Weis Prefers to Remain on the Sideline

By Mark Schlabach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 12, 2005

"Tell the public about the boys. They're the ones that do the work and they should get the credit. The people are interested in them, not me."

Legendary Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne ,to the school's publicist

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Nov. 11 -- Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis was rarely in the spotlight during his 15 seasons as an NFL assistant under coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, remaining in the background while his teams won four Super Bowl championships. Parcells and Belichick seldom allowed their assistants to speak to the media, instead adhering to a strict "one-voice" policy, and Weis seemed more content designing offenses and dissecting game film than talking to reporters.

Even now, as Weis has returned Notre Dame to national prominence in his first season and made the No. 7 Fighting Irish relevant again in college football, the sometimes gruff New Jersey native has chosen to remain in the background, deflecting attention to his players, even though he holds what many would say is the most glamorous coaching position in college sports.

"Hey, I could go make myself look like the second coming," Weis said earlier this week, while talking to a reporter after his team practiced on a cool, crisp evening. "But that's really being a horse's [behind] when you do that. My whole deal coming from the New England Patriots was selling how a team won all those games and Super Bowls. Well, how hypocritical would I be if I'm talking about how the team was more important than the individual, but then I'm out there talking to every Tom, Dick and Harry about the job I've done?"

When Notre Dame was considered the premier college football program in the country, when the Fighting Irish were winning 11 national championships and producing more all-Americans and Heisman Trophy winners than any other school, the coaches often went from average men to national celebrities. It even turned Gerry Faust, a Cincinnati high school football coach before Notre Dame hired him in 1981, into a household name.

Before Knute Rockne died in 1931 in a plane crash in a Kansas cornfield, he was so revered during the Roaring Twenties that he was often mentioned in the same breath with boxing world champion Jack Dempsey and New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth. Notre Dame coaches Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian appeared on the cover of Time magazine, a spot usually reserved for world and national leaders. Former coach Lou Holtz, who led the Fighting Irish to their first national championship in 11 seasons in 1988, became so popular that he still commands tens of thousands of dollars to make motivational speeches to corporations and other groups. Even the nondescript Bob Davie, who failed to match Holtz's success in five seasons as his successor, became a network analyst after Notre Dame fired him.

"If you're the coach at Notre Dame, you're going to be the man, that's just the way it is," said former Fighting Irish wide receiver Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner and longtime NFL player.

But Weis, who has guided the Fighting Irish to a 6-2 record entering Saturday's game against Navy at Notre Dame Stadium, says he wants none of the fame that comes with the position. Aside from his weekly news conference, Weis has rarely done TV interviews, even turning away reporters from NBC, which pays Notre Dame $9 million per season to televise its home games.

"I'm not going to talk about me," Weis said. "I'll talk about my family. I'll talk about my special-needs daughter. I'll talk about those things, things that are important to me. But what I'm not going to do is talk about myself."

Weis is willing to talk about his family or his foundation, Hannah and Friends, which he and his wife, Maura, started to aid children with autism and global delay. Their 10-year-old daughter, Hannah, has been affected by developmental diseases after she was born with kidney problems.

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