One thing that was brought up on the Best Damn Sports Show last night prior to Will's segment was a quote made last week from Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. Weis was speaking at a Gettysburg Notre Dame Alumni event and made this comment in regard to ND's losing record last season:
I could get hoodlums and thugs and win tomorrow. I won't do it that way.
Of course, the quote could be a nothing, harmless quote, made by Weis to an audience full of Central Pennsylvania Notre Dame alumni sitting in a banquet hall, eating lukewarm food out of chafing dishes, in an attempt to fire up a crowd even though his program is, under his tenure, a losing one. But it also could be interpreted as one that was very marginalizing, or that other big time athletic programs are filling their teams with "hoodlums and thugs," which is why it was brought up last night on BDSS last night, PTI , andfew other places around the web.
John Heisler, Senior Associate Athletic Director, said when I called him today he was aware of the quote but said that the university wasn't planning on commenting on the remarks at this time. He went onto say that "[Weis] was just trying to make a a point about student athletics at our institution — that we only recruit quality individuals and we just don't accept anybody here. That's no big secret." Heisler did add that he understands how some people could be offended by the comment, but seemed confident that the university wouldn't have to publicly apologize for the remark.
One of the event's attendees, and a director at the GNDAC, is Rick Staub, HVAC supervisor at Shipley Energy, "Central Pennsylvania's leading total energy supplier," who said that people who think that Coach Weis' comments were insensitive or racist were probably "Notre Dame haters."
"You know, we're like the Yankees to some people, " he said. Staub then asked if he was going to be quoted for the story and I said, yes, I did identify myself as a reporter and you are talking to me.
"I don't want my quotes to be in print whatsoever. None, no way..." (Hey, journalist folk: Don't you just hate it when people do that?) Staub then suggested I speak with the club president, Brendan Cushing-Daniels for a response.
Cushing-Daniels said Weis' quote was "absolutely not" racist or meant to be offensive in any way. He went on to say that he was "white Irish Catholic" and that there back in the old days of New York City, people like him were considered hoodlums and thugs. (Somebody's seen "Gangs of New York"... )
Daniels, who speaks with a slight country twang and a 1987 graduate of Notre Dame and a professor of economics at Gettysburg College, was genuinely annoyed at the question. "I find it remarkable and disturbing that people are saying that comment is in anyway racist." He also said that if "your website" makes any implication that the quote was in anyway racist that Deadspin could expect a libel suit.
"Look at the racial make-up of the football team!" he barked.
That's fine. There are a lot of black people on Notre Dame. But how many black people were in the crowd at your event?
"None, but I think that's more a symptom of the geographic makeup of this part of Pennsylvania. The Notre Dame alums who live in this area are white."
Maybe it wasn't a racist comment, and Weis' was using "hoodlums and thugs" to make a point that Bill "The Butcher" Cutting wasn't going to get into Notre Dame even if he did lead his inner city high school in touchdowns the last two years. And context and setting is key for this quote — why should Weis apologize for a comment he made in an informal setting from the safety of a dais that may have offended some people?
Charlie Weis addresses Notre Dame club in Gettysburg [The Evening Sun]