Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Notre Dame's Impending PR Nightmare

Much will soon be written by people with no connection to Notre Dame and whose opinion already lies along a spectrum from indifference to contempt. I'm writing this as a loyalist... someone who grew up two miles from the Dome, who received a top-notch education there and who criticizes out of love, not hate.

I can't believe you're about to keep Charlie Weis.

This decision is not only wrong on moral and professional grounds; it's a PR cataclysm in the making. Here's why:

- I was actually one of the alumni who was fine with the decision to fire Ty Willingham. Someone who knows the football program from birth knows when a coach is on the right or wrong track. Willingham received the first-season boost that nearly all new ND coaches get, and then the deterioration was obvious. His unfortunate lack of success at Washington vindicates that decision.

- Weis' track record, until this year, has been harder to decipher. He got the first-season boost in a big way, nearly beating a dominant USC program with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. The second season felt more or less the same, a no decision. The third season was an absolutely stupefying decline, but Weis' previous success--not only at ND, but everywhere he's been--as well as his highly rated recruiting classes-- allowed one to hope that the season was anomalous.

- This season proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Weis is no better a college football head coach than Willingham. He can't prepare. He can't motivate. He can't educate. He can't hire good assistants. All he can do is recruit, and recruiting means nothing if you can't bring out and build on the natural talents of your players.

- The decision to keep Weis, therefore, logically has to be motivated by one of two things: proof of institutional racism, or a purely financial decision due to an alleged buyout package that is as large as Weis' already-stapled stomach.

- I believe it's the latter. One could argue that this decision is actually justified by pointing out the horrors of the current economy, and how keeping Weis actually keeps more university money where it should be: getting great students, hiring great faculty, building great facilities.

- Balderdash. The PR nightmare that this decision will unleash will cost the university far more than Weis' buyout. If ND refuses to admit that it is driven by the latter motivation, it will be hopelessly vulnerable to accusations of the former. And those accusations will stick.

- This, I'm afraid, will do more to harm ND's reputation than anything else in its history. And an institution that genuinely does more right by the student-athlete than any other in its class will see most of that brand equity disintegrate before its very eyes.

- (The paranoid in me sees ND already laying the groundwork for this decision by saying that Weis' buyout will not affect its decision, as well as sending an email to students, faculty and staff encouraging them to look for ways to save money. This does not mitigate the decision to keep Weis; it merely puts the university in a box.)

- Please don't do it.

3 comments:

Nate said...

"as large as Weis' already-stapled stomach"? Making fun of his weight is very juvenile and tasteless.

Anyways the news just hit all the media outlets, it appears Fatso will be coming back next year.

m. f. said...

WWJMD? What Would Joe Montana Do?

Hey! Maybe the Irish should make the call and get Joe Montana to coach the team! Couldn't do much worse...

Marc Conklin said...

Well, it happened the day after this post. I appear to have been wrong, as the expected venom has not yet surfaced. Perhaps I was wrong, or perhaps it's going to be a slow build into next season.