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With Irish, Weis plans to go long

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Charlie Weis, introduced yesterday morning as Notre Dame's 28th football coach, sounded more like his first NFL boss (Bill Parcells) than his current one (Bill Belichick), with quips, quotes, stories, and a personality that was edgy and entertaining.

Wearing a black suit and blue tie, the Patriots' offensive coordinator was joined at the Joyce Center by his wife, Maura, son Charlie Jr., and agent Bob LaMonte, as well as his new Notre Dame family, as a snowstorm raged outside.

Weis signed a six-year, $12 million contract Sunday night to replace Tyrone Willingham. The 1978 Notre Dame graduate is the first alumnus to coach the team since Hugh Devore in 1963.

Weis, often using Parcells's "OK? All right?" to make his points, seemed comfortable in front of the cameras, a place he wasn't allowed to be during his Parcells-Belichick years. He later schmoozed with the Notre Dame family at a reception that included priests, doctors, lawyers, staff, and media.

Charlie Jr., who according to Weis is his biggest critic, even made the rounds for a few TV interviews. "You should hear him sometimes," Weis said. " `Dad, why on earth did you call that play?' "

Weis knows in his new job there will be tougher critics than his son, and possibly hard times before the good times begin. The 48-year-old said he has a game plan, although he didn't share it, on how he will balance working for the Patriots and the Irish until the Patriots' season is over.

While he said he respected Belichick's wishes to keep the details of his comings and goings private, he said his assistants at Notre Dame will be given an opportunity to speak to the media.

"After we get to know each other a bit and we're on the same page as a staff, I'm going to let each guy speak to the media one day a week," Weis said. "Each guy will have a day and he can answer all the questions."

Weis said he will sneak a few visits back to South Bend, although he said he will not be a part of Notre Dame's preparations for the Insight Bowl in deference to the current staff.

While Weis and the Patriots have proven pro football is a lot about scheming and game-planning, college football is more about recruiting. Because there's far less practice time and film work in college, per NCAA rules, getting the best athletes is hugely important.

Willingham, who coincidentally was introduced as the University of Washington's coach yesterday, had what some consider a poor recruiting class last year. Weis will work to avoid back-to-back bad recruiting classes.

"Let's talk about, first and foremost, a quote that Bill Parcells said to me years ago," said Weis, who prefaced his remarks by saying he had the utmost respect for Willingham. "You are what you are, folks, and right now you're a 6-5 football team. And guess what, that's just not good enough. That's not good enough for you, and it's certainly not going to be good enough for me.

"So, if you think they hired me here to go .500, you've got the wrong guy. You are going to have a hard-working, intelligent, nasty football team that goes on the field because the attitude of the head coach will be permeated through the players. And I hate to include the nasty, but that is part of being a winning football team."

Weis wants to aim the program in the right direction, much like former Patriots coach Pete Carroll has done at Southern California. Weis believes once he has the recruiting and administration parts of the job down he'll have an advantage with his ability to game-plan and strategize.

"Everyone wants to hear about recruits, but they forget about the players that are already here. What about them?" said Weis. "I'm supposed to worry about all of the recruits first before you worry about the guys that are already in school, the guys that have just gone through a trying time over the last few weeks?

"I think the first thing I've got to do is sell them on the program, and also . . . be open-minded and give everyone a fair opportunity to show their wares," Weis said.

Weis reminisced about his days as a student at Notre Dame as a speech and drama and communications major. He was a sports junkie but not much of an athlete, and he followed Joe Montana's career and didn't miss a home game. By his admission, he probably took in too many road games.

Going from the guy "sitting in the 59th row" to the head coach of the team is quite a story, and Weis feels he's accomplished a lifelong dream.

He promised the same passion he had then for Notre Dame will come through in his new job.

"Unlike a lot of people that are in the profession, folks, what you see is what you get here," said Weis. "There's no hidden agenda. There's no self-promotion. This is who I am, and fortunately or unfortunately, I wear my colors. You know what you're getting out of me because I'm a pretty straight shooter. A lot of you won't like me then, because you'll say, `Can I talk to you?' and I'll say no. Or `Can I ask you this question?' OK, go ahead . . . I'm not answering it."

Weis was one of five candidates interviewed by Notre Dame officials. The others were Urban Meyer, the Utah coach who turned down the Irish for the Florida job, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache.

LaMonte said Notre Dame's interest in Weis began "about 10 days ago." He indicated there were a couple of conversations with Weis last week, then officials contacted Weis Friday night and indicated they were interested in him.

Saturday morning, Clements was told by the officials they were moving in a different direction. LaMonte was told of the school's interest in negotiating with Weis Saturday, and he began to work on talks he said lasted no more than four hours and culminated with a contract.

LaMonte said the negotiations might have gone so smoothly because he had met with the same officials in years past about one of his other clients, Jon Gruden.

"This is an end-all for our family," Weis said. "We come to Notre Dame with the intent of retiring here. We don't come here to bounce somewhere else. If that's what I was going to be doing, I would not be taking this job and I would be waiting until the season ended in the NFL and try to get one of those jobs. I'm here because I want to be here. I'm proud to be here. I'm thankful to be here." 

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