Dec 8, 2004 wire reports

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's outgoing president criticized the decision to fire Tyrone Willingham after just three seasons, saying he was surprised the coach was not given more time to try to succeed.


"I'm a good soldier and in times of transition, people can disagree," the Sports Business Daily quoted Rev. Edward Malloy as saying at a sports conference in New York. "I don't think there is a lack of goodwill or that anybody else is to be blamed for a racist decision or anything else. I just think there was a lot of pressure in the works."

The Sports Business Daily quoted Malloy as saying he was embarrassed by the football coach's firing. His remarks came at a forum on intercollegiate athletics.

"In my 18 years, there have been only two days that I have been embarrassed to be president of Notre Dame: Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, because I felt we had not abided by our precedent," Malloy was quoted as saying. "It was our (athletic director Kevin White and Malloy) expectation that we would live by our precedent, which was a five-year window for a coach to display the capacity to be successful within our system.

"Both of us have a very high regard for (Willingham). ... We had a meeting called by my successor (Rev. John Jenkins) with a strong presence of the Board of Trustees, which led to a result," Malloy said.

University spokesman Matt Storin issued a statement Wednesday saying there was "debate and disagreement" over the firing, and that Malloy deferred because of his pending retirement on June 30.

Notre Dame reportedly is preparing to meet with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator and former Irish quarterback Tom Clements about its vacancy.

Clements, 51, has connections to two of Notre Dame's most successful coaches. He played under Ara Parseghian, leading the 1973 team to a national championship, and was an assistant under Lou Holtz from 1992-95.

"He has a good football mind, he's a good, solid person, and he's a Notre Dame alum," Holtz told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Associated Press News Service

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