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Weis reaping rewards for Irish turnaround
Published January 2, 2006
TEMPE, Ariz. - Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis received the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation's top college football coach on Sunday.
The award, given by the Football Writers Association of America, was presented at the final Fiesta Bowl news conference. Weis' Fighting Irish meet Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl today.
Weis guided Notre Dame to a 9-2 record in his first season at the school after being lured from the New England Patriots, where as offensive coordinator he helped the team win three Super Bowls in four seasons.
"I'll accept the award, but on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, not on behalf of Charlie Weis," he said.
He praised the school for providing him with the means to be successful.
"It all started after they hired me," Weis said, "giving me the resources to go hire what I feel was the best group of assistant coaches. Those guys, together with me, I thought, provided some pretty good guidance for a great group of kids who really stepped up and had an admirable year."
MOTIVATION: Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn called the showdown "the battle of the what-ifs."
The junior from Columbus, Ohio, surmised that had the Irish not lost by three points to No.1 Southern California and the Buckeyes (9-2) not fallen by the same margin to No.2 Texas, Notre Dame and Ohio State might be meeting for the national title.
But missing out on the ultimate prize doesn't mean the Buckeyes lack motivation for the game. Sixteen OSU seniors want to secure what they believe will be an enduring legacy if they can prevail in just the fifth game against the Irish.
A victory would be No.43 since they arrived, tying the school record by one class in a four-year period. The 1998 seniors won 43, including twice against Notre Dame, from 1995-98. The 1997 and 1996 classes recorded 41 wins, while the 1975, "76, "96 and "97 seniors totalled 40.
"This is excellence," senior left guard Rob Sims said of the record. "I think we all deserve it. We've worked hard and kept this thing together through the ups and downs of whoever or whatever.
"I see when older guys come back how people respond to them. I want all the guys I came in with to have a reunion and everybody will be like, "Man, that was the class."'
IRISH BONANZA: "Charlie's Army" apparel is a moneymaker for five Notre Dame students.
They've turned their admiration of the Irish head coach into a business, and they're recycling some of the profits to charity.
Charlie's Apparel has received more than 400 online orders since September on a Web site unaffiliated with the school. Twenty percent of all profits from sales of "Charlie's Army" T-shirts, sweat shirts and hats have been earmarked for charity.
Walter Hessert started the online store with his brother and Nate LaFerle, Mike Randolph and Arthur Lam.
"We kind of expected it to be this successful, but still, every moment of it is surprising," Hessert said in the South Bend Tribune .
Ten percent of profits will go to Hannah and Friends, the foundation started by Weis in honor of his autistic daughter, Hannah. Another 10 percent is earmarked for the Tim Solic Memorial Scholarship, established for a recent Notre Dame graduate who died of cancer at 23.
RARITY: Ohio State and Notre Dame have met on the football field only four times - twice in the 1930s and twice in the '90s - and never in a bowl game.
"I think it adds a lot to this game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We've only played four times before in our history and the two great programs, here we are in one of the great settings in college football. I think it adds a little something to the intrigue."
BIG PAYDAY: Each team will get about $14.5-million for appearing in this BCS game. Ohio State must share its money with the rest of the Big Ten. Notre Dame, as an independent, keeps it all.
Rev. John I. Jerkins, the university's president, said it will be spent on student financial aid, library acquisitions and scientific instruments for the new Jordan Hall of Science.