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Sunday, December 2
Updated: December 3, 5:36 PM ET
Davie dismissal right move for Notre Dame

By Vinny Cerrato

Dismissing Bob Davie is precisely the right move for Notre Dame. Athletic director Kevin White said he would evaluate Davie after the season, which is what he did. So White did exactly what he said he would do. The school handled Davie's firing properly.

To coach at Notre Dame, head-coaching experience is essential. Assistant coaches should not be considered at all.
What happened to Davie? He didn't win bowl games (0-3), he didn't beat top-10 teams, he started out 0-3 this season -- and he has the third-worst record (35-25) in the history of Notre Dame football. There were just too many inconsistencies over Davie's five years.

So White decided that Davie was not the leader or the coach who would bring more championships to Notre Dame.

Davie did a good job with his players' graduation rate, which is commendable, but the bottom line is the Ws and Ls -- and he had too many Ls. Davie's teams lost too many early season games, which made it tough to gain momentum.

Notre Dame has also struggled with recruiting, because the Irish don't have the talent they had in the late '80s and early '90s. They don't have many playmakers and lack the athletes you need to compete with the upper-echelon teams. When you play top-10 teams, you better have talent to compete with them, and under Davie Notre Dame didn't.

Recruiting is tougher at Notre Dame, because academic standards are higher than at most schools, which narrows the field somewhat. But when you're evaluating recruits, you have to make sure you pick the right guys -- and apparently Davie didn't.

It's evident by the measuring stick of the NFL draft that Davie hasn't recruited the elite athletes you need to compete at the highest level. In the four drafts following Davie's first four years, just 15 Irish players were drafted (only one in the first round, OT Luke Pettigout to the Giants in '99). Davie had just one first team All-American play for him (OT Mike Rosenthal, 1998, Walter Camp).

Letting Davie go is the right move, but Notre Dame's next move is even more crucial: Who will be hired as the next Irish coach? Five coaches should be on the short list.

Bob Davie
Bob Davie had a 35-25 career record, the third-worst in Notre Dame history.
Among current NFL coaches, Oakland's Jon Gruden and San Francisco's Steve Mariucci are top candidates. Either would be outstanding for Notre Dame, but hiring an NFL coach poses problems. Gruden and Mariucci will both be in the playoffs, which means Notre Dame would have to delay the hire and thus get a late start on recruiting. Still, if the Irish decide they want one of those guys, it would be worth waiting.

Among current college coaches, three candidates should be considered: Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez has done a phenomenal job with the Badgers and is a former Notre Dame assistant (1987-89); Stanford's Tyrone Willingham has done a good job at a tough academic school; and Oregon's Mike Bellotti is a strong choice as well.

Assistant coaches should not be considered at all. To coach at Notre Dame, head-coaching experience is essential. Davie was in his first college head-coaching job, as was Gerry Faust before him (from 1981-85, prior to Lou Holtz's tenure).

They both failed, at least by Notre Dame standards. This job is too tough and too demanding. The next coach must have head-coaching experience -- and lots of it.

The new coach will also need to recruit better players and develop them more effectively once they're in South Bend. I don't think Davie developed players the way Holtz did. The bottom line is that Notre Dame needs to attract talented players -- guys who will fit into the program and contribute to team chemistry. Great players have a way of making coaches look good. NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato was Notre Dame's football recruiting coordinator ('86-90); later he was player personnel director for the 49ers and Redskins.

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