Irish's season ends with bowl refusal

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Notre Dame football season is officially over.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced Friday that the school has decided against going to a bowl game with a 6-6 record, citing "unique circumstances." He didn't elaborate, but Swarbrick fired coach Charlie Weis after five seasons earlier this week and the search for a replacement is under way.

Swarbrick said he reached the decision after meetings with assistant coaches and team leaders.

"The unique circumstances surrounding our program at the current time prevent us from making the commitment required to compete in a bowl game," Swarbrick said in a prepared statement.

Weis was the team's offensive coordinator, so the team wouldn't have had an experienced play caller for a bowl game. The school also likely would have lost money because their only option would have been a minor bowl.

There also have been questions about how motivated players and coaches would have been for the game. Players actually met this week to discuss whether to play in a bowl.

Notre Dame went to the Insight Bowl in 2004 when Tyrone Willingham was fired, but the school accepted the bid before Willingham was fired. Players at least initially weren't sure they wanted to play in the bowl, but later voted to play. Both the offensive and defensive coordinators were still in place. The Irish were beaten 38-21 by Oregon State.

The school decided against going to a bowl game in 1996 after Lou Holtz resigned as coach. An overtime loss to USC in the regular-season finale cost them a shot at a major bowl that season.

For years, Notre Dame refused to play in bowls. The Irish played in the Rose Bowl in 1925, then didn't appear in another bowl until coach Ara Parseghian finally persuaded the university to let the ninth-ranked Irish play top-ranked Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.

But the decision to play in bowl games came with the proviso: that Notre Dame play a higher-ranked team or one that could help the Irish improve their own ranking. That condition no longer exists.

The Irish went to the Hawaii Bowl last season with a 6-6 record and beat Hawaii 49-21.

"If the landscape had been different, we would have been thrilled to take part, and we certainly look forward to being part of the bowl system in the years to come," Swarbrick said.

The Irish ended this season with four straight losses to finish at .500 for just the sixth time in 121 seasons

Aside from who the new coach will be, the two biggest questions facing the Irish are whether quarterback Jimmy Clausen or receiver Golden Tate will be back for their senior seasons.