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Excerpt from No Excuses by Weis

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  1. mikey

    mikey Rookie

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    http://therockreport.blogspot.com/2006/10/ndn-excerpt-no-excuses-by-charlie-weis_10.html

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    No Excuses
    by Charlie Weis

    To this day I am not sure why I dialed the phone. I guess you could blame it on a lot of things, immaturity probably being the biggest. It was a Sunday afternoon in 1975, the day after Notre Dame’s football team had lost a game and looked pretty bad doing so. For some reason, I believed that being a student of the university entitled me to issue a complaint about the team’s performance. I thought it would be a good idea to take my complaint all the way to the top—to the office of Father Theodore Hesburgh, the school’s president at the time.

    To be honest, I was fully expecting to get an answering service. I was stunned when Father Hesburgh himself picked up at the other end. It had never dawned on me that he would be done with his Sunday masses and actually sitting in his office at that very moment, ready to answer his phone.

    Father Hesburgh was caught off guard as well. He wasn’t in the habit of fielding a lot of complaint calls from students. He made me come straight down to his office to tell him exactly what was on my mind.

    My passion for sports and thinking that I knew everything there was to know about football—not to mention every other sport—had a lot to do with my being in that situation. When I sat in the stands at Notre Dame, I wasn’t just watching the action on the field or on the court. To me, being at the game meant being a part of the game. Our football team won the national championship in 1977, my senior year. Our basketball team went to the Final Four. As a student who went to every game, I felt that I was part of the reason why the University of San Francisco’s twenty-nine-game winning streak in basketball came to an end in ’77 in our building, the Joyce Center, where the chant was “Twenty-nine . . . and one!†At Notre Dame, the whole student body has always believed it can affect the outcome of a game.

    Notre Dame Stadium is like no other place you’ve ever gone to watch football. Not that there aren’t fans everywhere that make a lot of noise, but a game at Notre Dame is something to experience. I still can’t believe my eyes when I see, after every Notre Dame score, hundreds of people in the stands doing “air push-ups.†That’s where they lift people, often recruits who weigh as much as 350 pounds, into the air and do as many push-ups with them as we have points. Or how about fans who crowd surf sixty rows? You just won’t find anything like it anywhere else.

    But there should be a limit to your enthusiasm, and I had exceeded that limit with my complaint call to Father Hesburgh, who at the time was in his twenty-third year as Notre Dame’s president. Father Hesburgh would lead the university for twelve more years until his retirement in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential figures in higher education in the twentieth century.

    I walked into his office with my tail between my legs, scared to death that I had gotten myself into trouble. Father Hesburgh had a very intimidating aura. After I nervously shared my point of view on our football team, he basically told me that I didn’t get a vote. What I thought about the football team wasn’t important, he said; I should go back and be a good student who was loyal to the school and its teams, and not consider my opinion one that mattered.

    Fortunately, the stern lecture was the extent of my punishment. But that didn’t make it any less painful. I remember walking out of that office feeling as humbled as you could possibly be.

    Now flash forward nearly thirty years, to early December 2004. Once again I was on the phone with a member of the administration at the University of Notre Dame. This time I was on the receiving end of the call, at my office in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots.

    I was going about my usual business as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, trying to help them win their third Super Bowl in four seasons. John Heisler, Notre Dame’s senior associate athletics director, was asking whether I would be interested in speaking with Kevin White, the school’s director of athletics, about replacing Tyrone Willingham, who had just been fired as head coach.

    Imagine that. The opinionated fan who used to sit in the student section had an opinion about Notre Dame football that just might matter after all. It brought a sarcastic smile to my face.

    I told John that protocol would be for Kevin to call Bill Beli-chick, the Patriots’ head coach, to ask for permission to talk with me. Belichick got that call on Saturday night, December 4, while we were in Cleveland getting ready for our game the next day against the Browns. I was anxious to hear about what had transpired in the conversation between Bill and Kevin, but that wouldn’t happen until Sunday morning, during our pregame meal, when Bill came up to me and said, “Notre Dame called last night. . . . I told them they could give you a call.†Not that I was expecting him to tell me otherwise, but still it was a relief to hear that he had given his official blessing.

    We beat the Browns, 42–15. On Tuesday morning, as we began game planning for our next opponent, Cincinnati, Kevin called to say he wanted to come to New England to interview me.

    “When do you want to do that?†I asked.

    “Today,†he said.

    “Great.â€

    “When are you available?â€

    “Any time after midnight.â€

    “Excuse me?â€

    “Any time after midnight.â€

    I had made a commitment to Belichick that I would not let the pursuit of the Notre Dame job, or any head-coaching position for that matter, distract me from my work with the Patriots. I would spend all day and all night working on the offensive game plan, as I always did on Tuesday before a Sunday game, and midnight was when I usually finished. If Kevin wanted to interview me on Tuesday, that was the time I would be available.

    “Okay,†he said.

    The meeting was set for 12:30 A.M., at the Westin Hotel in Providence. I knew I wasn’t going to feel the least bit spent. Are you kidding me? I was already operating on adrenaline because of our playoff run, and now we’re talking about the chance to coach football at Notre Dame, the premier football program in the country. I had gone to school there. I’m a Catholic. Ask college football fans anywhere to name the one program they would want to run, and probably more than half are going to say Notre Dame. This wasn’t just any job.

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  2. mikey

    mikey Rookie

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    Continuation:

    The previous summer, during training camp, Belichick and I had spoken about head-coaching opportunities in college football, after I’d been a candidate for two NFL head-coaching positions, with the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants, and missed out on both of them in part because of the Patriots’ success. Our playoff runs would allow an NFL team to interview me only once, during a designated time frame, but I could not be offered a job until our season was over. Otherwise, the team making the offer could be accused of tampering and if found guilty could end up forfeiting multiple draft picks. That’s a price no team wants to pay if it doesn’t have to.

    The Bills and Giants didn’t want to wait; they went with coaches who were immediately available to be hired—Mike Mularkey went to Buffalo, and Tom Coughlin to the Giants. Some NFL teams feel the longer they wait, the harder it is to find good assistant coaches for the head coach to put his program in place. It’s different with colleges. Because they are not in direct competition with NFL teams, there are no restrictions on when or how often they can make contact with NFL assistants, and they don’t have to wait until after the season to hire them.

    I wasn’t pessimistic about my prospects of becoming an NFL head coach, but I had started doing some research on these college jobs, which were starting to pay pretty well. The guys taking them were getting long-term contracts, and they seemed happy.

    “I think I ought to at least explore a couple of these jobs if they come open,†I said to Bill.

    “Which ones?â€

    “Notre Dame and South Carolina.â€

    Notre Dame I’ve already explained. I was interested in South Carolina because my wife, Maura, and I plan to retire there.

    By chance, both jobs came open at the same time.

    My agent, Bob LaMonte, had already been preparing me to -interview for NFL head-coaching positions. Bob, who is based in Reno, Nevada, specializes in representing football coaches, and he is good enough at it that he usually doesn’t have to go after clients. They come to him. Two of his coaches who are friends of mine, Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles and John Fox of the Carolina Panthers, had told him that he should represent me.

    Bob gives you a whole book to study on the interview process, then goes over all of the material with you. He believes that within the first ten minutes you have to be able to tell people conducting the interview who you are, what made you who you are, and what you stand for. Bob put me through hours and hours of mock interviews. After that, I felt well schooled going into an interview. I was ready.

    When you’re clearly “the guy†for a head-coaching job in football, you’re clearly “the guy.†When you’re part of a pack, one of three or four candidates, and the people doing the hiring don’t have any preconceived notion of who’s getting the job, a good interview is what separates you from the rest.

    I believe that if you have the goods to become a head coach you should be able to avoid a poor interview. If you don’t interview well, chances are you didn’t prepare, and if you don’t prepare, you don’t have the goods. You’d better be prepared, because you’re going to be in charge of an organization. Among many other attributes, you need to have people skills, and you need to demonstrate that you can run the show. These abilities are evident in an interview.

    That summer, I also prepared in case the right college job came open, because once the NFL season starts, you don’t have time to study colleges or anything else; you’re totally involved in the season. So I did some research on how I’d put a college staff together. At that point, I had been in the pros for fourteen years already, and most of the guys I knew didn’t want to go back to the college level. I came up with a thought process on putting together a staff based more on a concept than on targeting specific people to hire.

    Relationships between the coaches would be important because building a cohesive staff was imperative. I wanted, on both sides of the ball, at least two guys who had worked together at some point so that there was some kind of rapport already established. In addition to that, even if I couldn’t hire people from the Patriots, I wanted to have some familiarity with the coaching of the people I did hire. I also wanted some alumni on the staff, people who would understand the school’s traditions and bring the sense of pride that helps make any football program successful. Last but not least, I wanted people with recruiting-coordinator backgrounds because I felt that coming from the NFL, that would be one area where I would have the most catching up to do.

    A couple of my boys from the University of South Carolina, where I had gotten my first taste of big-time football as a graduate assistant and served in other coaching and recruiting capacities, called to tell me that it looked like Steve Spurrier was going to be the guy there. They wondered whether I wanted to get my name into the mix.

    “Hell, no, I don’t want to get my name into the mix,†I said. “Why would I want to do that only to lose out to Spurrier?â€
    Kevin White and Father John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, flew to Providence on a private plane (owned by Jim Morse, a Notre Dame alumnus), in order to prevent anyone tracking the flights of the Notre Dame–owned planes, which can be done easily through the Internet if you have the tail numbers. Once someone saw that a Notre Dame plane was on a midnight flight to Providence, it wouldn’t be a reach to assume that the trip probably involved a meeting with yours truly. In a matter of seconds, that information would be all over the Web like a rash.

    Early in our conversation, I told Kevin and Father Jenkins that I was not leaving the Patriots until the season was over. If that was going to be a deal breaker, it was important for them to know that up front.

    “I’ve already talked with Bill Belichick,†I said. “Bill would go out of his way to work with me if I were to get the job now and then move out there after we finish playing. I am not going to sacrifice the Patriots’ season just to get this job.â€

    After that, I gave them about a ten-minute spiel about my personal makeup. I talked about who I was and what I stood for, and the people who got me where I was at that point. I talked about the very first major influence on my coaching career, John Chironna, the head coach at Morristown High School in New Jersey. I talked about the late Joe Morrison, who gave me one of the biggest breaks of my career when he hired me at South Carolina. I talked about Bill Parcells, who gave me my first coaching job in the NFL with the Giants. And, of course, I talked about Bill Belichick.

    I emphasized both Parcells and Belichick because they were the critical players in shaping me as a coach, and they would be my two biggest references.

    A significant part of the discussion focused on being a graduate of Notre Dame, which had been the case with only two Fighting Irish coaches in the previous forty-two years. I thought that anyone who had gone to school there would have a huge advantage over somebody who hadn’t. Urban Meyer, the coach at Utah and a former assistant at Notre Dame, was rumored to have been offered the position, but he later accepted the head-coaching job at Florida.

    Now, Notre Dame was talking with only three guys, all who had university connections: Greg Blache, a former defensive back and assistant coach at Notre Dame who was coaching with the Washington Redskins; Tommy Clements, a former quarterback and assistant coach at Notre Dame who was the offensive coordinator for Buffalo; and me. They knew Blache and Clements because they had coached and played there. They didn’t know me.

    How much did people really know about any of the coaches on the Patriots’ staff? You’d know who we were, but you wouldn’t know us, because Belichick, like Parcells, rarely allowed assistant coaches to speak with the media.

    I think Kevin and Father Jenkins liked the combination of my football background and what I was about as a person. People can read your bio in the media guide to find out about everything you’ve done as a football coach, but until they talk with you they don’t know about you as a person. When they started hearing about how important my family is and about my special-needs daughter, Hannah, and about my son, Charlie, who’s my best buddy, and about how my wife is my closest friend, they got a much more complete picture.

    Early in the interview I knew where this was going. I could tell by the questions, and by the look on their faces as I answered. I wasn’t sure, but I felt very good about my chances.

    The foregoing is excerpted from No Excuses by Charlie Weis. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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  3. mtbykr

    mtbykr Rookie

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    Thanks, great read and another book on the christmas list:D I like this part:

  4. DarMan

    DarMan Rookie

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    I was never a fan of Notre Dame but I am a Charlie Weis fan and for that reason I now root for Notre Dame. Thank you Charlie and good luck. I look forward to reading the book.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2006
  5. RayClay

    RayClay On the Roster

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    The foregoing is excerpted from No Excuses by Charlie Weis. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

    I'm assuming you got permission?
  6. Harrison37

    Harrison37 Rookie

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    Me too- never thought I'd be cheering for the Irish, but yet, here I am.
  7. edgecy

    edgecy Rookie

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    When Charlie went to ND it was one of the toughest moment in my life. I could never bring myself to cheer for ND, yet here's a good man going there... what should I do.. Charlie, I am sorry, I just can't bring myself to root for you anymore. I hope you understand.
  8. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress Rookie

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    Charlie was on WFAN today in NY, and implied he expected Auburn to beat Florida this week. He repeated several times how good a team he thinks Auburn is. So now you can still root for him...:)
  9. DarrylS

    DarrylS PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Been a ND fan since the 60's, went to HS with Coley O'Brien who filled in at QB in the mid 60's and later was a RB.. just one of those things, since then have always wanted to spend some time at this University, particularly during a big FB weekend. Cannot wait until I read this book, will add it to the burgeoning collection.

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