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Sunday, December 2
Updated: December 4, 6:29 PM ET
Davie's tenure at ND ends after five seasons news services

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- When Bob Davie was hired by Notre Dame in 1996, he got some advice from former Irish coach Ara Parseghian.

Notre Dame could have handled the Bob Davie situation better. School officials should have spoken up earlier and made his status clearer in the days leading up to his dismissal.

After all, Davie's contract was extended just a year ago. And he had a 9-2 season just a year ago, so it should have been addressed without keeping Davie hanging in limbo.

Now the question is, what does Notre Dame need to do to get back on track?

Besides the coaching decision -- with the familiar names being bandied about -- the Irish need to make a commitment to make some changes in this prestigious program. This is not the Notre Dame of old. It's hard for the Irish to compete for talent with the Florida schools, Michigan and others simply on the Notre Dame name.

The Irish offense is not attractive today to guys who are eyeing a future in the NFL. Skill-position players want to play an NFL-style offense, and defensive players want to play against an NFL-style offense.

So style of play, facilities and the like must be addressed if Notre Dame wants to become a college football power again.

"He said, 'There's a lot of things to worry about. Worry about one thing -- and that's winning,"' Davie said.

He didn't win often enough and Notre Dame fired him Sunday, a day after the storied football program completed its second losing season in three years.

The Irish lost six or more games three times under Davie, whose 35-25 record gives him the third-worst winning percentage in Irish history at .583.

"I'm the first one to stand up here and say that we may not have won as many games as what would be expected," Davie said.

During his tenure, the Irish were placed on NCAA probation for the first time. They also produced no first-team All-Americans and only one first-round draft pick, Luke Petitgout.

Athletic director Kevin White said that while Davie's teams have done well academically, "We also expect and intend to excel on the field, and there, unfortunately, our results and progress have been disappointing."

The search for a new coach will begin immediately, White said, adding that he had a "short list" of candidates, none of whom he has contacted.

The Irish went 9-2 during the regular season last year, and Davie was rewarded with a five-year contract before an embarrassing loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Irish started this season 0-3 for the first time in school history and finished 5-6.

"A year ago at this time, I believed that we had turned the corner under Bob, and that we were prepared to reclaim our traditional standing among the nation's elite college football programs," White said. "Today, I can no longer say that."

Davie said that after Notre Dame's Sept. 29 loss to Texas A&M, White threatened to fire him during the Nov. 10 bye week if things had not turned around. But Davie said White decided the next day to give him the rest of season to redeem himself.

"If Notre Dame thinks they can hire someone who can come in here and do a better job of winning games than I can, that's certainly their prerogative," Davie said.

"I accept that and I wish them well."

Among those mentioned as potential successors to Davie have been three NFL coaches -- Oakland's Jon Gruden, San Francisco's Steve Mariucci and Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Oregon's Mike Belotti have been among the college coaches mentioned.

Gruden, however, has denied having interest in the opening. There have been several reports that his agent, Bob Lamonte, already had been contacted by the school. Gruden has a year left on his contract with the Raiders.

"I like where I am a lot. I haven't had any conversations with anybody," Gruden told the San Francisco Chronicle following Sunday's overtime loss to Arizona. "If I did I would tell you. I haven't talked about any other job but this one."

And Alvarez reportedly is not interested in returning to Notre Dame, where he was an assistant from 1987-'89, a source close to the situation told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Notre Dame's assistant coaches were told Sunday morning that the new coach would select his own staff, but that they would continue as university employees at least until a new coach is named.

Notre Dame will honor the remainder of Davie's contract, White said, but declined to elaborate.

Bob Davie
Notre Dame lost three or more games three times under Bob Davie, a stat that eventually did him in.

Players sympathize with Davie, who has been heavily criticized by fans.

"We'll stand behind him anytime, anywhere," kicker Nicholas Setta said.

Davie leaves without leading the Irish to a top-10 finish in his five seasons. The Irish were ranked at the end of the season only twice under Davie -- No. 15 last season and No. 22 in 1998.

Davie was never fully embraced by the Notre Dame community after getting off to a tumultuous start.

The most devastating blow to Notre Dame's image came two years ago, when the university was placed on probation for the first time. It was the result of a relationship between Irish players and a former booster who embezzled more than $1.2 million from her employer and lavished the players with gifts, trips and money.

The NCAA report said Notre Dame's coaching staff had opportunities to look into the woman's relationship with players on two occasions but didn't ask enough questions. The relationship started under coach Lou Holtz and continued under Davie.

To many Irish fans, though, the most upsetting thing was losing.

The Irish were 6-15 against ranked teams during Davie's stay, 1-7 against teams ranked in the Top 10 and 11-18 away from Notre Dame Stadium.

"I talk to our football team every single day about how it's not the bad things that happen to you that's important, it's how you handle them," Davie said. "In no way do I have a chip on my shoulder as I leave Notre Dame."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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