Brian Bennett is the Big Ten co-blogger on this network we've got running, but before he hit the big time, he was in charge of covering this little university we call Notre Dame.
He covered the Irish while Charlie Weis was in charge, and with Weis taking over at KU, a Big 12 school, I asked him for a little insight.
Here's what he had to say:
How would you describe what Kansas is getting in Charlie Weis?
They Jayhawks are getting a guy who knows how to call offensive plays. He won Super Bowls as the offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots and fielded, for the most part, a highly-productive offense at Notre Dame (though his short Florida tenure was not as successful). They're getting a guy with a quick wit who's not afraid to make some wisecracks. They're also getting a guy who has shown an ability to attract top recruits. What Kansas is not getting is someone who proved he can be a head coach, someone who proved he can oversee a team that is tough and plays solid defense or someone that has had sustained success as the man in charge.
You see the early success he had at Notre Dame, going to two BCS bowls in his first two years and earning the 10-year contract extension, but then the sharp decline. What went wrong?
The simple answer is Tyrone Willingham's recruits graduated. Weis recruited some highly-ranked classes, but the best players in those classes were almost always skill guys and not the talent in the trenches you need to win at a high level (and Notre Dame classes are invariably overrated, anyway). When the offense faltered as young players took over key roles like quarterback, Notre Dame had nothing else to fall back on, as Weis' teams were never known for playing good defense. He tried changing coordinators a few times to no avail. Weis has a natural arrogance to him that was compounded by the great start to his South Bend tenure and that infamous contract extension. He did not want to rub elbows with boosters and university leaders, and when the win totals started to drop, he didn't have many supporters in his corner.
What do you think he learned from that experience?
I guess we'll see. One would think that failure would humble Weis and that he'll do things differently at Kansas. He always had a pro mentality at Notre Dame, from the way he ran practices to the message he delivered his team. College players often need motivators as their head coach, and that's not necessarily Weis's strong suit. He hopefully learned to find a good defensive coordinator and let him do his thing, and that a college head coach has to schmooze a lot of people, instead of just sitting in a dark room breaking down film.
Do you think Weis was put in a situation where he could succeed long term at Notre Dame? Why or why not?
It's not the 1940s or '50s anymore, so it's harder to win at Notre Dame. You have to recruit nationally and play a very difficult schedule at a rigorous academic institution. But there's no reason why the Irish can't still be a consistent top-20 team. They put a ton of money into the program and have their own network TV deal. Sure, there were some obstacles for Weis. But at the same time, Notre Dame shouldn't be going 3-9, or losing at home to a terrible Syracuse team or dropping consecutive games to Navy. All of those things happened on Weis' watch. The team showed little ability to battle through adversity with him as head coach.
What will Kansas fans like about Weis?
The Jayhawks should score a lot of points. Weis' pro style offense is very well constructed, and the downfield passing game in particular should be fun to watch once he gets his players in place. He was able to recruit big-time athletes like Michael Floyd, Jimmy Clausen and Manti Te'o, though that likely will prove more difficult at Kansas. His news conferences are usually interesting, as Weis is not afraid to speak his mind.
What do you think they'll dislike?
I have my doubts as to whether a Weis-coached team will ever be tough enough on defense or in the trenches, and while his offense should play well in the Big 12, the Jayhawks may give up a ton of yards and points themselves. Weis sometimes tries to prove how smart he is by calling clever plays in situations where the simple ones are the best idea. He titled his book "No Excuses," but it sure seemed like he had one ready every time something went wrong at Notre Dame.
I'll put you on the spot: In five years, what do Kansas fans think about Weis?
I think they'll be wondering whether he's the man for the long term. Expect some high moments and an equal amount of head-scratching ones. It can't get worse than the Turner Gill era, but I don't see this team winning any Big 12 titles under Weis, either. One word of advice: maybe wait a couple of years before handing him a huge contract extension.