If you think they hired me here to go .500, youve got the wrong guy.
– Charlie Weis, Dec. 13, 2004
Ah, the marriage made in hell: a mans words and posterity.
Sooner or later the words grow teeth, and posterity uses them to make you bleed. Sooner or later the man standing at the lectern on that first bright day, saying things that will come to haunt him like Marleys ghost, reveals himself to be no answer after all.
Instead he leaves only questions, one more time.
Why couldnt Charlie Weis, fired Monday as Notre Dame football coach, get it turned around in South Bend?
Why did those four Super Bowl rings turn out to be such useless currency?
Who, if anyone, can hack through the philosophical knot that is the tie that binds at Notre Dame?
Harvard in the classroom, the Steelers between the hashes: Thats the mandate in this place, the standard demanded by all those alums for whom it will always be 1924 or 1946 or 1966, or even 1988.
Thats the last time Notre Dame won a national title, in case youre keeping score. The college game, its landscape and values and the things that drive it, were changing even then. And for a time Notre Dame changed with it, to the benefit of a wisecracking football genius named Lou Holtz.
And then it changed back, sort of. And Holtz left.
Now its been 13 seasons since that happened, and there have been no titles and too many losses and too few moments of lore for a school that loves its lore like no other. Bob Davie won some and lost some and was dismissed. Tyrone Willingham was, by the schools own admission, everything Notre Dame wanted from Sunday to Friday, but not enough of what it felt it needed on Saturday.
And so in came Weis, talking his Jersey smack. Talking about restoring the nastiness and the swagger. Talking as the guy who sat up in Section 59 on Saturdays, and who roomed with Terry Eurick, one of the heroes of the 1978 national champs, and who was a Notre Dame man right down to his Florsheims.
You are what you are, folks, and right now youre a 6-5 football team, he said on the day he was introduced. And guess what, thats just not good enough.
Words to live by, at the time. Words that have grown teeth and turned on him now that, in the traditional parlance, Notre Dame has decided to make a change, firing Weis on Monday after, um, a .500 season.
Which followed a 7-6 season.
Which followed 3-9.
Which adds up to 16-21 with his own recruits, and 19-6 in his first two years with Tyrone Willinghams leftovers.
Not good enough, as he said. Not nearly good enough.
So what will be good enough?
In the last eight years, the Holtz assistant hasnt been good enough, and the landmark racial hire hasnt been good enough, and the Notre Dame man with the shining NFL pedigree hasnt been good enough. And as Notre Dame again Decides To Make A Change, unavoidably you start to wonder whether Harvard-in-the-classroom, the-Steelers-on-the-field is attainable by anyone in this day and age.
Yes, maybe the next guy really will be the answer.
More likely, it seems now, his words will grow teeth, and turn on him, and make him bleed, too.