the Super Bowl champions' 35-28 win, quarterback Tom Brady told CBS, "Even though he's leaving I think everyone's going to enjoy these last few games and hopefully we send him out the right way."

Weis, who graduated in 1978, will attempt to restore Notre Dame to the powerhouse program it was when he attended the university as an undergraduate while Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine coached the Fighting Irish.

The door for him to return to Notre Dame opened when Willingham was fired on Nov. 30 after posting a 21-15 record over three seasons.

Willingham, who coached at Stanford before going to South Bend, returned to the Pac-10 by accepting the job at Washington on Sunday night. Willingham will match up against his former team when Notre Dame visits Seattle next Sept. 24.

Weis has been the Patriots' offensive coordinator for the last five seasons, which included two Super Bowl championships.

His stock has risen with New England's success, but the Patriots' long playoff runs have hindered his attempt at a promotion. An NFL rule prohibits assistants from being hired while their teams are in the playoffs.

The New York Giants and Buffalo Bills interviewed Weis in January, but they hired other coaches before the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Weis could have faced the same problem this year, since an NFL team might have had to wait until after the Feb. 6 Super Bowl to hire him.

Weis nearly died in the summer of 2002 from complications of gastric bypass surgery, commonly known as stomach stapling. The coach said one of the reasons he underwent the procedure was to make himself more marketable to teams looking for a head coach.

He was forced to get around on a motorized chair but has since returned to full duty.

He taught and coached high school in New Jersey from 1979-84 before taking an assistant's job at South Carolina for four seasons. He returned to coaching at the high school level for one year before joining the Giants pro personnel department in 1989.

Weis was hired by the Giants as defensive assistant and assistant special teams coach in 1990, earning his first Super Bowl ring. When Ray Handley took over the Giants in 1991, he made Weis running backs coach.

Weis worked for the Patriots from 1993-96, coaching tight ends, running backs and wide receivers. In 1997, Weis was hired by New York Jets coach Bill Parcells, who asked former Giants offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt to groom Weis as the Jets' offensive coordinator. In 1998, Weis became the Jets' offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach.

He is credited with helping to develop Brady, tight end Ben Coates, running back Curtis Martin, wide receiver Terry Glenn and former Notre Dame receiver David Givens.

Along with Weis, the Irish focused on Weis, Bills offensive coordinator and former Irish quarterback Tom Clements and Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache, a former Irish assistant.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.