Gerry Faust had spent the last five years appearing as if each game were his last as Notre Dame coach.
Today's was his last, and the fourth-ranked University of Miami made it a maudlin thing, trashing the Fighting Irish, 58-7, before 49,236 at the Orange Bowl. It was Notre Dame's fourth-worst loss ever and its worst since a 59-0 loss to Army 41 years ago.
For Faust, a Disney tale turned Hitchcock. Today, he shed no tears and expressed no regrets. He had reigned as Rockne for 18 years in Cincinnati high school football, but he announced his resignation Tuesday after five subpar seasons with the Irish -- a Rockne no more.
"No, I'm not ready to go. It just didn't end up the way I would have liked," Faust, 50, said late today.
The Irish finished 5-6 for their eighth losing season in 96 years and second under Faust. His five-year mark was 30-26-1. Lou Holtz, University of Minnesota coach, will take over next year and will try to salvage the shipwreck.
"My feelings are for the players more than anything," said Faust.
The Hurricanes (10-1 and Sugar Bowl-bound) took a 20-0 lead one minute into the second quarter. The lead reached 30 points after three quarters as quarterback Vinny Testaverde (356 yards and two touchdowns) was as tough as any four horsemen. Miami scored on eight of 10 possessions today.
The Hurricanes kept passing in the fourth quarter. They recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown with less than five minutes left and ran a reverse play with 1:15 to play.
It was a victory for Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson, if not for compassion as the score was run up. "We played our second- and third-string players throughout the game and had our second and third units in with 12 minutes left," he said.
"But no matter who is in, we'll run our offense no matter what the score is."
Of Faust, Johnson said: "I feel for the man. I have a lot of respect for Gerry Faust, but we could not let what was happening on the other sideline affect our game.
"It's only one opinion -- mine -- but I think we're the best team in the country."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Ara Parseghian, a former Irish coach, told a television audience that Miami ought to quit passing.
Of Miami's large margin of victory, Faust said afterward: "Those are decisions a coach has to make on the other side of the ball."
Was it running up the score?
"You (media) people have to decide that," said Faust.
Holtz wasn't here to see the fitful finish of Faust. He was vacationing in Palm Springs, Calif., today.
The embarrassment for the Irish was mountainous, and not only because their basketball team yielded fewer points in an 87-56 win over Butler University today. Miami safety Bennie Blades humiliated the Irish by intercepting a second-quarter pass from quarterback Steve Beuerlein and returning it 61 yards for a score, slowing near the Irish two long enough to exchange a high-five with a teammate.
The Hurricanes, who will play Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl and who still feel they have a long-shot chance to win their second national title in three years, outgained the Irish, 564 yards to 359.
Testaverde cut up the Irish defense throughout, and the Hurricanes' defense pressured Notre Dame's quarterbacks constantly. It was no contest.
There was remorse in the Irish locker room -- mostly for Faust. "It goes back to the old adage -- maybe nice guys do finish last," said Allen Pinkett, the Irish running back from Sterling, Va., who had 77 yards.
"All of the players will remember him fondly. He's been an inspiration more times than I can count," said Beuerlein, a junior. "So many other people would've thrown in the towel so many times."
Players said Faust's pregame talk was standard, to the point. Faust said, "I told them, 'Play the game. Don't get caught in jawing. Block and tackle well.' "
After the game, Faust said: "I just told them to keep their heads high because they should. They are from Notre Dame."
Faust never had coached above the high school level before being named Irish coach in November 1980, replacing Dan Devine.
He began today by squinting in the late afternoon sun and ended it under the lights of the TV cameras in a dank cement corner of the Orange Bowl where he said he would like to continue as a college coach, somewhere. He said that he has had four or five coaching inquiries and that "I told them I'd get back to them next week."
There was little fight in these Irish. Early on, they missed blocks and tackles, just as they have for most of this season. When his kicker, John Carney, missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, Faust put both hands on his knees, stared at the ground and shook his head.
There were more than 25,000 empty seats and one wrinkled bedsheet banner hanging from the upper deck that said, "Last Stop, Faust."
In truth, standing on the Notre Dame sideline is much the same as standing at the base of a football Everest.
Notre Dame possesses the highest winning percentage of any school in the nation, having won 76 percent of its games over the past 96 years. Some schools measure success by the season; Notre Dame can measure it by the century.
Of Faust's 25 losses before today, 15 were decided by a touchdown or less, the type of games in which astute coaching can make a difference.
Faust lost more games in five years with the Irish than Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy lost in a combined 24 years at Notre Dame. Things just don't seem as simple as they used to be.
Perhaps Faust's most remarkable trait was his unbreakable optimism. He kept a chart underneath the glass top on his desk that reflected the records that Dallas' Tom Landry and Pittsburgh's Chuck Noll compiled during their first three years in the National Football League. Landry started 9-28-3 and Noll began 12-30. Landry and Noll reversed their courses and persevered.
It could be said that Notre Dame officials tacitly admitted that the Faust experiment was a failure when they replaced him with Holtz, a coach with an inordinate amount of college (and one year of professional) coaching experience.
Gerry Faust is the guy who once said, "I'm not clever enough to con anybody." He is also the guy who said that the best coach he ever saw was his father, Gerry Sr., who coached at Chaminade High School in Dayton, Ohio -- for 49 years.
After today's game -- five years and one week after he was named as Irish coach -- Faust said: "You've got ups and downs in life. We've had some downs the last couple years. We'll be back, though."
To hear him, you'd almost think Faust wasn't leaving the Irish.