In support of Bob Davie

The following was shared on Rock’s House. Former Athletic Director Michael Wadsworth, who passed away in 2004, was responding to a letter criticizing Notre Dame’s backstabber turned turncoat, Bob Davie. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

MEMO: (from University Relations)

TO: Department Heads

FROM: [redacted]

DATE: 19 November 1999

I recently forwarded to Mike Wadsworth a letter of complaint about the football program that had been originally sent (certified mail) to the Board of Trustees. Mike sent me a copy of his response, and since it touches on some of the issues being raised to us by graduates and friends, I thought I would share it with you.

CC: Prof. Sexton and Regional Directors of Development

[Attached Letter]

From the Office of Michael A. Wadsworth, Director

November 11, 1999

To Mr. Gerald J. [last name redacted]
[Address redacted]

Dear Mr. [last name redacted]:

Your letter of October 16th to the Board of Trustees has been given to me for response. Let me begin by thanking you for your interest in the football program and for raising questions that warrant a response.

The first issue is the question of Bob Davie’s “experience”. Rest assured that when our committee organized the search for Lou’s successor, we detailed what we believed the individual must have to be successful at Notre Dame. The job is often described as “one of the biggest” in football. It could also be described as “one of the toughest” in football because of the expectations that are there and the intensity of the scrutiny the coach endures. It is not accidental that none of our coaches since Rockne have remained in the position more than 11 years.

We knew a lot about Bob Davie because of his 20 years coaching football, four of them as a defensive coordinator for Notre Dame, when he was considered on our list of candidates. We believed then, and know now that he is steadfast in the adverse conditions that arise with the changing fate of competition. Many people can diagram football plays, but leadership to a group of young men is key to sustained success, and leadership is not a common commodity.

Coach Holtz had a remarkable record at Notre Dame and your reference to his winning tradition is accurate. You will recall, as well, that in his first two years he had a rebuilding program in front of him. Success followed because of his ability to attract and motivate outstanding players

In his latter years, that success in recruiting fell off. I arrived in 1995 and learned that only 72 out of a possible 85 players were on scholarship. That was at the time of our disappointing 1994 season. So many players had transferred out of the program, it left the team depleted. In other words, players were brought in who were not a good fit for Notre Dame, and expressed their dissatisfaction by transferring. That has always happened – but not to the extent that we experienced in the mid-90’s. In fact, the 1997 team that Bob Davie inherited had lost 40% of the senior class through earlier transfers. An objective means of comparing talent levels is to review the NFL draft results for different periods. The drafts of 1991 through to 1994 cover the four football seasons beginning with 1990 and ending with 1993. This was a very successful period for Lou.

Take the four years, 1996 through to 1999, that cover the football seasons 1995 to 1998. The comparison illustrates how our recruiting had fallen off during Lou’s last years. Here is the table for those two time periods if we compare them on the basis of the number of Notre Dame players chosen each year in the top 100 draft selections:

1991: 5
1992: 5
1993: 6
1994: 7
Total: 27

1996: 1
1997: 4
1998: 1 (85TH)
1999: 1
Total: 7

Bob Davie and his staff have completed two full recruiting efforts, and in each of those years the incoming class was rated in the top 10 in the country. In other words, the problem is not admission standards. Certainly we have a smaller pool from which to choose than most of our competition. It is equally true that the young men we want, the whole country wants. With a focused effort, the staff has demonstrated these past two years that many of these top student-athletes will choose Notre Dame. It is essential to our future success that we continue to put this effort into recruiting and that we attract young men who want to play for Notre Dame.

I will conclude by addressing your suggestion that there is only the voice of dissent amongst the alumni, students, and fans. I must disagree. I have the good fortune to speak to our alumni through Notre Dame Nights, golf outings, and various other events. I receive the comments and questions from this broad cross-section of our people. To begin with, you portray the program as a losing one. I agree it needs to be rebuilt for the reasons I have cited, but in the rebuilding there has been success. With the continued effort to raise the talent level, the success will become greater.

Those who are close to the program and know what Coach Davie has done, such as the Directors of the National Monogram Club, support him and his staff. I ask you only to keep an open mind and give these coaches the respect and the time they are due to prove themselves.

Thank you for your interest and for your consideration of this response.


Michael A. Wadsworth

Bcc: [redacted] and Bob Davie


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