SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Charlie Weis will return for a fifth year as Notre Dame’s football coach despite posting his second straight disappointing season.
“Though this past season fell short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program, I am confident that Charlie has a strong foundation in place for future success and that the best course of action is to move forward under his leadership,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement released by the university Wednesday.
Weis has seven years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, but some fans had been clamoring for his firing after the Irish got off to a 4-1 start this season and finished 6-6.
Swarbrick said he made the decision to keep Weis after talking with Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins. Swarbrick met with Weis in California on Tuesday to review this past season and discuss next season.
“He, I and the others involved in leading our football program are committed to doing everything necessary to ensure a successful 2009 season,” Swarbrick said. “We are examining every aspect of the program and will make changes wherever we think they are needed.”
The decision gives Weis another shot at trying to return Notre Dame to prominence after the team lost 15 games the past two seasons, the most by Notre Dame in a two-year span.
The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a record of 28-21 in four years, a .571 winning percentage. That’s slightly worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.
Weis, though, also led the Irish to BCS bowls in his initial two seasons at Notre Dame, first to the Fiesta Bowl then to the Sugar Bowl. The Irish are expected to go to a lower-level bowl this year.
Davie got the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl in 2000, Notre Dame’s only BCS appearance in his five years as coach. The only bowl the Irish went to during Willingham’s three years as coach was in 2002 to the Gator Bowl.
The decision to keep Weis is the first big decision in the tenure of Swarbrick, who took over the job in August.
Swarbrick said on Nov. 12 that he looked forward to Weis “being the head coach for a long time.” But after an embarrassing 24-23 loss to Syracuse, the first time in its storied history that Notre Dame had fallen to an eight-loss team, and getting trounced by rival USC for the sixth time in seven straight losses to the Trojans, Swarbrick said he wouldn’t comment on Weis’ status until he had time to review the season.
Last season’s triple-overtime loss to Navy ended an NCAA-record 43-game winning streak over the Midshipmen, and a pair of 38-0 losses to Michigan and USC were among the embarrassing defeats of the past two seasons.
In Weis’ four seasons, only eight of Notre Dame’s 28 victories came against teams that finished the season with a winning record. The Irish have recently gone 1-16 against teams that finished with a winning record.
The wins against quality teams have been scarce. Notre Dame beat No. 3 Michigan in Weis’ second game as coach, but the Wolverines finished 7-5 that season. His only victory against a team that finished a season ranked in the Top 25 was a 41-17 win over a Penn State squad that finished 2006 ranked No. 24.
His finest moment as Irish coach came midway through his first season, when the Irish were 12-point underdogs to top-ranked USC. He worked Notre Dame fans into a frenzy that week and held the weekly pep rally outside at Notre Dame Stadium and 45,000 people attended. The Trojans narrowly won when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone with 3 seconds left.
Weis, who originally signed a five-year contract, was rewarded the next week with a 10-year contract that started with the 2006 season.