Gerry Faust had not seen the personal ad in The Observer, the Notre Dame campus newspaper. "Faust Fever . . . Cure It" was the message.
When he was told about it the next day, Faust smiled, even laughed, and said, "That's pretty neat."
If Faust--perhaps his profession's most positive thinker--is a football coach under siege, it doesn't show. "I think the subway alumni would like to get rid of me right now," he said with a smile.
But things are going poorly for Faust and the Irish. He is in the third year of a five-year contract and is 1-2 this season, 12-12-1 since he arrived from Moeller High School in Cincinnati. And yet, despite what you may read and hear, Gerry Faust will not be fired.
"He's got a contract and we fully expect him to to be here," said Athletic Director Gene Corrigan. "When they gave him the contract, they gave it (the job) for the length of the contract. He's the perfect man for the job. I'd like to see him have a little luck right now. The bounces have not gone his way.
"He's recruited a fine team. He's recruited a fine staff (five of the original nine assistants have been replaced). He has everything in place to be good over the long haul."
What will it take to have his contract renewed?
"He needs to do well, no question," said Corrigan. "That's when you call on the faculty board in charge of athletics. It's not a unilateral decision (as when Faust was hired by the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, the university's executive vice president)."
Asked to define "do well," Corrigan said, "We have to get into a major bowl, be a top 10 team."
Both Joyce and the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, university president, declined interviews. Through aides, they sent word that they were working on projects far more important to the university and mankind than a football coach. It only reinforced what Father Hesburgh told the team after its 5-6 first season under Faust: "Football is a game. No more. No less."
There are those who say Faust will resign before the five years are up if he thinks he is hurting the university.
"He might very well," Corrigan said. "He has a great feel for this place and, if it's not in the cards for him to make it here, I don't see anybody having to make him walk the plank with a gun at his back. But he's got to have time."
Faust said he has never considered resigning.
Asked if he might do so before his contract expired, Faust said, "If I thought I wasn't getting the job done, I'd . . . "
He paused, then said, "Well, I've got to think about that. I've never thought about that. I want to see the fruits of my recruiting . . . I don't want to hurt this place. It's been great to me. It's important to win, not for myself, but for the school and the people. The one thing different about this place than anywhere else is that money people will not dictate what is right or wrong.
"There's no job that you don't have problems. I need time. The people here see that, too, and they are willing to give me the time . . . Once we get over the hump, it'll take off."
Because of his high school record (17 losses in 18 seasons, with only one defeat in the last seven), because of his upbeat personality, because he was an educator who happened to be a fine football coach, too, and because this is the school that has produced more national championship teams and Heisman Trophy winners than any other, the expectations were high from the day Faust arrived.
Forty thousand attended his first spring game. The Irish were ranked No. 1 nationally after his first game. The Sporting News ranked the Irish No. 1 in its preseason poll this year. And after Notre Dame defeated Purdue, 52-6, in the season opener, the expectations seemed justified.
Said Corrigan, "Not only were they talking about being No. 1, but about the point spread against Nebraska, which of us would be favored (the teams do not play in the regular season this year). It was a foregone conclusion the Orange Bowl would pit us against Nebraska. Then we played Michigan State and we didn't show up. Even if you don't show up, you still have to win."
That 28-23 loss is the only one Corrigan cannot rationalize.
Corrigan said he was willing to accept a 5-6 record in Faust's first year because of the adjustment to college football.
Last season, the Irish were 6-1-1 before quarterback Blair Kiel was injured. The team lost the next two games, had no major bowl prospects and then suffered a season-ending loss to Air Force to finish 6-4-1. Corrigan says he can accept that, as well.
Now, Notre Dame has lost five of its last six games and will start five freshmen against Colorado Saturday in Boulder (partly as a result of seven key injuries after the Purdue game). Looking back, Corrigan said, "The only thing I haven't understood was the Michigan State game. That hurt everybody. A game we should win and playing at home, and we didn't win it . . . You want to see them be Notre Dame, play like Notre Dame."
The Irish had more problems last Saturday night. They were drubbed, 20-0, on national television, by the University of Miami. Mental mistakes (25 penalties in three games) and critical turnovers (Miami's longest drive was 42 yards) have hurt the Irish. Now, Faust is changing starting quarterbacks this week, apparently hoping that freshman Steve Beuerlein, not Kiel, will turn it around.
Notre Dame's legendary coaches all were successful early. Knute Rockne was 22-1-2 in his first 25 games; Frank Leahy 24-0-1; Ara Parseghian 21-3-1.
There is a minority here, including a few faculty members and some football players, who do not blame Faust for the problems. Last year, the Irish beat Michigan, Miami and Pittsburgh (ranked No. 1 at the time). But they lost to Arizona and needed a late field goal to tie lowly Oregon.
"I'm not sure all the heat on Faust is legit," said Granville Cleveland, the assistant law librarian, in a minority position among faculty and alumni. "It's easy to put the blame on the top guy. But it's something else to look at the situation and see arm tackling and routes being run that are not covered. That is the job of the players. They have to . . . play like they're there to play football."
For three years some players have acknowledged they have not been ready to play some of the lesser opponents on their schedule. Or, as injured linebacker Mike Larkin, who has played for Faust at both Moeller and Notre Dame, said:
"No one blames it on themselves, so they blame it on the coach. But I know for a fact Coach Faust is a winner from the things we did in high school."
Back at the football office, Jan Blazi, Faust's secretary, is saying the majority of fans writing in still support Faust, but most offer suggestions about what to try. The one message Faust liked best referred to the fact that Notre Dame hasn't scored in the last six quarters. One fan wrote "instead of crossing yourself, why don't you cross the goal line?"
Faust, the positive thinker, said, "Every coach has gotten these (letters), including Rockne. People have to take their frustrations out. They feel better, I'm sure . . . Every one of those people who are upset with us (now) will pat us on the back before it's over." Coffey Fuels Maret, 18-16
Quarterback-linebacker Terry Coffey threw two touchdown passes and returned a fumble 35 yards for another score as Maret defeated the Maryland State School for the Deaf, 18-16, in a Potomac Independent Conference game yesterday at Maret.