If time is right, money should not be an issue

Published11/24/2009 12:07 AM

Fall Street - make that Wall Street - has intersected with Main Street in both South Bend and Lake Forest.

Indications are that Notre Dame will fire head coach Charlie Weis at the expense of somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.


Meanwhile, indications persist that the Bears won't fire head coach Lovie Smith because it overall would cost them in the teens of millions.

Something is wrong with the relativity of those pictures.

If the McCaskeys want to retain Smith because they think he's the right guy for the job, well, that's questionable enough.

But if they want to keep him due to financial considerations, I don't want to hear it.

The Bears could go from bad to worse to worst during the next six weeks and have no choice but change.

As of now, though, they're still stuck on Plan A.

Notre Dame officials say money won't stop them from firing Weis. Apparently the folks in South Bend understand that an institution's sanity, dignity and integrity are priceless.

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Back in their Lake Forest bunker, the Bears continue to concoct reasons to defend Smith.

Here's the principle that should apply: If you can't afford to eat the last two years of a coach's contract, don't sign him to it in the first place.

Let's take it a step further: If you can't afford to pay for your mistakes, sell the franchise to someone who can.

Otherwise what happens is what's happening at Halas Hall: Money becomes an object that compromises competition.

The McCaskeys must see what the rest of see, that Smith hasn't earned another season. Yet they're insulting fans by demonstrating no inclination toward even considering to dismiss him.

Essentially what ownership is saying is the club can't afford to pay to fire Smith as much as Bears fans can afford to pay to watch an inferior product.


Taxpayer money helped the McCaskeys build a new Soldier Field that has revenue-generating streams befitting a big-market NFL franchise.

Fans fund the club by paying obscene prices for seat licenses, game tickets, concessions, parking and all sorts of other discretionary purchases.

Back in the 1980s, not long after Papa Bear Halas died and the McCaskeys took control, Mike McCaskey often said finances mandate that the Bears operate more intelligently than other NFL teams.

The reason was the old Soldier Field had trouble supporting them. If that's still true in the new Soldier Field, then the McCaskeys should surrender to family members who want to cash in their shares and sell the team.

In other words, get out of the business of pro sports and invest in something like, say, bathroom tissue.

If consumers don't like 2-ply they can get 3-ply. If they don't like plain they can get patterned. If they don't like one brand they can get another.

But local pro football fans have nowhere else to turn. It's the Bears or nothing, and right now it's the Bears and nothing.

That alone should persuade the McCaskeys to do what Notre Dame appears poised to do - spare no expense to change head coaches.

Maybe the Bears can get Irish boosters to help pay off the rest of Lovie Smith's contract.

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