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FRONTLINE: Weis' War

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[FOOTAGE: Weis, looking pathetic -- any recent press conference should do]

This was not how it was supposed to be when Charlie Weis landed his dream job three years ago.

[FOOTAGE: Weis is introduced at initial Notre Dame press conference]

Shortly after he was introduced as the head coach of Notre Dame's football team after the 2004 season, Charlie Weis would have to return to his day job. After all, his Patriots offense had another Super Bowl to win.

He was expected to bring similar success to Notre Dame. It has not happened.

[FOOTAGE: Navy players celebrating at South Bend]

ANNOUNCER:

"...and the Midshipmen beat Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years..."

Tonight, on FRONTLINE: Weis' War.

[Play FRONTLINE theme]

[FOOTAGE: Weis pacing sideline]

Right away, some players noticed a difference between the new coach and old Notre Dame leader Tyrone Willingham.

BRADY QUINN, former Heisman-winning, first-overall draft pick QB:

"He's kind of fat."

[FOOTAGE: Weis with Patriots]

Many saw the former Patriot’s offensive coordinator, whose genius had crafted a championship offense with such shoddy players as quarterback Tom Brady, as the savior of Notre Dame football.

[FOOTAGE: Shots of the Willingham years]

Notre Dame had fallen on hard times, going just 21-15 under former coach Tyrone Willingham.

ANNOUNCER:

"...an Insight Bowl berth..."

[FOOTAGE: Notre Dame players executing Weis' ingenious offense]

Instantly, Weis had an impact. He took Notre Dame from a team that annually rode a mediocre schedule to a blowout in a middling bowl to a team that rode a mediocre schedule to a blowout in nationally-televised postseason embarrassments.

But Weis had an even more audacious plan. He was determined to make sure the Irish succeeded as spectacularly in the regular season as they did in the postseason. Critics say that would prove to be his undoing.

[FOOTAGE: Evan Sharpley and Jimmy Clausen practicing]

Weis persisted in believing that he could make the 2007 season work without a permanent starting quarterback. Instead, the coach devised a plan to keep the starting quarterback a secret. Not just from the first week's opponent, but from the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth week's opponents as well.

Despite the criticisms of the season's 1-9 start, at least one former Notre Dame great came to Weis' defense.

LOU HOLTZ, championship-winning former head coach:

"I think it'th jutht a thign of the tremendouth parity we thee in college football nowadayth."

And sports commentator Stewart Mandel says that, despite the Irish's troubles in recent years, he would still designate the Irish one of the "Kings" of college football.

STEWART MANDEL:

"I mean, I'm sure 100 college football fans in Montana could recognize Charlie Weis' girth."

But there are those who say the Notre Dame mystique is gone.

NOTRE DAME INSIDER [face concealed]:

"Maybe we're not the best team in America anymore. Maybe we're only in the Top 10."