SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Charlie Weis will return for a fifth year as Notre Dame's football coach despite his second straight disappointing season at the helm.

"Though this past season fell short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program, I am confident that Charlie has a strong foundation in place for future success and that the best course of action is to move forward under his leadership," athletic director Jack Swarbrick said yesterday in a statement released by the university.

Weis has seven years left on a 10-year contract signed midway through his first season, but some fans had been clamoring for his firing after the Irish got off to a 4-1 start this season and finished 6-6.

Swarbrick said he made the decision to keep Weis after talking with Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins. Swarbrick met with Weis in California on Tuesday to review this season and discuss the next one.

The decision gives Weis another shot at trying to return Notre Dame to prominence after the team lost 15 games over the last two seasons, the most by the Irish in a two-year span.

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has a record of 28-21 in four years, a .571 winning percentage. That's slightly worse than his two predecessors, Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie.

Weis, though, also led the Irish to BCS bowls (the Fiesta and Sugar) in his first two seasons at Notre Dame. The Irish will go to a lower-level bowl this year.

Swarbrick said Nov. 12 that he looked forward to Weis' "being the head coach for a long time." But after a 24-23 loss to Syracuse (the first time that Notre Dame had fallen to an eight-loss team) along with a trouncing by rival Southern Cal, Swarbrick said he would not comment on Weis' status until he had time to review the season.

In Weis' four seasons, only eight of Notre Dame's 28 victories came against teams that finished the season with a winning record.