Where’s Our Golden Ticket?
Since the press conference held by Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick last Monday announcing the departure of Charlie Weis, the entire Notre Dame fan base has been on the edge of their seat, constantly checking the internet and ESPN, to see if any head way has been made in the search for the next head coach of the football program. Meanwhile, Swarbrick is working to interview and negotiate with potential candidates as the current assistant coaching staff zig-zags across the nation trying to dissuade recruits from jumping ship. The search for a new coach is not only hard on the Notre Dame administration and current coaching staff, but it’s also hard on the Notre Dame fan base. The situation that the football program currently finds itself in is one which causes fans to turn on each other over differences as to who should be the next coach in South Bend.
In late 2004, when Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham and subsequently whiffed on landing Urban Meyer, some people thought the Notre Dame “settled” with Charlie Weis. While most Irish fans cannot come up with a consensus #1 candidate to replace Weis, some are worried that Notre Dame may be in the process of whiffing once again with Bob Stoops, Brian Kelly, or Gary Patterson. And while it may have been ideal for Notre Dame to get a wink and a nod from the successor to Weis before he was let go, it was likely next to impossible for that to happen, especially considering the fact that the football season wasn’t over. Given their recent history of relatively poor coach hirings, Notre Dame cannot afford to be trigger-happy when it comes to finding a successor to Weis. These next few weeks will define Swarbrick’s tenure as Athletic Director at Notre Dame—just as the firing of Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis’ contract extension defined Kevin White’s legacy—and Swarbrick cannot afford to rush the process and hire the wrong candidate.
Currently, the Notre Dame fan base reminds me of Veruca Salt from Roald Dahl’s beloved classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” You remember her, right? She’s the girl who had her father wrapped around her finger. She had a whole factory of workers furiously unwrapping Wonka Bars to find her a golden ticket. All the while, her father—played by Jack Swarbrick in our scenario—is hoping the Golden Ticket turns up so his daughter will stop yelling at him.
The fact is, like it or not, the University, the current players, the fan base, and the media have no other option but to wait for Swarbrick to make his decision on who Weis’ successor will be. Part of the frustration lies in the fact that Notre Dame, as storied as the program is, can no longer lure away anyone it wants and going through a coaching search makes this painfully obvious to Irish fans and foes alike. With as many false “sources” and “leads” that this story has already gotten from mainstream media and how many blatantly incorrect “scoops” that have been circulated on the internet, it’s apparent that the Notre Dame fan base and the rest of the nation doesn’t want to wait to find out the identity of Weis’ successor.
Notre Dame fans have been waiting for 15 seasons for their team to return to national prominence. Whomever Swarbrick chooses to take the helm at Notre Dame will have unbelievable pressure thrust upon them to produce favorable results—quickly. Given the relative failure of the last three hires, perhaps quicker isn’t necessarily better.