Weis will do more than call plays

ESPN.com's Jim Donnan offers some advice to new Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis as Weis attempts to juggle two jobs.

Originally Published: December 16, 2004
By Jim Donnan | Special to ESPN.com

I have always been impressed with new Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. The last time I saw him he was with the New England Patriots and came to Georgia to work out one of my players, Patrick Pass, for the draft. None of our quarterbacks was around, so I went out and threw the routes Charlie wanted Patrick to run, and after the workout we discussed some of his pass-protection schemes. It was evident he has a thorough knowledge of every position on the field.

Charlie Weis
APCharlie Weis will be at the poduim and many other places besides the football field at Notre Dame.
As I watched Charlie in his initial press conference, the pride he has in becoming the head coach at his alma mater was also evident. He is certainly ready for the challenge ahead. Still, he is going to get some advice here from someone who has seen both the coaching and media sides of the football monster.

Put some enthusiasm into your delivery, Charlie. Be yourself but remember it's OK to get excited. Be careful what you say, because proclaiming you will raise expectations at South Bend doesn't seem to fit when the Irish just fired a coach who went 21-15, are building a $25 million athletic facility and are paying you $2 million per year. Notre Dame is in the football business.

College players are given only 20 hours a week to divide between practice, meetings, lifting and games, so time management is critical for everyone. Maybe Brady Quinn has a class that lasts until 3 p.m., but it's one he needs in order to graduate in his major. Do you let him take it and be late for meetings? Perhaps Darius Walker needs to head home the day before classes end for spring break. Do you let him go? And what if someone needs a summer job but also needs to be in summer school? How do you handle that?

I liked Charlie's press-conference comment about college players eventually wanting to play on Sundays, because he has been around the NFL guys who know what it takes to get there. The problem is that Notre Dame has not attracted many of those kinds of players over the past few years. My hat's off to Charlie for his loyalty to the Patriots, but the bigger picture is that every kid he's recruiting already has established relationships with coaching staffs from other schools vying for his services.

Put yourself in the shoes of that youngster's parents. Would you trust your son's future in the hands of someone who has been in your home and discussed everything with you face-to-face or someone who called and said, "Watch me on Monday Night Football"? I'm sure a lot of Notre Dame fans are pulling for the Patriots to lose their first playoff game so Charlie can get on the road.

But the most important recruits for Charlie are the ones already on campus. This side of things is like a divorce for players in that someone is taking charge of day-to-day challenges in a new way, and one of the most important influences in any man's life is his who his new parent, boss or coach will be.

Right now there must be some understanding of immediate priorities over long-term concerns.
Trust is not built overnight, and the only way to get to know those kids is to get out of the office. Around the dorms, in the weight room, in study hall and around the training table are all great places to do that. The players already there are starving for direction and concerned about what their role will be for the new coach. Lay it out for them.

These young men are also critical to the recruitment of other kids because they need to be sold on what's happening so they can turn around and sell it to potential teammates.

Say no once in a while to some of the speeches you'll be asked to give around the country. These players need your time a lot more than the alumni. There will be plenty of opportunities to give speeches down the road, but right now there must be some understanding of immediate priorities over long-term concerns.

Take nothing for granted, including recruiting rules. Many are easily overlooked, but take the time to learn them all and protect your program. Any oversight by anyone on your staff will be noticed and turned in to the NCAA by rival schools.

You might be in a recruit's high school, checking in at the main office, when you find out he has a basketball game that night. The rules state you can't talk to him before the game, so what do you do? Do you wait for another chance even though your schedule is set for the next three weeks?

You might call your next great receiver at home during a dead period only to realize your receivers coach already made the one call allowed to that player for that week. You have to self-report that one. The point is that all coaches, even those with years of experience, make these kinds of mistakes and you have to be extra careful as you adjust to the myriad recruiting rules the NCAA has in place.

All this boils down to one question: Charlie has a football cap in his wardrobe, but is he ready to put on all the other hats he'll have to wear at Notre Dame?

ESPN.com college football analyst Jim Donnan takes part in chats and makes observations on Saturdays as part of College GameDay Live.

Jim Donnan

College Football
Jim Donnan was the head coach at Georgia and Marshall and is an ESPN college football analyst.