Weis' ND tenure marked by mediocrity

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick straddled the goal line of the north end zone with his jaws clinched, staring blankly as he buried his hands deep in his pockets.

He then slipped into the crowd of Irish players and coaches to escape the cameras flashing in his face.

He swayed back and forth to the alma mater, his Adam's apple bouncing up and down. It appeared he still had one hand in his pocket, maybe struggling to key in a blind text message to Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly:

Hey, BK. Brick here. Lost 33-30 to UConn in 20T. U interested in the job? We think havin U in the Bend would be the cat's meow.

Maybe not. Perhaps he's waiting until next week, when he can pull a contract from his pocket and sign Stanford's Jim Harbaugh on the 50-yard line in California.

It's time to do something, because the only certainty at this juncture is that there aren't enough candles in the Grotto to save embattled Irish coach Charlie Weis.

Connecticut (5-5) was the final must-win game of Weis' career at Notre Dame. Stanford now means nothing. The best the Irish can finish is 7-5, with a 6-6 mark looking to be a realistic swan song of the Weis era.

Now there's much to chew on for Swarbrick this Thanksgiving: Which coach might have the Midas touch? Does Notre Dame accept a lower-tier bowl invitation with an interim coach or just skip it altogether? Does he strike former athletic director Kevin White from the Christmas card list?

White, now the AD at Duke, was either sipping sweet tea at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday watching his vaunted basketball program throttle Radford, or in Miami watching the Hurricanes whip the Blue Devils football team -- an outcome that matters little on Tobacco Road.

Either way, his mess is now Swarbrick's to mop up -- and the clock's ticking.

Junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen and senior center Eric Olsen went from team captains to character witnesses during Wednesday's news conference -- a last-ditch effort to defend their coach following the loss to Pittsburgh.

Instead of describing Weis as ego-driven and unwilling to change, Clausen and Olsen rambled on about how Weis is a family man, humanitarian and loyal friend.

Those are the kinds of words spoken at wakes, which is what Saturday felt like. Weis looked like a defeated man, saying he'll wait until tomorrow to evaluate himself.

"Today's not the day for me to reflect on things like that," Weis said. "I mean, today's the day for me to be worrying about those [seniors], those 33 guys. I'll worry about me tomorrow."

Swarbrick, with a background as a lawyer, doesn't have to wait that long. The evidence against Weis, who was booed as he walked up the tunnel, is overwhelming. One had to look no further than the players who lingered on the field for the last time on senior night.

Offensive lineman Sam Young, who came to South Bend after Weis went 10-2 in his first season in 2005, set an Irish record with his 49th consecutive start Saturday. A lot of grime has settled on the Golden Dome since his first one.

Notre Dame's gone 26-23 since Young arrived. The 15 combined losses from 2007 to '08 are the most of any two-year span in the history of the program. The 2007 season was the worst ever at Notre Dame. Air Force. Syracuse. Navy (twice). Now UConn.

Clausen and Olsen could be right about Weis. Though he appears gruff on the exterior, for all we know, Weis has a softer side he'd rather the public didn't see.

We all know about the time and money he puts into Hannah & Friends, a nonprofit organization set up in recognition of Weis' daughter, who's been affected by developmental disorders.

It's not about what Clausen thinks. It's more than likely he won't be around next year anyway. It's about a coach, who rarely left the castle-like confines of the Guglielmino Complex, never fully grasping college football or its culture, often referring to his program as the "organization."

And it's not about good deeds, but more about never beating USC or Boston College. It's not about his recruiting savvy, it's about turning that talent into something more than the mediocrity being pumped out of South Bend for a half-decade.

Huskies coach Randy Edsell can remember when Notre Dame was something special.

"Our kids don't remember," he said of the storied program.

That's the problem. And that's why Swarbrick has to get this one right, with the first order of business very obvious now. Notre Dame's pockets are deep enough.