Having just finished watching Boogie Nights last night, I can best compare this post to the scene towards the end when Jack Horner beats the crap out of a college student for telling him that his films now suck and then, as the poor kid is lying on the ground bloody and semi-conscious, Rollergirl skates over and kicks him in the head with her skate. In this instance, Jack Horner is played by MGoBlog, the hapless college student is played by Jason Whitlock's knee-jerk column about Charlie Weis getting a massive extension from Notre Dame, and I get to be Rollergirl (minus the perfect chest and desire to be mothered by a coked-out porn star.) Anyway, here's what I have to add to Brian's fine takeout of Whitlock's argument:
As an initial matter, it needs to be said that major college football programs put themselves at risk for arguments like this because of their lousy collective history in hiring African-Americans. That history creates the context for reactionary writers looking for the next emotional hot button issue to ride to Stephen A. Smith-dom to view any story in college football with a hint of race as a big deal. That's why Fisher DeBerry's comments were such a big deal (aided by the fact that he's a older man who has previously voiced socially conservative views, both of which add to the impression that he could be prejudiced) and that's why the Weis extension is news. The irony is that Notre Dame is one of the few college football programs that has hired an African-American coach, so they shouldn't be punished for the context in which they find themselves. Brian makes a great point when he states that other programs will look at the heat that Notre Dame has taken and will be less likely to hire the next Tyrone Willingham, although he probably overstates the importance of the Jason Whitlocks of the world.
What Whitlock completely misses in his piece is the way that Notre Dame has gotten to 5-2, as opposed to the way that Notre Dame got to 8-0 under Willingham. Notre Dame has looked very good in every game they've played this year. They've blown out every bad team they've played, they won a reasonably close game against a good Michigan team on the road, they suffered an upset to Michigan State, an entirely reasonable result given State's history of playing up to the name opponents on its schedule, and they came within an eyelash of beating a team that hasn't lost in two years. In other words, they've looked like a very good team. (Incidentally, when Whitlock pillories the Notre Dame schedule, he glosses over who's coaching one-win Washington.) I'm by no means a Notre Dame fan and I have no problem saying that they look like a good bet to win a national title in the next five years. I NEVER got that sense about Willingham's first team at ND, a team that was one of the weakest 8-0 teams in recent memory and a team whose subsequent collapse over the next 2 and 1/3rd seasons was entirely predictable.
And why is Notre Dame only 5-2 this season, despite having an offense that ranks 9th in total offense? Gee, could it be because Willingham did a lousy job of recruiting on defense, specifically the defensive backfield? Any team with a semblance of a passing game can stay in a game with Notre Dame this year because the Irish can't stop the pass and were unable to do so for most, if not all, of Willingham's tenure. Weis has taken a team from which Willingham could coax six wins and has produced a top ten team. Is that not worth an extension? Whitlock gives Willingham credit for recruiting the offense that Weis has turned into a machine and Willingham did do a fairly good job recruiting offense skill position talent (although his offensive line recruiting was not good,) but Willingham was unable to get any production out of Quinn & co. Before the season, Quinn was viewed as a marginal NFL prospect. After a year with Weis, Whitlock now says he could go ahead of Leinart and acts as if this was fait accompli.
And what was the motivation for that extension, Jason? Could it have been the fact that the NFL is eyeing Weis like you eye all-you-can-eat riblet night at Applebee's? I don't recall NFL teams going ga-ga over Willingham in 2002 when Notre Dame was 8-0 because they played opponents who had a remarkable ability to hand the ball to Irish defenders at inopportune times. Weis, unlike Willingham, has a proven track record in the NFL. Willingham does not. The NFL is full of teams that are willing to pay $4M per season for a head coach. The NFL drives the monetary market for top-end college coaches, which is why Weis needs a raise and Willingham didn't.