As you may have noted from my story today, Tyrone Willingham is doing his best to keep his status as former Notre Dame coach out of this week's storyline.
We got some access to Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis Tuesday, and he did too. Although he did grant us that he felt a pressure to win the 2005 meeting a bit more than he might have let on at the time.
"It was so soon after the changeover," Weis said. "But I think that once we got past that game, I think that both (Willingham) and I were happy to get past that game. … We've gone our separate ways from there. I think that was probably the one hurdle that we had to get through, just so we could get through it. But I've gone my way; he's gone his way as our programs have as well.
"In 2005, it was definitely there. You could act like it wasn't there because you felt like this dog and pony show that we always talk about. That's how I felt at the time. I don't feel that way now. Now I feel that, hey, it's the second half of the season, we need to get off to a good start, we've had this long weekend off, we've got to get off to a good start, and Washington happens to be the team that we're playing."
As for any personal relationship with Willingham, Weis said this:
"We don't know each other very well, but we're cordial. But no, I don't call him and he doesn't call me. The last time that I saw him I think was last January at the coaches' convention. Other than that, we don't call and ask how the families are doing or anything like that."
And even though Weis and Willingham are part of a small fraternity of men who know what it's like to coach under the bright lights of South Bend, Weis said when he seeks advice he contacts former Irish coaches Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, not Willingham or Willingham's predecessor, Bob Davie.
"When I call people up, I usually like to talk to the guys that left here with a good taste in their mouth," Weis said. "When guys leave here before they're ready to leave, they're not the people who would be the best people for me to talk to. It's not that we're not cordial; it's not the best situation. I don't want them to feel they have to say something and I really don't want to ask them. That's why when I have a question to ask somebody who's been in that boat, I call Ara and Lou. Because they were here over a decade and I feel those were the guys who kind of guide me the best. The bottom line is when people leave before they want to leave it's never a good conversation."