For Notre Dame, it’s just business, baby

Santo Caruso

Most readers probably have this column earmarked to be about the preposition that formally played wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, but I won’t even waste a word on him, or the greasy puppet master pulling his strings.

Instead, as the resident race relations expert (ha!), I want to tackle an issue presented by one of my favorite writers, Jason Whitlock.

Whitlock writes for the Kansas City Star,, appears on the “Sports Reporters,” and submits a great weekly column on the NFL for Page 2. This week, he added a little college commentary to his usual out on a limb professional football prose. To paraphrase his point, he said Notre Dame’s extension of Charlie Weis’s contract six games into the season, after the firing of Tyrone Willingham, was unfounded and bordering on racist.

Sorry, Jason, but you’ve been in the pro game too long.

Not two years ago, I, in this same space, proclaimed Ty Willingham’s upset victory over top 10 Michigan, as a “huge upset for the team, as well as the country,” and wrote that “Willingham showed on national television that a black coach can win a big game, beat a top 10 team and lead a storied franchise to victory.”

For some, the proof needs to be in the pudding; they’ll believe minorities are inferior until, one small win at a time, those beliefs are proven false.

Unfortunately for Willingham, he ended up like pudding often does, half eaten and jammed back into the fridge, where it will be long forgotten (unless the pudding is made by me, then it’s impatiently half made, and ends up being drunk like chocolate milk). With two years left on his contract under the Golden Dome on South Bend, he was fired, and then replaced by a three-time Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator.

It sucks when the underdog loses, especially when the varsity quarterback who gets the cheerleader is just another middle-aged fat white guy. But it’s not racism.

Charlie Weis is a great coach, and he saw the way teams like USC and Cal were winning: pro-style offenses run by superior athletes. Weis brought that in and ushered out the three-yards-in-a-cloud-of-dust run game of Willingham. No argument here; that is an upgrade. But as Whitlock says, why give Weis an extension? Why now?

Certainly the near upset of USC was impressive, but otherwise Notre Dame has done little but beat the teams they should and lose one they shouldn’t have (Michigan State, you don’t make that kind of comeback fall short).

Willingham started off 8-0 (including four top 25 victories) and couldn’t even finish the original contract he signed. Weis’s signature hasn’t dried on the first one, and already he has another more lucrative offer in front of him.

Despite the preponderance of evidence to support the claims of racism (which if I read the above paragraphs a few times in a row I’m almost convinced), allow this humble columnist to submit an opinion.

It’s just business, baby.

With Ty Willingham, the Fighting Irish had Stanford’s head coach, an up and comer, who had the potential to be a great coach and was courted by a few other major universities. With Weis, Notre dame gets a proven NFL coach coming from the No. 1 franchise in the league, and was coveted by many pro teams. It doesn’t take a C&F major to tell you the laws of supply and demand. Weis is Google stock, hot and on the rise. Willingham is GE, stable and reliable.

I don’t have to see Notre Dame’s endowment to know that when they signed Weis, the football checks started pouring in. And even as Matt Leinart tumbled into the end-zone, the mere threat of upsetting the almighty Trojans was enough to make the AD drool with anticipation of envelopes from alumni named Montana, Bettis and Taylor (well probably not Bobby Taylor so much).

Let’s face it. Two colors matter when it comes to Notre Dame, and the only thing that keeps the gold shining is green. Go ahead, pretend it’s Rudy Ruttiger, the “Play like a Champion Sign,” and the hearts of Catholic school boys across the country that makes Notre Dame one of the top football programs.

The reality is it’s the six flat screen TVs and leather chairs in the lounge for the players that draw the best recruits. Don’t get me wrong, the helmets painted with gold flakes still make for wide eyes and gaping mouths, but if you want to draw the talent to Eastbumble… Indiana, the cash has to keep flowing..

And that is what Charlie Weis has brought back. Willingham restored the luster, Weis the lucre. So why is it a big surprise they were willing to shell out *cough, cough* almost four million dollars a year for the next 10 years to keep the coach on the sidelines here, even with no guarantee he won’t bounce for the NFL anyway (though there are pro coaches not paid as well, but throw in a trip on the Vikings sex cruise and who knows)? Of that reported *cough, cough* 40 million dollars, how much does he bring back in? 100 million, 200 million? His name alone has a two loss team in the top 10, without beating a single top 20 team.

A noteworthy coach creates higher rankings, higher (inflated) rankings equals more press, which gets more sponsors (for a team already sponsored by Adidas, Gatorade, and with a $10 million a year exclusive television deal) and more money. Willingham= millions, Weis = hundreds of millions. And it would be the same if it were Romeo Crennel (the black former defensive coordinator of the Patriots) in place of Weis.

So Jason, like I said, your color scheme is all screwed up. It’s not black, it’s not white, it’s green, always and forever. I said I wouldn’t waste words on him, but my hands are shaking as I finish this article without one. So for TO and Drew Rosenhaus: pricks.