Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Weis focuses on Pitt, not critics
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Pittsburgh (No. 12 BCS, No. 8 AP) provides beleaguered Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis with just what he needs following a stunning loss to Navy: a shot at the biggest victory of his career.
Beating Pitt (8-1) on Saturday wouldn't quiet Weis' harshest critics, but it would do wonders for the team's psyche.
"If you go beat a top 10 team on the road, it doesn't take much for everyone to be feeling better after that ends up happening," Weis said Tuesday.
Especially for the coach himself, who is in need of a victory against a highly ranked opponent. Sure, the Irish beat third-ranked Michigan in his second game as head coach back in 2005. But that Michigan team finished 7-5 and unranked. Since then, Notre Dame has lost seven straight to top 10 teams, matching the longest such streak in school history.
Overall, the Irish are 1-10 under Weis against teams that finished a season in the Top 25. The lone victory was a 41-17 win in 2006 over Penn State, which finished 9-4 and ranked No. 24.
Weis has never beaten a team that finished with fewer than four losses.
Those statistics, along with two losses to Navy, a loss last season to Syracuse and an overall 35-24 coaching record that is one loss away from mirroring the winning percentage of his two predecessors, are among the reasons why some are saying Weis shouldn't return next season.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday that he'll take the same approach with Weis as he did last season. He'll wait until the season is over before making an evaluation.
"Our approach is the same for every sport and every year. We will evaluate when the season is concluded," Swarbrick said. "We evaluate all programs at the conclusion of their seasons."
Swarbrick said he is pleased with how Weis represents his alma mater.
"My working relationship with him is very positive," Swarbrick said. "And as a representative of the university, in all of my personal dealings and observations he's done a great job."
Weis noted that tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is second on the team with 33 catches for 364 yards, is out at least two games with a muscle injury in his left shoulder. And tailback Armando Allen Jr. and right guard Trevor Robinson, who missed the Navy game with ankle sprains, are expected to play against Pitt.
But it was the proverbial hot seat that was the day's top subject.
Weis was asked several times to take a big-picture look at his five seasons at Notre Dame, a particular source of interest because he made his debut against Pitt in 2005 when Dave Wannstedt was also coaching his first college game. The unranked Irish beat No. 23 Pitt 42-21.
Wannstedt's record is actually a bit worse than Weis' at 33-24, but he has his team in the running for a Bowl Championship Series berth this year.
Weis was jovial and calm, as he always is when he's under fire. He got sarcastic for a moment when asked about the team's red zone troubles, saying the plan against Pitt was to not fumble at the goal line, not throw an interception at the 5 and for receivers to not be penalized for an illegal formation.
But he wouldn't reflect on his coaching tenure. He said the lesson he's learned when he's come under fire in the past is to have tunnel vision.
"I don't spend any time reflecting," he said. "I only worry about doing all I can to beat Pitt."
Coach, has Notre Dame become irrelevant?
"We're so irrelevant -- that denotes a bit of hypocrisy here -- we're so irrelevant, why would we be such a big story?" Weis responded.