Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fighting Irish Fans Watch and Wonder

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fighting Irish Fans Watch and Wonder

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

The televisions at Coach's Sports Bar in South Bend, Ind., were tuned to ABC. They are every Monday night. But for folks there, this wasn't just another NFL game.

This was an audition tape.

The question of the night: Were they watching the next coach of the Fighting Irish?

Tom Coughlin might not like hearing that question. But until he says he isn't interested in the job, or Notre Dame says it isn't interested in him, the rumors will swirl. And while what happened last night at Alltel Stadium -- a 28-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers -- certainly isn't going to decide whether Notre Dame views Coughlin as a suitable successor for Bob Davie, it could influence one part of the equation: fan opinion.

"I think the general consensus is that anybody is better than Davie," said Justin Schlemmer, a bartender/bouncer at Coach's. "People don't want another country-clubber. They want more of the drill-sergeant type."

And although you-know-who would fit that profile, the fans' No. 1 Scream Team choice is Jon Gruden.

The questions are whether the 38-year-old Raiders coach is interested -- he also has carefully avoided stopping the rumors -- and, if so, whether something can be worked out to allow him to finish a season that could run deep into the NFL postseason.

The Irish fans are hoping. On the Notre Dame campus, hanging from the second floor of Alumni Hall, are two objects showing some students' sentiments: an American flag and a huge handwritten sign that says, "ALL I WANT FOR X-MAS IS JON GRUDEN."

We can only imagine the kids' excitement when they unwrap their presents and find . . . a lump of Tom Coughlin!

Actually, Coughlin would be a good fit for Notre Dame. OK, maybe it's a little hard to picture him schmoozing at the booster club meetings. …

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