Expand 2:09 PM 11/30/2009
OUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- A person familiar with the decision says Notre Dame has fired coach Charlie Weis.
The move comes after a string of disappointing seasons that was capped by four agonizing losses, including the regular-season finale on Saturday night at Stanford.
The person confirmed the firing to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the official announcement had yet to be made. An announcement by the school was expected later Monday.
The New York Daily News first reported the firing.
A brash offensive coordinator with the NFL champion New England Patriots when he was hired five years ago, Weis raised Irish expectations with back-to-back appearances in BCS bowl games in his first two seasons.
Since then, one of the nation's most storied football programs has gone 16-21 -- the most losses ever by the Irish in a three-year span.
Weis wound up with a 35-27 record in his five seasons, a record worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie, who also were fired.
Weis has six years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, just after a thriller against top-ranked USC that ended in a 34-31 loss.
The way that game played out served as a model for the Weis era. Clinging to a 31-28 lead with less than 2 minutes to play, Notre Dame allowed the Trojans to convert on a fourth-and-9 from their own 26. That ultimately set up a quarterback sneak in the waning moments, when Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinhart into the end zone for the winning score.
In the end, Weis had a .565 winning percentage -- worse than the .583 posted by his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie. They were both fired, too. He leaves with one of the worst winning percentages of any Fighting Irish coach: Only four of Notre Dame's previous 27 coaches won at a lower percentage.
What made Weis' fall worse for fans of one of the nation's most storied football programs was that it began so promisingly.
Weis came to Notre Dame brimming with confidence after serving as offensive coordinator for the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
The first two seasons under Weis produced more victories (19) than any other Notre Dame, more than the first years of Knute Rockne, more than Frank Leahy, more than Ara Parseghian. Both seasons ended with BCS bowl losses.
Asked about his start at the time, Weis said: "I really haven't done anything yet."
He didn't know he had reached the high point of his tenure.
With Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and other key players gone in 2007, the Irish started 0-5 for the first time in school history. They finished 3-9, leaving Weis one loss shy of matching Davie's school record of 16 losses in his first three seasons.
Most shocking, though, was the fact the Irish finished last in the NCAA in total offense just three years after Weis said at his introductory news conference that when it comes to X's and O's "we have the greatest advantage."
The past two seasons the Irish have collapsed in November. They got off to a 5-2 start before going 1-4 down the stretch a year ago, and started 6-2 this season before slumping -- starting with a once-unthinkable second loss in three years to Navy.
Notre Dame fans who celebrated Weis' cockiness when he was winning grew tired of his Jersey attitude when the Irish started losing, with many calling him arrogant.
His biggest failure, however, was his team's inability to play good defense. The Irish never finished higher than 39th in the country in total defense and gave up big play after big play.
Weis appeared to know his firing was imminent, saying a day after the double overtime loss to Connecticut on Nov. 21 that he would have a hard time arguing against his dismissal "because 6-5 is not good enough" -- an echo of his words when he took the job.
Overall, Weis' teams lost six games by 26 points or more. That's the same number Willingham had in three seasons. Davie only had one such loss and Lou Holtz didn't have any. Weis had a pair of 38-0 losses to Michigan and USC that tie for the eighth-most lopsided losses in Notre Dame history.
Among the people considered likely candidates are Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, TCU coach Gary Patterson and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The task for athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who is in his second year on the job, is to find a coach who can end the longest title drought in Notre Dame history.
The school has not topped the AP's final poll since the end of the 1988 season.