JOE RAYMOND / AP Enlarge
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame has fired coach Charlie Weis after a string of disappointing seasons that was capped by an agonizing four-game losing streak.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced the decision Monday, saying in a news release "We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations."
Swarbick said he recommended to the university president Sunday night that Weis be let go with six years left on his contract.
Assistant head coach Rob Ianello will step in for Weis until a new head coach is hired.
Following a 6-2 start, the losing streak began and as it progressed Weis' future was in doubt.
Weis finishes 35-27 in five seasons, worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.
A brash offensive coordinator with the NFL champion New England Patriots when he was hired, Weis raised Irish expectations with back-to-back appearances in BCS bowl games in his first two seasons.
Since then, one of the nation's most storied football programs has gone 16-21 — the most losses ever by the Irish in a three-year span.
Weis wound up with a 35-27 record in his five seasons, a record worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie, who also were fired.
Weis has six years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, just after a thriller against top-ranked USC that ended in a 34-31 loss.
The way that game played out served as a model for the Weis era. Clinging to a 31-28 lead with less than 2 minutes to play, Notre Dame allowed the Trojans to convert on a fourth-and-9 from their own 26. That ultimately set up a quarterback sneak in the waning moments, when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinhart into the end zone for the winning score.
In the end, Weis went 35-27 in his five years as Irish head coach, a .565 winning percentage that was worse than the .583 posted by Willingham and Davie. They were both fired, too. Weis leaves with one of the worst winning percentages of any Fighting Irish coach: Only four of Notre Dame's previous 27 coaches won at a lower percentage.
What made Weis' fall worse for fans of one of the nation's most storied football programs was that it began so promisingly.
Weis came to Notre Dame brimming with confidence after serving as offensive coordinator for the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The first two seasons under Weis produced more victories (19) than any other Notre Dame, more than the first years of Knute Rockne, more than Frank Leahy, more than Ara Parseghian. Both seasons ended with BCS bowl losses.
Asked about his start at the time, Weis said: “I really haven't done anything yet.”
He didn't know he had reached the high point of his tenure.
With Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and other key players gone in 2007, the Irish started 0-5 for the first time in school history. They finished 3-9, leaving Weis one loss shy of matching Davie's school record of 16 losses in his first three seasons.
Most shocking, though, was the fact the Irish finished last in the NCAA in total offense just three years after Weis said at his introductory news conference that when it comes to X's and O's “we have the greatest advantage.”
The past two seasons the Irish have collapsed in November. They got off to a 5-2 start before going 1-4 down the stretch a year ago, and started 6-2 this season before slumping — starting with a once-unthinkable second loss in three years to Navy.
Among the people considered likely candidates are Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops,
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, TCU coach Gary Patterson and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The task for athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who is in his second year on the job, is to find a coach who can end the longest title drought in Notre Dame history.
The school has not topped the AP's final poll since the end of the 1988 season.