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Because of circumstances, Willingham and Weis will always be linked. Willingham was ousted at Notre Dame after just three seasons, an unprecedented pulling of the plug on a Fighting Irish coach with a few years still remaining on his contract.

Weis put the shine back on the Golden Dome last year, going 9-3 -- a record identical to Willingham's first season at Notre Dame. But Weis' 9-3 was good enough to earn a 10-year contract extension.

Make no mistake, there was a difference between Weis' 9-3 and Willingham's. The 2002 Irish were a scrappy squad that rarely outplayed its opponents but took advantage of every break to steal several games. They were outclassed by top-notch teams.

Weis' Irish looked more polished and competed better against elite competition. Still, after 15 games at Notre Dame both were 11-4 and trying to recover from a mauling by Michigan.

Willingham lost game No. 16 to Michigan State.

In Weis' 16th game, Notre Dame was down 31-14 at half against the Spartans.
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