This is the season for sweeping losing coaches out the door or graciously accepting their resignations. The announcements come almost daily it seems, but none, of course, attracted as much attention as news coming out of Notre Dame, where Gerry Faust called it quits after five trying years on the job. The announcement came as no surprise given Faust's lackluster record, nor did the quick naming of his successor startle anyone. It was pretty much assumed that Lou Holtz's name was at the top of the candidates' list. Holtz, a friend of Notre Dame athletic director Gene Corrigan, has successfully turned around the football program at Minnesota the last two years and has always wanted to coach the Fighting Irish.
With his characteristic optimism, Faust gallantly weathered the storms of criticism and skepticism that accompanied his tour of duty. Finally, however, the handwriting was all too clear that the time to leave had come.
So that a replacement could be named and begin recruiting new players, Faust announced his plans before Notre Dame's final game against Miami. Sadly, the Hurricanes showed no sensitivity to the situation, and ran it up on the Irish, handing them an embarrassing 58-7 defeat.
A highly successful high school coach, Faust hadn't been able to make the quantum leap to the top college level and wound up as the losingest coach in Notre Dame history, even with marks of 5-6, 6-4-1, 7-5, 7-5, and 5-6.
Holtz is certainly no stranger to new surroundings, having coached at William & Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, and for the New York Jets , besides in Minnesota. South Bend, he says, will be the end of his coaching odyssey. He can begin work immediately too, since Minnesota has relieved him of any obligations to lead the Gophers in the Independence Bowl.
In some quarters, Saturday's Army-Navy game in Philadelphia might be viewed as a mere consolation contest. After all, Air Force has already won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy by beating both Army and Navy for 1985 service academy honors. Even so, the Army-Navy clash remains a classic rivalry, even if Veterans Stadium with its artificial turf does not make for a very classic setting. ``For all the atmosphere there is there,'' said one sportswriter ``[the game] might as well be played in a Pentagon hallway.''
Whether one likes the surroundings or not, though, this year's game should be memorable as the joint regular-season curtain call of two of the best running backs in service academy history, Navy's Napoleon McCallum and Army's Doug Black.
McCallum, who missed most of last season with an injury and was granted special permission to complete his playing career in this, his fifth year, at Annapolis, is the country's leading all-purpose rusher. He owns the national record in this department with 6,896 yards on rushing plays and kick returns. Despite being somewhat overlooked on a losing 3-7 team, McCallum has become the only back in Navy history to post two 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Fittingly, it seems, Black has arrived at Saturday's game needing just 114 yards to achieve the same distinction at his school. And what makes this prospect especially noteworthy is that the 210-pound senior fullback was relegated to intramural football his first two years at West Point. The coaches at that time felt he was too slow for running back, and too light, at 183 pounds, for linebacker.