ND Takes Recruiting Title

August 1, 2008

It didn’t take an MIT mathematician to know that Alabama’s recruiting title rested on fuzzy math. The Tide signed 32 players in February which gave them the number one overall class in total points on both Rivals and Scout, but also put them over the scholarship limit of 85… 11 players over the limit.

Everyone knew the Tide was going to have attrition from that class and now it’s happened. Two players, four and three star recruits Melvin Ray and Destin Hood, chose professional baseball.

Three other players, fours star recruit Devonta Bolton, four star recruit Kerry Murphy and three star recruit Brandon Lewis are ineligible.

That attrition easily knocks the Tide down below the Irish, who’ve had zero losses because Notre Dame vets recruits thoroughly before signing them, making Notre Dame number one in both average recruit ranking and overall point rankings. The 2008 recruiting class is Notre Dame’s first number one class since Lou picked grass nervously off the sidelines.

On the field performance has to follow, but there’s no doubt that the young talent base is quickly building in South Bend.


NDNation.com Gamewatch Project

July 30, 2008

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San Diego State Preview

July 25, 2008

The following was posted by Londondomer on Rock’s House.

Ok here is the complete preview of the San Diego State Aztecs that I said I would finish. I watched as much game film of them as I could find on the internet (not a ton) and tried to come up with the best preview I could. Hopefully someone besides myself will find this interesting



#14 Ryan Lindley – 6-3, 205. Fr (RS)
A 3-star, #47 ranked prospect out Lakeside, CA where he attended El Capitan HS. Had offers from smaller schools like UNLV, Boise, Fresno State, etc. As a senior, completed 61 percent of his passes (235-for-385) for 3,521 yards, including 35 touchdowns. Traveled with the team this past year, but never saw any action.

Back-up: #9 Drew Westling 6-2, 220. Jr.
A 3-star who originally signed with Tulsa and redshirted as a freshman. After playing in three games and throwing one pass, he transferred to Southwestern Junior College. Completed over 53 percent of his passes for 2,087 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Analysis: Not much here. Lindley is inexperience and young, which is not a good combination. He was a decently ranked recruit out of high school but is likely to be a mediocre QB at this point in his career. Difficult to tell with nothing out there.

Running Backs

# 24 Brandon Sullivan 5-11, 220. So.
A 3-star, #73 ranked player out of high school, Sullivan had 88 rushes for 373 yards last season (4.0 avg), with 3 TDs and a long of 59 yards. Played as a fullback but has moved over to take the 1st string RB duties.

Back-up: Atiyyah Henderson 5-9, 175. JR.
A small back with decent speed and open field moves. Rushed 44 times for 192 yards (4.2 avg) and 1 touchdown. Disappointing season after rushing for 764 rushing yards in his freshman year.

Full Back

#23 Tyler Campbell 6-0, 220. SR.
Only had 3 attempts for 6 yards last season and also played special teams. Played in all 12 games last season.

Analysis: The Aztecs will likely run the ball with an inexperienced corp of quarterbacks. Sullivan and Atiyyah should be a decent combination of power and speed, but are not by any means elite backs. The Aztecs leading rusher last season was now-graduated quarterback Kevin O’Connell. Even if ND’s defensive line is in a down year, these backs should not have big games.

Offensive Line

LT #74 Mike Matamua 6-5, 280. FR. (RS)
A 3-star, #40 ranked OT coming out of high school, Matamua traveled with the team in 2007 but did not play. Had offers from Colorado, Washington, Utah, etc.

LG #77 Mike Schmidt 6-2, 310. SR.
One of three returning starters on the Aztec offensive line. Was a defensive lineman before moving to the other side of the ball. Started his career as a walk-on who earned a scholarship in Fall 2007.

C #60 Tommie Draheim 6-4, 275. FR. (RS)
Draheim was a no-name recruit out of El Capitan HS in Lakeside, CA. Has not yet seen any action. Inexperienced and undersized.

RG #67 Ikaika Aken-Moleta 6-2, 325. JR.
Had only played in one game in his career during the second half of the 2007 game against Washington State.

RT #79 Kurtis Gunther 6-8, 270. FR. (RS)
A 2-star, unranked OT prospect from Camarillo HS in Camarillo, CA. Did not see any action in 2007.

Analysis: This is an extremely unexperienced unit with only one lineman with significant playing experience and three redshirt freshmen. The Irish defensive line should have their way with this group.


R-Receiver #80 Vincent Brown 6-0, 175. SO.
Had a good freshman campaign, finishing third in Aztec season history in most receptions by a freshman and fourth in most receiving yards. Caught 31 passes for 349 yards (11.3 avg) and 2 touchdowns with a long of 62 yards. Also returned kickoffs, bringing back 25 returns for 547 yards (21.9 avg) with a long of 49 yards.

W-Receiver #4 Darren Mougey 6-6, 225. SR.
Was the teams #2 quarterback in 2005 and 2006 before a season ending injury. Made the move to wide-receiver. Last season caught 32 passes for 368 yards (11.5 avg) and 2 touchdowns.

X-Receiver #6 Mekell Wesley 5-10, 175. JR.
Played in all 12 games last year, but only caught 1 pass for 17 yards. Touted for his speed, but is inexperienced. In 2006, only caught 4 passes in 8 games.

Analysis: This unit features two of the offenses three returning starters. Brown is the biggest threat and will draw the Irish’s best CB. Mougey is a big-target but is not an extremely skilled receiver.

Tight Ends

#88 Matthew Kawulok 6-2, 235. JR.
Played in 7 games this past season, catching only 1 pass for 2 yards. Came out of high school as a 2-star LB recruit. Brother plays at Colorado State.

#41 Tony DeMartinis 6-5, 255. JR.
A back-up defensive end for the past two years. DeMartinis just made the switch to tight end during the Spring of 2008.

Analysis: A very weak position for the Aztecs. Both players are inexperienced, with only 1 pass caught between them.


Defense Line

DT #92 Siaosi Fifita 6-4, 250. SR.
Fifita is one of the Aztecs nine returning starters on defense (don’t worry, more on that later). He played in all 12 games, but only had 12 solo tackles and 17 ast. tackles, but he did have 6 tackles for loss. He also was tied as the sack leader with 3 sacks for -16 yards. He also hit the QB twice, making him the Aztecs biggest threat for disrupting the back field. This guy was a one-star TE prospect out of Van Nuys, CA and SDSU was the only school to offer him. Very undersized for a DT. Our bigger offensive line should manhandle him.

DT #66 Ernie Lawson 6-3, 300. SO.
Lawsom will be a first year starter but played in all 12 games last year. He has the size of a more prototypical DT. Last season he had 9 solo tackles and 8 ast. tackles, with two pass breakups. Another local product from Vallejo, CA, Lawson was only offered by SDSU as well. He will take up space in the middle, but in video looks slow and out of shape.

DE #94 B.J. Williams 6-3, 230. SO.
Williams is also a returning starter, and provided the Aztecs with 20 solo tackles, 25 ast. tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Williams is undersized but has decent speed around the edge.

DE #56 Jonathan Soto 6-3, 265. JR.
Again, a returning starter. Last year he has 22 solo tackles, 13 ast tackles, 4.5 TFL, and 3 sacks. From film – he is just not that good. Got all of his sacks against bad teams. Has a stupid haircut.


WLB #32 Andrew Preston 6-1, 220. SO.
Preston, again, is a returning starter and one of their top defenders. Had 40 solo tackles, 32 ast. tackles, 7 TFL, and 1 sack. A decent player on the outside, but not overly physical. I expect our tight ends, when matched up against him, to out muscle him to the ball time and time again.

MLB #35 Luke Laolagi 6-1, 230, JR.
Returning starter. Last season, had 48 solo tackles, 46 ast. tackles, 6 TFL, and 1.5 sacks. Slow to react to pass plays and seems to bite on play action. Fairly aggressive, which actually gets him in trouble sometimes.

SLB #46 Russell Allen 6-3, 235. SR.
The Aztecs’ best linebacker and best defender. Led the team in tackles with 71 solo, 48 ast. tackles, and 5.5 TFL. He also had 1 sack, 1 int, and 6 pass breakups. Big and physical.

Defensive Backs

CB #43 Aaron Moore 6-0, 190. JR.
Will probably draw the role of covering the Irish’s best WR. Had 42 solo tackles, 17 ast. tackles, and 4.5 TFL. He also had 7 pass breakups and 4 interceptions. Not a bad cover corner, but 190 looks to be very generous. Not physical on the line. If he has to match up with Kamara, the quick out (that was often used with Shark and Stovall) should be very effective.

CB #6 Vonnie Holmes 6-0, 170. SR.
And I thought Moore was skinny. Holmes, for a senior, is an absolute stick out there. Last year, had 21 solo tackles, 5 ast tackles, 0.5 TFL, 4 INTs, and 3 pass breakups. Fairly quickly, but once again, very small and unphysical. Was a JuCo transfer from College of the Canyons.

FS #40 Corey Boudreaux 6-1, 220
Another one of the Aztec’s better defenders, last year Boudreaux had 53 solo tackles, 31 ast tackles, and 3 TFL. He also had three INTs and 8 pass breakups. Is a fairly quick FS, but not overly physical. Was a former walk-on receiver, earning a scholarship in the Fall of 2007.

SS #11 Martrell Fantroy 6-1, 215.
Not a starter, but played in all 12 games last season, notching 15 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, and 3 interceptions. Fairly athletic, but undersized (though he is more physical than one would expect).

Analysis: The Aztec offense should be no match for the Irish defense. The Aztecs return only three starters, one of whom was a former walk-on. Not only does the team return only three starters, but few of the players have significant game experience. The offensive line in particular is extremely young and inexperienced. Corwin Browns defense should largely have their way with the overmatched Aztecs. With Tenuta’s influence, the linebackers should find their way to the quarterback early and often. The Aztecs’ QB last year accounted for most of their offensive production and he is gone. I would expect the Aztecs to score fewer than 10 points.

The defense, although it returns almost all of the starters, should be similarly overmatched. Last season, the Aztecs gave up and average of 34.4 ppg against the power houses of the Mountain West. These point totals include 45 against Washington State, 52 against Cincinnati, 55 against Air Force, 45 against TCU, and 48 against BYU. They also gave up an average of 500 yards/gm in total offense, with 256 of that through the air, and 241 on the ground.

Overall, the Aztecs should be clearly overmatched on both sides of the ball. The offense is young and inexperienced. The defense returns nearly every one from a very poor 2007 team that went 4-8 in a weak conference.

The bulk of the Aztecs players come from California after every other team in state (and out) has picked over the bulk of the talent. There is absolutely no reason the Irish should not win by at least 30 points.

My Pick: Irish 42 SDSU 7

More Distortion

July 24, 2008

This is, of course, nothing new from the South Bend Tribune’s Jeff Carroll, but his latest distortion deserves a rebuttal.

Here’s some background: Google Adsense had been running an ad that ran through on NDNation.com that contained pictures of Luke Harangody and Jimmy Clausen. That’s a problem. Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune spotted the Ads on our site and called John Heisler, who called Mike, who removed them from our site. Brian wrote an accurate account of what happened.

Today, Carroll wrote about the issue (a day late,) but his “article” contained this distortion:

“Coffey had caused previous stirs on the ND Nation site with inaccurate/false reports that Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey was considering leaving Notre Dame for, first, North Carolina State and, this past spring, Indiana University.”

So, a couple of points of distortion here. First of all, Coffey didn’t “cause a stir” he solved a problem working together with John Heisler. Mike was the solution, not the problem. The cell phone ring tone company and Adsense were the problem and Mike acted quickly to remove the Ad from our site and Notre Dame sent a cease and desist order. The issue was quickly solved by NDNation.com working together with Notre Dame. Carroll is attempting to link unlinked events to create a seeming pattern.

Second, let’s deconstruct Carroll’s next two data points. Mike ACCURATELY reported interest in Mike Brey from North Carolina State. Unlike Carroll, Coffey actually has good sources (he did write the book on ND Basketball.)

Finally, Mike wrote an “April Fool’s Day” post about Brey leaving for Indiana, which was noted by almost every poster on The Pit as a joke that day. We have a tradition of April Fool’s Jokes and we’re not about to change that because reporters don’t get it. Reporters did feel compelled to make calls on this simply because Coffey does have such great sources even though they knew it was April Fool’s Day. That’s a testament to Mike’s knowledge and connections. I would hope we don’t have to put a big flashing sign on our site that reads, “It’s April Fools Day.”

That Carroll didn’t bother to call or email us (trust us, they’ve got our email) before writing this story is a testament to the quality of journalism practiced by Carroll. And this isn’t the first time. Carroll had caused previous stirs on the South Bend Tribune with distorted reports that attempted to cast Charlie Weis and Jimmy Clausen in a negative light.

For more on Carroll’s past and journalistic integrity see Deconstructing a Smear Campaign
and Jeff Carroll’s Chronic Distortion.

The pattern here is Carroll’s. You’d think he’d show an ounce of common sense or at the very least, journalistic ethics. Just send us an email, Jeff. We’ll talk to you and clear up your confusion.

We’d like to reiterate that there are some very good writers for the South Bend Tribune, who write accurately, do their research and understand what a balanced story looks like.

What a Difference a Schedule Makes

July 23, 2008

First, I agree with you. A tough schedule is no excuse for last year’s debacle. However, when you have as many things working against you as the Irish did last year, it magnifies the problems you do have, creates new ones and can make them exponentially harder to fix. How much difference does a schedule make? The following was posted by wsund on Cartier Field.

Most of you probably know that Notre Dame faced 10 bowl teams on it’s schedule last year, more than any other BCS team in the country. What you may not know is just how much more difficult this made their schedule.

When you have a non-bowl team on your schedule, the game is generally a “gimme”. Notre Dame, as bad as they were, went 2-0 in their “gimme” games last year. How did the rest of the BCS teams do? They combined to go 285-70 in these games, a winning percentage of .803.

Here’s how many of these games each BCS team played (with the percentage of these teams who made a bowl in parentheses):

Teams with 8 non-bowl games: 1 (100%)
Teams with 7 non-bowl games: 6 (100%)
Teams with 6 non-bowl games: 25 (84%)
Teams with 5 non-bowl games: 19 (58%)
Teams with 4 non-bowl games: 12 (42%)
Teams with 3 non-bowl games: 2 (0%)
Teams with 2 non-bowl games: 1 (0%)

The average BCS team played almost 5 “gimme” games, and 64 of the other 66 teams played at least twice as many of these games as Notre Dame. ND’s schedule was by far tougher than most other teams last year on this basis alone. This stat can also be linked to the odds that a team will make a bowl game.

Here’s another statistic from last year. Here are the average number of wins teams in each category achieved:

Teams with 8 non-bowl games: 12 wins
Teams with 7 non-bowl games: 9 wins
Teams with 6 non-bowl games: 7.97 wins
Teams with 5 non-bowl games: 7.47 wins
Teams with 4 non-bowl games: 5.66 wins
Teams with 3 non-bowl games: 4 wins
Teams with 2 non-bowl games: 3 wins

Again, the number of these games appears to have a direct correlation to a team’s success. It also shows that teams won about, on average, 2 games against bowl opponents (ND won 1).

So how does this affect ND in 2008? Well, the fact that the schedule should be much easier should guarantee ND a few more wins, and that’s not taking into account their improvement on the field.

Phil Steele projects 7 of ND’s opponents to play in bowls, compared to the 10 they faced in 2007. Of these 7, only USC does he project to play in an elite bowl. Pitt, Navy, MSU, and BC are projected to be in lower tier bowls.

ESPN projects 8 of ND’s opponents to be in bowls. But again, he has Purdue in the Insight Bowl, Navy in the Congressional Bowl, Pitt facing UNC in the Car Care Bowl, BC in the Emerald Bowl, and Michigan in the Champs Sports Bowl (all slots lower than where ND is projected).

Let’s face it, Notre Dame was a bad football team last year. We hope they will improve on the field this year. However, the schedule offered them no favors last year, and it alone should guarantee the Irish a few more wins in 2008.

"Cierre Wood Looks Like a Rocket"

July 22, 2008

Notre Dame’s top recruit isn’t lacking in speed or confidence. Cierre Wood took part in the Top Gun Showcase Camp and the quote above was one of many about Wood’s performance. Here’s another:

Wood looks like he was shot out of a cannon

Wood plays for a small school and suspect competition, but regardless, his numbers are just silly at 14.7 yards per carry and 50+ yards a kickoff return. Top Gun running back coach Lorenzo White (Michigan State) added:

Cierre is a good kid and he’s strong. He’s got some great feet and some explosion. He also has some great hands and many skills. Cierre Wood has a bright future

I keep saying that ND fans just aren’t excited enough about the commitment of Wood, Notre Dame’s best Running Back recruit in over a decade. Much like Michael Floyd and Jimmy Clausen, Wood has the ability to be a game changer. Here’s the rest of the article from Rivals.

Zach Martin Joins the Baby Bulls

July 21, 2008

Offensive Tackle Zach Martin is a very important recruit for the Irish who are dominating recruiting on the inside of the line, but really need talented tackles. Martin appears to be just that.

The Vitals:

Ht: 6-foot-5
Wt: 270 lbs
Forty: 5 secs
Bench max: 330 pounds
Squat max: 450 pounds
GPA: 3.3

The Book from ESPN:
Martin may be one of the most versatile linemen in the 2009 class. He is an outstanding offensive tackle and defensive lineman that has a great motor and being 6’5″ 275, it’s no surprise he is being highly recruited. Offensively, he comes off the ball low and hard playing with great leverage. Demonstrates great leg drive and locks hands into the defender’s body; big meat hooks really clamp on. Could give a little more punch but this aggressive football player does a great job of sustaining his block. Alert and picks up inside stunts and blitzes like a seasoned veteran. Very mobile for a big man; pulls with authority and athletic enough in the openfield to lock on to linebackers and defensive backs. Has no trouble getting turned upfield and gives that little bit extra to get downfield block. Very solid at pass protection and anchors down with weight underneath him. Uses his hands very well and delivers a jarring blow on the pass rusher. On defense this huge athlete also gives great effort and is very physical. Wrong arms the trap and destroys the double team. Powerful at the point of attack and absolutely cannot get knocked off the line by one blocker. Extremely quick on line stunts and is a menacing pass rusher. Uses hands and to separate from the blocker then disengages to get to the football.Takes good pursuit angles and demonstrates excellent lateral movement. It’s amazing how this big guy can go both ways and never tire. Martin is truly a workhorse that is equally effective both sides of the football. We love his motor on defense, but in the long run his best fit may be on offense as a tackle.

From the Illinois site:

Zach Martin is going to be an all-american in college and Illini fans were all talking about Chris Watt…..Watt will be a good player for ND but not close to being Zach Martin in terms of athletic ability, left tackle potential.

The Skinny:

While it is always fun to beat Michigan for a top tackle, this commitment was important for the Irish just based on need. The Irish needed tackles and Martin comes with a “high potential” tag. If Notre Dame can somehow land Xavier Nixon, the Irish line will be looking solid for years to come.

Is Swarbrick the Right Man at the Right Time?

July 17, 2008

If his press conference is any indication, it appears that Notre Dame may have found a true leader, with vision, character, credibility and courage. For me, Swarbrick seems to be talking right to the concerns of NDNation, some of which I outline in For Love and Money: Replacing Kevin White. The italics are from the article, the non-italics are from Swarbrick’s press conference yesterday.

Under White, it seemed as if Notre Dame was constantly scheming new marketing and revenue generation methods that brought in small dollars at the expense of the Golden Goose. What Notre Dame’s incoming Athletic Director has to understand is that Notre Dame’s market value is ultimately found in the uniqueness of Notre Dame. So, yes, we absolutely need someone who “gets it.”

This is home because this place defines who I am. Don’t let my last name confuse you. The other three names that contribute to my family heritage are Comie (phonetic), O’Brien and McGuiness. It is an Irish heritage, and a pretty typical one in that regard: Irish Catholic immigrants who came to this country in the late 1800s seeking a better environment, a grandfather who became police commissioner of New York’s second largest city. I grew up steeped in the tradition of this university, at least as steeped as you can be in it in a family that never got within 800 miles of it.

We also need someone who understands what that means in the larger, changing landscape of college football and our other sports. Whomever the new AD is, he (or she) will have to be able to navigate an increasingly factionalized world of athletics dominated by superconferences, which means the new AD will have to bring a very CEO like level of skills to the table (after all it is akin to running a small company.)

Along with that understanding of Notre Dame and its place in the landscape and competence in athletic administration, the new AD will have to quickly build credibility both within Notre Dame and in the larger NCAA community in order to wield influence. As we’ve seen before, the blunt hammer doesn’t work and neither did the “let’s all be friends” approach of White. That’s why being able to bring credibility into many situations is a key component in this equation. Arrogance is not an asset, but neither is acquiescence.

My experiences have run very deep in the sports world. They started in the Olympic movement, working with a number of national governing bodies, consulting with an Olympic Games, running Pan‑American games, most importantly from my perspective, to help athletes achieve their Olympic dreams. It extended in the past decade to be focused much more heavily on intercollegiate athletics, a special form of athletics in the United States where the goals of education and sport are so directly intertwined. Those experiences have given me insight into the nuts and bolts of collegiate athletics.

But perhaps more importantly they’ve helped me build the relationships which I think are critical to success in this job. I am proud to count among my friends and colleagues many of the leaders in college sports in America today and I know I can count on them to continue to be friends and allies in the years ahead. The challenges here are significant. I would argue to you they’re even bigger than those. But they’re challenges of the best kind. They’re challenges born not of problems, not of shortcomings, but of great striving, of high goals. I believe that I accept this job on the threshold of extraordinary change in intercollegiate athletics in America. I have my theories, as Father suggested, about what that change may entail and where the industry is headed. But I think it will be enormous. I think there’s much about this industry you won’t recognize in 10 years. We must be at the forefront of that. We must participate in leading that change. Notre Dame cannot have that dictated to it. And I love the challenge of accepting the responsibility for trying, with the other members of the athletic team, staff, coaches, student‑athletes, to be part of shaping that future.

In a recent seminar I worked on with executives we focused on the differentiating factors of great leaders. In the world of credibility, character and competence are of course paramount, but the key differentiating features for credibility were courage, emotional intelligence and the ability to influence others.

We need athletic administration competence, someone who gets Notre Dame, understands the strategic landscape now and where we’re headed in the future, changing media and marketing and someone who will be viewed at as a leader both internally at Notre Dame and externally in the world of college athletics.

How can Notre Dame help dictate that change to the rest of the intercollegiate athletic world?

JACK SWARBRICK: I think it’s essential we play that role. And that’s not being hubristic. It’s the importance of schools that have Notre Dame’s values leading that change. I don’t mean to suggest by that that we would lead it alone. But I hope we will lead it with other institutions that share our values, share a view of how intercollegiate athletics ought to be fully integrated into the academic mission of a university. I’ll stay away from the specifics of the crystal ball, other than to say I would suggest to you they’re a convergence of forces. It’s hard to imagine them playing out without change, significant change, happening. Part of that’s what’s going on in the world of broadcast and media, the grand experiment that is in the NCAA Network and the incredible significance I think that has for college sports down the road. I think the issues surrounding the financing of college athletics in the United States, a clear division among schools as to ability and approach to that topic. I think shifting allegiances and alliances among schools and conferences. So I think it’s a very dynamic list of factors.

Finally, not a point missed by NDNation watchers, Swarbrick embraced and indicated that the University has embraced, The Three Pillars concept as outlined by NDNation posters in the 2004 letter to the BOT.

Father Jenkins and the executive team and the trustees have set out on a mission, a grand experiment that has never been attempted before. They are committed to building an institution which is at the very top rank of academic institutions in the world, not just a great place to educate young people, but a great place for research, for discovery, for intellectual curiosity. They are committed to do that at the same time they intend to stay true to the core mission of the university: to advance the Catholic faith. And, finally, they are committed to do those two things while continuing to be among the finest and most successful athletic programs in the country.

I’m not here to just do sports right. I love the competitive environment of sports. Don’t step on the field if you don’t want to win. We want to win. We want to be a great academic institution that furthers research in this country. We want to be a place of faith. And we want to be a place that wins on the athletic field and turns out extraordinary student‑athletes.

In the three legs of that stool I think there might be a tendency to treat sports as the stepchild. I think that nothing could be further from the truth. Sport is an integral, not a secondary, part of that success. It is integral for two particular reasons. One is sport is how you celebrate the success of the university. It would be great to gather 70,000 people to cheer an important patent, but it’s not going to happen.

But we can bring our community together to celebrate what we are on a football Saturday or on a basketball evening. We can gather around our television sets and share the common bond of watching the remarkable journey of the hockey team this year or the women’s basketball team when it went to its national championship. Sport allows you to build community and celebrate all that’s great about the school, not just sport.

Good start and best of luck to Jack Swarbrick.

Color Me Impressed

July 15, 2008

As I’m taking a hiatus, I thought CJC on Rock’s House did a nice job of summing up the thoughts of many around our new Athletic Director. Personally, I like the fact that he’s got a name out of a Clancy novel. In all seriousness, at the very least we’re not going to be Chester at the BCS bargaining table next time around.

Color Me Impressed by Jack Swarbrick’s resume and accomplishments.

But the piece of paper in which I’m most interested is not Swarbrick’s vitae, it’s the job description for Notre Dame’s athletic(s) director.

Once upon a time, numb from the disaster that was Michael Wadsworth, I took Kevin White’s hiring as a very encouraging sign. I reasoned that a man with such an impressive resume, currently holding a rather prestigious position at an institution seemingly with great potential, would be highly unlikely to take a position as a lackey to Malloy, as Wadsworth had done.

Obviously, I couldn’t have been more incorrect.

Swarbrick’s prerogatives will be constrained by his superiors, as had been the case at Notre Dame for at least 55 years. It seems that most here believe that’s a good thing, as calls here for complete autonomy for Notre Dame‘s athletic director are about as common as admonitions for Across and sprack to “get a room.”

The most important question remains in what ways the powers-that-be will constrain Swarbrick.

The second-most important question is how Swarbrick himself envisions Notre Dame football. While the immediate die is already cast, including the newly-extended NBC contract and its provision for seven home games in addition to a neutral-site prime-time game, the athletic(s) director has the opportunity and responsibility to be an internal advocate.

The saga of Gene Corrigan and Gerry Faust well illustrates the limitations upon the athletic director and the imperative that the athletic director be creative, decisive and effective notwithstanding those limitations.

When Corrigan was unable to convince Fr. Hesburgh and Fr. Joyce that retaining Gerry Faust beyond his third season was not in Notre Dame’s best interests, Corrigan made sure that when the opportunity to replace Faust did arise, he would be prepared to do so swiftly and effectively. Not only did Corrigan identify Holtz (not necessarily a big deal), but he suggested the out-clause in Holtz’s Minnesota contract (apparently at the suggestion of Moose Krause) and just as important, timely persuaded Fr. Hesburgh and Fr. Joyce to authorize Holtz’s hiring.

I choose to hope that in addition to his impressive record, Swarbrick does not believe that the football program and the entire University are best served by our current scheduling philosophy, and that he can bring his seemingly considerable talents to bear upon changing the thinking that is reflected by the NBC extension.

Phone calls to Stanford, Purdue and Michigan State in the next 60 days would go a long way toward convincing me that my dreams might come true. – CJC

In case you were wondering, Chester was the little dog who jumped around in the Looney Tunes Cartoon and said over and over again “hey spike we’re buddies ain’t we spike, we’re pals,ain’t we spike, huh, huh, huh?”

Notre Dame Lands Another Five-Star

July 13, 2008

IrishEyes broke the news Sunday that Notre Dame followed up the commitment of offensive guard Alex Bullard (who chose the Irish over Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Tennessee among others,) with a commitment from Five-Star offensive guard, Chris Watt. Watt, the #2 ranked guard by both Scout and Rivals, gives the Irish a formidable twosome at the point of attack. Watt is very mobile and a tenacious blocker.

Here’s what ESPN had to say about him:

“Usually comes off the ball low and hard, with a flat back. Rarely gets too high. Packs a lot of punch and is a great finisher. Keeps his legs driving like pistons. Shows excellent footwork. Gets into his block without losing leverage, and doesn’t try to turn his man until he’s knocked off the line of scrimmage. Has the athleticism to reach the second level with good body control. Can even get to the third level and find a safety to block. Pulls and turns upfield with no loss of motion or balance. Puts his hat on a defender and locks on like a pit bull.”

It also puts the Irish in the running for its best recruiting class along the offensive line in years if Notre Dame can persuade Xavier Nixon, another Five-Star recruit, to join the Irish. If Notre Dame can somehow get Nixon, it would set the stage for the dynamic offensive line, one that Notre Dame desperately needs to compete at the top level.

Along with Cierre Wood, Watt is the second five-star to commit to Notre Dame, which is already more five star prospects than were signed in the 3 of the 5 previous seasons.