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Weis close to agreement with Notre Dame

Sun., Dec. 12, 2004, midnight

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame is close to hiring New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as its new coach, a university source said Saturday night, but the deal is not complete and still could fall apart.

The Fighting Irish have been searching for nearly two weeks for a replacement for Tyrone Willingham, who was fired Nov. 30 after posting a 21-15 record in three years.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that some procedural issues that could be deal-breakers remained in the talks with Weis.

ESPN, quoting sources close to the university, reported Saturday night that Weis had agreed to a six-year contract that will pay him about $2 million a year. The network said Weis will fly to South Bend, Ind., to meet with Notre Dame players after the Patriots’ game today against Cincinnati, and that a news conference at Notre Dame is set for Monday.

Weis could not be reached at his Massachusetts home Saturday night. A Patriots spokesman said the team had no comment on the reports.

“We have not hired anybody yet and we don’t have a press conference scheduled,” Notre Dame associate athletic director John Heisler said Saturday night. “Nothing is official. The process is ongoing. … No deal is done from our standpoint.”

Weis would be the first Notre Dame alum to coach the Irish since Hugh Devore was interim coach in 1963. Though he never played for the Fighting Irish, Weis graduated from the school in 1978 with a degree in communications and education.

Weis, 48, started as a high school coach and has long wanted to become a head coach. He went as far as undergoing gastric bypass surgery to help improve his chances of getting a job.

He said he primarily underwent the surgery for health reasons because his father died at age 56 from complications of being overweight, and because of the death in 2001 of fellow assistant coach Dick Rehbein at 45 from degenerative heart disease.

But he also knew that losing weight would help him become a head coach.

“I think there’s a lot of validity in the thought that appearance comes into play,” he said two years ago.

The surgery led to life-threatening internal bleeding that forced him to undergo surgery again two days later and kept him in intensive care for nearly two weeks.

Weis’ success with the Patriots hurt his chances of getting an NFL head coaching job. He interviewed last year with the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, but an NFL rule that prohibits assistants from being hired while their teams are still in the playoffs essentially prevented him from being seriously considered.

His weight problems and near-death experience also might have hurt his chances because of speculation his health wasn’t good enough to handle a head-coaching job.

“I think some people were totally misguided in terms of my physical abilities to put in a full day,” Weis said last year.


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