SOUTH BEND (AP) — New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has told friends he has accepted the Notre Dame coaching job, returning to the school he graduated from in 1978.

And Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said yesterday the team wants to send Weis out “the right way.”

Mark Bavaro, a former Notre Dame player who was with the New York Giants while Weis was on the staff, said Weis told him Saturday that he was taking the job at Notre Dame.

“He was excited, but he was much more concerned about the Cincinnati game today,” Bavaro said yesterday. “That’s the way he is, very focused.”

Dr. Jim Benenati, who roomed with Weis for four years at Notre Dame, said Weis had told him he has agreed to take the job and he was excited about becoming a head coach.

“It’s the greatest thing that could ever happen to the school, and probably the best thing that could ever happen for Charlie,” said Benenati, a radiologist in Miami.

The Fighting Irish have been searching for nearly two weeks for a replacement for Tyrone Willingham.

A university source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Notre Dame was close to a deal with Weis, but it was not a done deal.

Asked as he left the field after New England’s 35-28 win over Cincinnati for his thoughts on Weis, Brady told CBS, “Even though he’s leaving I think everyone’s going to enjoy these last few games and hopefully we send him out the right way.”

Weis will attempt to restore Notre Dame to the powerhouse program it was when he attended the university as an undergraduate while Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine coached the Fighting Irish. Weis never played for Notre Dame.

Associate athletic director John Heisler said Sunday afternoon that the school “was not in a position to make an announcement yet.”

“We’re not prepared to say it’s official yet,” he said.

New England coach Bill Belichick wouldn’t comment about Weis’ status after the game.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked about Weis after New England defeated Cincinnati yesterday about Weis.

“Tomorrow, when they announce it,” he said, declining further comment.

Weis was not available after the game.

ESPN reported that Weis has agreed to a six-year contract worth about $2 million a year.

Weis was considered a candidate for an NFL head coaching job this year, just as he had been last season. The Patriots’ long playoff run last year hampered Weis’ hopes,. though. He interviewed with the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills, but an NFL rule prohibits assistants from being hired while their teams are in the playoffs.

He could have faced a similar obstacle this year.

The door at Notre Dame opened, though, after Willingham was fired on Nov. 30 with a 21-15 record over three years. Urban Meyer accepted the Florida job after meeting with Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White and the Rev. John Jenkins, the incoming university president.

The Irish then focused on Weis, Bills offensive coordinator and former Irish quarterback Tom Clements and Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache, a former Irish assistant.


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