SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Charlie Weis arrived at Notre Dame flashing Super Bowls rings and talking about outscheming opponents. He leaves one of college football's most prestigious programs without even matching the record of the two men who were fired before him.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick yesterday announced the decision to fire Weis.
"For many of you who may have thought that was a foregone conclusion, I would say to you that the decision was harder than you might have thought, principally because of the man it involved," Swarbrick said during a news conference on campus.
Swarbrick said there was a huge gulf between the coach's brash image and personal style. But he still recommended to the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, on Sunday night that Weis be let go with 6 years left on his contract. Weis finishes with a 35-27 record in five seasons, among the worst of any Fighting Irish coach.
"He will go on to have great success. He'll add some Super Bowl rings to the ones he already has as a successful coordinator in the NFL and we will miss him," Swarbrick said. "But for us it's time to move forward. It's time to move forward because it is critical to this program and to its place in the university and college football that we compete at the highest level. That we compete for national championships."
Assistant head coach Rob Ianello will step in for Weis until a new coach is hired.
The Fighting Irish (6-6) are eligible to play in a bowl game, but Swarbrick has said he wants to hear from the players before deciding if Notre Dame will go to a minor postseason game.
Following a 6-2 start, Notre Dame began a winless November with the second upset by Navy in 3 years. Then came losses to Pittsburgh and to Connecticut in double overtime on senior day in South Bend. By the time the Irish lost their season finale to Stanford on Saturday, it seemed inevitable Weis would be gone.
Speculation about possible replacements for Weis has been rampant for weeks. Among the top names mentioned, Florida's Urban Meyer and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops already have said they plan to stay where they are.
Speaking on a conference call yesterday, Stoops said: "I'm going to be at Oklahoma next year, so I can't be at two places at once."
Cincinnati's Brian Kelly also has been mentioned, along with Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and TCU's Gary Patterson.
A self-confident offensive coordinator with the NFL champion New England Patriots when he was hired, Weis raised Irish expectations with back-to-back appearances in BCS bowl games in his first two seasons. Since then, though, Notre Dame has gone 16-21 - the most losses by the Irish in a 3-year span.
Weis' record is worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie, who also were fired. Notre Dame is looking to hire its fifth coach this decade.
Weis received a new 10-year contract midway through his first season, shortly after a thriller against top-ranked USC that ended in a 34-31 Notre Dame loss.
Even though the Irish fell short, playing nearly even the mighty Trojans had the Notre Dame faithful hopeful they had found a coach capable of returning the program to its past glories. The Fighting Irish have won eight Associated Press national titles, more than any other school, but none since 1988.
Yet the USC loss turned out to be the highlight of Weis' tenure.