Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Notre Dame Circus
Jack Swarbrick, Rob Ianello, & Charlie Weis
Jack Swarbrick, Rob Ianello, & Charlie Weis
Posted Dec 2, 2009

Oh has this been fun. Notre Dame is front and center in the sports world (or at least next to the Tiger fiasco) with Jack Swarbrick, Rob Ianello, and Charlie Weis all players in the crazy circus. Pete Fiutak points out why the school's arrogance will be a plus this time around, and more in the latest Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Cavalcade of Whimsy

Dec. 2

Past Cavalcades
- 2008 Season | Sept. 1, Part 1 | Sept. 1 - Part 2
- Week 1 (The Bradford Shoulder) | Week 2 (Time To Boot the Big East?)
- Week 3 (The Ten New Stars)
- Week 4 (ESPN's responsibility)
- Week 5 (The incomparable Bobby Bowden) 
- Week 6 (The 10 big college football arguments)
- Week 7 .. Part 1 | Part 2 - The Ten Best Players In College Football ... so far
- Week 8 ... Part 1 | Part 2 - You're an idiot if ... 
- Week 9 ... Part 1 | Part 2 - What if players couldn't leave early for the NFL?
- Week 10 .. Part 1 | Part 2 - Every conference race broken down
- Week 11.. Part 1 | Part 2 - The 10 unsung things you need to know 
- Week 12.. Part 1 | Part 2 - Breaking Down The Award Finalists
By Pete Fiutak

- Part 2 - Ten things to be grouchy about

Sorry if this column sucks, it's not my fault … My record as a football coach stunk, but I won a national championship … in graduation success! Because academics are more important to Notre Dame than anything else, they're proud of that accomplishment and kept me on as the head football coach. Oh wait, they didn't, but I'm still going to get paid $18 million to walk out the door and without having to deal with any more headaches. As it turns out, the smartest guy in the room probably just left.

"Son, in years of religious studies I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm not Him." ... And there's the Notre Dame we all know and love. There's the 800-pound Pope in the room that lives off of being the center of the sports world, even with a wandering eye focusing on Windermere, Florida.

There's a reason why Notre Dame is as arrogant as it comes across … it's the biggest sports program in America, and this is the biggest head coaching job in all of sports. You don't believe it? What other job opening in sports would command this much national attention for a week, and not just on sports shows but on the nightly news, political sites, and on every show but The View?

No one outside of the United States, with the exception of a few remote villages in the Philippines, has the first clue who Tim Tebow is, but throw out the two words of Notre Dame and there's an instant connection to college football in America. Like it or not, like them or not, Notre Dame really, really matters.

Don't go by wins and losses; Notre Dame football transcends the record book. Grandmas across the country still care about the Fighting Irish, while Idaho's interest in Tebow and Florida, and the excitement in Maine about the Oregon State vs. Oregon showdown for the Pac 10 title, are minimal.

Notre Dame is arrogant, insufferable, and acts like it's a divine right that the football program should be among the elite, and that's because it is so popular. It's easy to get caught up in the idea that Ohio State is bigger because of the trips to the BCS, or that Oklahoma is a better job because of its tradition, or that being the manager of the New York Yankees, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, or head man of the North Carolina basketball team are somehow more prestigious, but a winning head football coach at Notre Dame would own more than just the sports world, and that's why all the big names are at least going to listen when Jack Swarbrick comes calling.

Notre Dame's arrogance proved costly ever since getting rid of Lou Holtz. The program assumed that it didn't have to go after the elite of the elite coaching talents, didn't have to pay anyone elite money, and got Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, George O'Leary (for a heartbeat), and Charlie Weis to show for it. Once Weis started winning then the pocketbook opened up, but this time, watch out for the Notre Dame attitude to work the other way when it comes to a coaching search, and it's going to be a plus for Irish fans.

Instead of believing that every coach wants to come to Notre Dame because it's Notre Dame, now, the higher-ups will believe that every coach wants to come to Notre Dame because it's Notre Dame and it's going to pay to make sure of it. Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Nick Saban are all likely to stay put and they all actually appear to like their respective situations, but each of them wants to at least be asked to the dance.

If Notre Dame told Brian Kelly that he's the guy but he'd have to leave the Cincinnati right now, he'd jump out of the team plane on the way to Pittsburgh this week and parachute into South Bend. But there's on BIG problem; he's on the record for being pro-choice.

If Notre Dame offered Meyer his current salary plus $1 million more, plus a $2 million bonus per BCS appearance and a $5 million bonus for a national championship (which would be steal for the deep-pocketed Irish), he would leave the post-game press conference from Pasadena on January 7th and would be wearing a Notre Dame blazer three hours later. Saban, being Saban, could be had for his current salary plus $1 more, especially if he's told the job is between him and Meyer.

I'm not sure on Stoops. He likes to be involved in these kinds of things, like every coach would, but he's almost certainly not going to leave. That doesn't mean he won't listen. Forget about the pro guys like Jon Gruden and Brian Billick; Swarbrick all but said in his press conference that he's going after a college star, and this time, expect the Irish to pay retail because it can and because it wants to.

Think of it this way. Name another college football program with the chutzpah to even think it can go after Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, or Bob Stoops. Maybe USC, but Notre Dame thinks it could get Pete Carroll for the asking. That's how big Notre Dame is, and that's what you're possibly missing.

"Don't let your mother smell that beer on your breath. She'll take it out on me. I better get moving if I want to get us out of here by dark. Good talk, son." ... Supposedly, Charlie Weis had a conversation with Swarbrick after the Stanford game to discuss his future and his options. From an impeccable inside source, he's how it went.

Swarbrick: "So, 6-6, huh?"
Weis: "Yup."
Swarbrick: "That sort of sucks."
Weis: "Yup."
Swarbrick: "So, two losses to Navy in the last three years."
Weis: "Yup."
Swarbrick: "That sort of sucks."
Weis: "Yup."
Swarbrick: "Um, uh, well, uh, can we arrange a buyout of a lower, uh, amount than the amount of the remaining, like, contract and stuff?"
Weis: "Nope."
Swarbrick: "Well, thanks for being the head coach at Notre Dame. Midge has a few hooded sweatshirts waiting for you and the fam. Best of luck!"
Weis: (Gets up and walks out while speed dialing Todd Haley)
Swarbrick: (Under his breath in a whisper) "Nailed it."

Notre Dame, if Seantrel Henderson wants to go to your school, you say yes. The same goes for Marcus Lattimore, Jackson Jeffcoat, and Ronald Powell, otherwise, you're going to be having this press conference again in 2013 ... Arrogance is one thing, delusional is another, and being factually incorrect is a whole other book of rogue. Uh, Jack, Notre Dame won a national title in graduation success rate under Charlie Weis? There are three service academies who play major college football and don't make public their graduation numbers who might have something to say about that. According to the NCAA's Academic Progress Report, or APR, Notre Dame was good, but Air Force, Duke, Miami, Navy, Rice, Rutgers, and Stanford were better. And let's just dispense with the holier than thou stuff when it comes to talk about the academic side of things. You're not Northwestern, you're not Duke, and you're certainly not Stanford. And according to the U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best colleges and universities, you're not Rice or Vanderbilt, either, and you're all but on par with Cal, UCLA, Virginia, USC, and Michigan. Has USC's academic reputation suffered one bit by making the deal it needs to make with its football program to be successful? It can be done.

"Your man did his homework, Fox, you're gonna have the shortest executive career since the Pope who got poisoned." ... Talk about getting thrown under the bus, what is poor Rob Ianello, the interim head coach for the Irish, supposed to do? He was trotted out at the press conference after Swarbrick did his thing and had no chance to look like anything other than a deer caught in the headlights. He's not really the coach, he's in charge of trying to recruit for a team that doesn't have a coach, he's not being told who the new coach might be, and if he knows, he's not allowed to tell anyone, and he's dead man walking in his current position and might be recruiting against a team he's going to be a part of in the near future.

"If you get in a fight with some ***hole, never hit his with your pitching hand. You might get injured. That's another lesson for you--now quit ***ing around and help me up." ... Yes, several "analysts" actually threw out the concept that Jimmy Clausen's draft status could be affected after getting into a fight in a restaurant. Clausen's draft status will be affected by one thing: the collective bargaining agreement. He could make roughly $30 million in guaranteed money if he comes out for the 2010 NFL Draft, or he could make roughly $5 million when the rookie salary cap comes down in 2011. And no one will care whether or not he has a black eye.

And they'd leave a cartoonish vapor trail behind them ... It's always a fun time of year with the clang of cheerful bells outside stores, the start of the holiday party season, the lights, the decorations, and the coaches who try to say they're happy with the job they currently have even though every fiber of their being wants to scream out "YES!!!! YES!!! OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YES, I'M INTERESTED, AND I'D TAKE THE JOB NOW IF YOU OFFERED IT TO ME, BUT I DON'T WANT TO LOSE MY HIGH PAYING GIG AND I DON'T WANT TO LOSE ALL MY RECRUITS IN CASE YOU CHOOSE TO GO ANOTHER DIRECTION!!!"

There are the pros, like Meyer and Stoops, who every year have to answer questions about their futures and have their answers down pat. There's no wiggle room and no possible way to interpret their intentions in any way because they emphatically say they're not interested in ever leaving their current program. And then there are the newcomers to the scene, like Kelly, who says all the right things but unwittingly adds a "well" and a "you know" here and there to subconsciously hint that he's looking at the business cards being sent to him by South Bend realtors and doing a little daydreaming.

KRAMER: Why even give her an option?
JERRY: This is a person I like, it's not: "How to score on spring break." ...
Memo from the Notre Dame athletic department to the players, marked confidential.

To all Irish players … Thanks for giving it your all in a trying and entertaining season, and while the end result wasn't what we all wanted, we're still all very proud of you and believe that you deserve a trip, say, to a bowl game, to end this year on a high note. We will tell the media that it's your decision on whether or not you choose as a team to go, and then you will vote yes. You see, because the defense couldn't stop freakin' Navy, and you're the one team in America who apparently couldn't match wits or talents with Rich Rodriguez and Michigan, we had to let your head coach go. We have to pay him a lot of money, and you're going to help with that by going out there and performing and performing well. Thanks, and happy holidays!

"Redo those buttons! Dress that belt buckle! Straighten that cap! And ***damn it, tuck in those pajamas!" ... Notre Dame still owes Weis around $18 million, and while there will end up being some sort of negotiation to bring that figure down a bit, it's still going to cost the school a big chunk of change to get rid of the contract. If you have to pay him anyway, why officially fire him? I'm not saying he stays on as head coach, I'm saying he is a Notre Dame employee and is used in some other capacity to earn his keep. Chuck, you want all that money? Fine. Those dirty towels from the men's swim team aren't going to launder themselves. When you're done with that, Gladys in the cafeteria is out sick this week, her lumbago is acting up, and we need someone to stir the chili bucket. And before you go, get Urban on the phone and see if he's a 42 long or a 42 regular. Chop-chop, spit-spot.

But if the guy can make Tony Pike, Ben Mauk, and Zach Collaros look like that ... Swarbrick made special mention that he wants a coach who could make the defense better. That had to make Brian Kelly's heart sink a little bit. His Cincinnati D is solid and aggressive, it's second in the nation in tackles for loss and is 11th in sacks, but it's been ripped up a bit over the last few weeks by Connecticut, West Virginia, and Illinois. And if Swarbrick takes a look at the defenses on Kelly's Central Michigan teams, it's uh-oh time.

"Three tomatoes are walking down the street, a poppa tomato, a momma tomato, and a little baby tomato. The baby tomato is lagging behind the poppa and momma tomato. The poppa tomato gets mad, goes over to the momma tomato and stamps on him – (stamps on the ground) – and says: catch up." ... The coaching thing has gotten out of hand and maybe it's time to start thinking outside the box a bit. Maybe it's time to get rid of the concept of a central figure who sits atop a college football program and instead go with a council, a quorum, a Justice League. My Fox Force Five assistant types would each handle different duties. One coach handles the offense, one handles the defense, one handles the special teams, one handles the media, sort of like a Press Secretary, and one acts as a catch-all advisor to the other four. Each coach handles the big decisions in his own area, like whether or not to go for it on fourth-and-one, but all five stay in constant teleconference-like communication with each other for advice. It really wouldn't be that hard to do. I know, it sounds insane. I'm still recovering from eating an entire pecan pie.

Deborah: Okay.. well.. I'm sure it's very challenging.. But what about the positives? We've had guests who've mentioned special advantages blind people have. For example, your other senses are heightened, aren't they?

Hal Everett: Oh, yeah. Yeah, they're great. I can smell a little better now, that really comes in handy on the subway every day. Not to mention, the hearing, of course, you know? So, let's figure this one out - I can hear crickets chirp a little louder than you can, and you can see? Yeahhh.. that sounds fair. That's a fair trade-off. Thanks, God! ...
Hopefully you caught the brilliant, heart-ripping piece on GameDay about Jake Olson, the 12-year-old USC fan who lost one eye to cancer, and after seven attempts to keep the other eye, had to undergo surgery to remove the other one. (YouTube Jake Olson USC Game Day … but don't do this at work unless you have time after to collect yourself. Seriously.) Pete Carroll caught whiff of this, and before the surgery that took the second eye, brought Olson into the program and allowed him inside access, and more, during his final few weeks of sight he had left. Watch it and you'll never … wait a second, unbelievable. They put 2% in my iced vanilla latte when I specifically asked for nonfat. Argggh, and this muffin is a tad dry. I just can't catch a break. When will it ever be my turn? Anyway, watch it and it'll put your life in perspective. You'll never feel the same way about USC football again.

Yeah, it was great that some of the last images Olson will ever see will be the beauty and pageantry that is college football, but I'm more curious about the other things a 12-year-old boy would get one chance at seeing. In an impossible situation like that, how does a parent handle the naked chick issue? You have to at least do the big guy a solid and let him see what boobies look like before he loses his sight for good, and if you don't, he's going to spend the rest of his life slightly grouchy for reasons beyond the obvious. Talk about pressure; you have to come strong with the images that'll be his idea of womanhood for the rest of his life, and I don't want to even get into the idea of how you let him have a permanent visual image of that to go by. Yeah, being able to see all the inner workings of the USC football program was nice, but a phone call over to Hef might have helped, too.

I was going to write a blurb about how a movie about Olson would be far better than The Blind Side , but ... I know, I know, it was an Emmy-caliber piece on a kid with far more character and grit than I'll ever know, and I don't mean to minimize it in any way. However, the unintended punchline (horrendous choice or words, but I'm too tired to be smarter … really, I'm still recovering from eating an entire pie) came at the last practice Olson attended. Carroll told him to "come back and see us," and then took a quick pause as if he knew that it just didn't sound right. And then Fowler did the same thing, only worse. The GameDay guys were visibly shaken up coming out of the piece, and the normally unflappable Chris Fowler tried to bring it back by saying, "all (Olson) cares about is being able to watch his Trojans beat the Bruins …." And he had a look on his face like he had just spotted the free safety jumping the route the split-second after letting the ball go.

And I'm still pushing for GameDay to come broadcast from my breakfast nook, but after the last two blurbs they'd probably bring Olson with them to slug me in the cheese and biscuits … It's Week Six of my open lobbying of the ESPN College Football Final show guys to give me a helmet sticker and the signed T-shirt, suitable for framing. Why do I deserve one this week? I let my wife do most of the cooking … and there's no need for her to come after me with a golf club.

- Part 2 - Ten things to be grouchy about