Notre Dame fires Davie

Monday, December 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Bob Davie stressed character during his tenure as coach at Notre Dame. Athletic director Kevin White was looking for something more tangible: wins.

White praised Davie for bringing good students and good people to Notre Dame during his five years as coach and for supporting the players' academic progress. That wasn't enough, however.

Davie was fired as coach at Notre Dame on Sunday, a day after the storied football program completed its second losing season in three years.

``These are expectations that he have of all of our coaches in all of our sports,'' White said. ``However, we also expect and intend to excel on the field and there, unfortunately, our results and progress have been disappointing.''

The Irish lost six or more games three times under Davie, whose 35-25 record gives him the third-worst winning percentage in Irish history at .583.

``I'm the first one to stand up here and say that we may not have won as many games as what would be expected,'' Davie said.

``You're going to win some, you're going to lose some. But the big, big picture in all this, and to me the most important thing, is what the true character of someone is, and what a football team's true character is.''

The Irish went 9-2 during the regular season last year, and Davie was rewarded with a five-year contract before an embarrassing loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish started this season 0-3 for the first time in school history and finished 5-6.

White described giving Davie a new contract a ``misread.''

``A year ago at this time, I believed that we had turned the corner under Bob, and that we were prepared to reclaim our traditional standing among the nation's elite college football programs,'' White said. ``Today, I can no longer say that.

``I really believe we need to restart this thing.''

The search for a new coach will begin immediately, White said, adding that he had a ``short list'' of candidates, none of whom he has contacted.

White said Notre Dame needs a coach capable of bringing the university another national championship.

``We are a place that's won 11 of them. Can we win a 12th? I believe we can,'' he said.

Notre Dame last won a national title in 1988 and hasn't finished a season ranked in the Top 10 since 1993.

The Irish finished last season ranked No. 15 and No. 22 in 1998 _ both nine-win seasons.

Davie said that after Notre Dame's Sept. 29 loss to Texas A&M, White threatened to fire him during the Nov. 10 bye week if things had not turned around. But Davie said White decided the next day to give him the rest of season to redeem himself.

``If Notre Dame thinks they can hire someone who can come in here and do a better job of winning games than I can, that's certainly their prerogative,'' Davie said.

``I accept that and I wish them well.''

Among those mentioned as potential successors to Davie have been three NFL coaches _ Oakland's Jon Gruden, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci and Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Oregon's Mike Belotti have been among the college coaches mentioned.

Also mentioned has been Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez.

But Alvarez took his name out of the running last February for the Miami coaching job and agreed to a new contract with the Badgers that runs through Jan. 31, 2006. He vowed then to finish his coaching career at Wisconsin.

White said he won't comment on the search until he's ready to name a new coach.

Notre Dame's assistant coaches were told Sunday morning that the new coach would select his own staff, but that they would continue as university employees at least until a new coach is named.

Notre Dame will honor the remainder of Davie's contract, White said, but declined to elaborate.

Players sympathize with Davie, who has been heavily criticized by fans.

``We'll stand behind him anytime, anywhere,'' kicker Nicholas Setta said.

Davie was never fully embraced by the Notre Dame community after getting off to a tumultuous start.

The most devastating blow to Notre Dame's image came two years ago, when the university was placed on probation for the first time. It was the result of a relationship between Irish players and a former booster who embezzled more than $1.2 million from her employer and lavished the players with gifts, trips and money.

The NCAA report said Notre Dame's coaching staff had opportunities to look into the woman's relationship with players on two occasions but didn't ask enough questions. The relationship started under coach Lou Holtz and continued under Davie.

To many Irish fans, though, the most upsetting thing was losing.

The Irish were 6-15 against ranked teams during Davie's stay, 1-7 against teams ranked in the Top 10 and 11-18 away from Notre Dame Stadium.

Davie said he's proud of the job he's done.

``I will walk out of here with my head held high and I will be extremely proud of what we have accomplished here,'' he said.