Because we miss the days when sporting successes and failures actually WERE the best/worst parts of the day...
Saturday, May 31, 2008
White Out (/In)
First reported by WNDU's news, and confirmed today by Raleigh-Durham's counterpart WRAL (as well as ESPN.com and the infallible Wikipedia), Kevin White has officially been hired by Duke to replace Joe Alleva, now the AD at LSU. Though Domers may not have been thrilled with White during his time at Notre Dame, and are not exactly displeased at his departure, White is an excellent hire for Duke.
First, similarities between Duke and Notre Dame are obvious; beyond the facial similarities of reputable athletic programs and high academic standards (as well as an enjoyment of an unparalleled national hatred), both schools excel in the "non-major" sports - that is, everything save football and men's basketball. Say what you want about White's (mis-) management of the football program since the turn of the millenium, but there is no doubt that he has been beneficial for the minor sports at Our Lady's University (see, e.g., national championships in fencing, soccer, women's basketball, etc.). While many in the mainstream may not care, these fringe sports play a large role in the aggregate athletic prominence of both universities, especially when their flagship sports struggle, and White boosted many of these programs during his time at Notre Dame, and will be expected to continue the success of the similar programs (soccer, lacrosse, women's basketball, etc.) at Duke.
Hires in White's tenure were hit-or-miss at best; this is the guy who managed to bring in C'Dubs and (thus far) a pair of BCS games, but the same guy who made the banner hires of Ty Willingham and, lest we forget, the great George O'Leary. Speculation abounds in the Durham area as to the timeline for the departure of Coach Krzyzqewradsfski, and, upon Coach K's retirement, White will no doubt play the familiar role in the hiring of a new coach for one of the most storied programs in the sport.
I would be surprised, however, if White has much influence on Duke's basketball program. It has always been Krzyzewski's show to run, and White will likely defer to the experience of those who understand how to run a truly top-flight basketball program.
White was brought in by Duke primarily to bring the football program back from the national basement (1-11 record last year, 0-8 ACC), and bring them back to their mid-1950's success. Duke has plans in place to improve the football program, from refurbishment of their ~33,000-seat stadium to increased recruiting efforts. White seems a perfect hire for Duke for this reason, and will probably fit in better in Durham, where football expectations are considerably lower and there is more room for improvement, than he did when faced with the high standards and fickle temperaments of those residing in the Bend. Above all, White should look on the bright side: a 3-win football season next year would be considered quite a success here at Duke.
Obviously, in 8 years as head of the Notre Dame athletic department, White has been a lightning rod among the Notre Dame fanbase regarding his management of the football program. For the moment, all I'm ready to say is that it seems like there's a reason this story was dug up at 11 PM on a Friday night, so we'll be observing announcements closely over the next few days before issuing our closing thoughts on the tenure of the Good Doctor.
Charlie Weis' raid on the Jersey shore has continued during the early days of the 2008 recruiting campaign. In the last month the Irish secured commitments from a trio of Garden State prospects, joining Duval Kamara, Mike Ragone, & Hafis Williams as recent coups in the Jersey sweepstakes. First was defensive tackle Tyler Stockton; shortly after the Irish landed a commitment from top running back Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick snatched up what figures to have been the only other spot in this class for a running back.
Standing 5-10 and 185 pounds, Riddick's cut from the same mold as rising sophomore Armando Allen, with the quick-burst to match if you believe his highlight videos. He also plays defensive back and didn't indicate much of a preference for where he plays in college ("Whatever gets me on the field the fastest", he told the South Bend Tribune), although the timing of his announcement right on the heels of Wood's suggest he at least didn't want to miss out on a chance to come to Notre Dame due to their being full at the running back spot. Addressing the potential for a Wood-Riddick backfield recently, Theo was both in awe of his future teammate and ready for some competition:
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “I think everyone else will be playing, but I think I’ll be playing as well.
“And with Cierre and I in the backfield I think we’ll be very dangerous, so that’s one of the reasons why I committed to Notre Dame with Cierre Wood.”
Joining the parade from Jersey was linebacker Carlo Calabrese of Verona. A family friend of Anthony Fasano's, Calabrese attends the same high school and favored the Irish throughout the recruiting process, though he had a special reason for waiting to go public:
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker chose his mother's birthday, May 21, to commit to Notre Dame over offers from Rutgers, Boston College, Maryland, N.C. State, Pitt, Florida and others.
"I wanted to make it a special day for her and for me," the linebacker said. "I know she'll remember this forever and so will I. I'm hoping it's her best birthday ever."
His father and mother, Carlo Sr. and Annie Calabrese, were surprised by the timing.
"We didn't know he was going to do that," said his father. "I think it's great because it shows what kind of kid he is. He wanted this memorable day to go hand-in-hand with his mom's day. We were surprised but thrilled."
While Calabrese has a soft spot for his kin, he doesn't extend the same charity to his on-field opponents (or, apparently, barbells at the local gym). If there's a single write-up about his commitment that hasn't led with the words "hard-nosed", "bone-crunching", "high-energy", or "hard-hitting", I've yet to see it. Carlo definitely seems in the mold of that nasty attitude Weis and the Irish remain in search of.
Aaron Nagel is convinced the Notre Dame football team will make a run at a national title sometime in 2009 or 2010.
He just won’t be around to be a part of it.
“You don’t know how hard this was,” said Aaron’s father, Ron, after the freshman linebacker met with Irish head coach Charlie Weis on Wednesday afternoon and ultimately decided to transfer.
“Our family has always been Notre Dame fans and always will be Notre Dame fans. We’ve got nothing but good things to say about coach Weis. It came down to the fact that Aaron wanted a chance to get on the field. It didn’t happen in the spring and it didn’t look like it was ever going to happen.”
Nagel, rated a three-star prospect out of high school two years ago, was essentially an "instant verbal" in that campaign after getting a personal scholarship offer from Coach Weis on one of two 2006 Junior Days. He never saw the field during the fall even as fellow freshman Kerry Neal and Brian Smith started to take over the outside linebacker positions, though that wasn't necessarily anybody's fault - Nagel had the fortune to be in the group backing up team captain and defensive iron horse Maurice Crum inside. As Nagel's father went on to say, it was a lack of chances to prove himself in spring ball, when Corwin Brown and new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta ran almost exclusively the first two units (Nagel remained on third-string) which sealed the decision.
While this might ratchet up another round of rumors about what really goes on inside the Gug and ponderings about "How can the program be so healthy when it seems like everybody wants to leave?", Nagel is hardly the poster-child for a disgruntled player convinced that the coaching staff is out to get him, burning his bridges as he leaves town. An exceptional student who posted a 3.75 GPA during football season and a 4.0 during the spring semester, he departs on solid academic terms and with nothing but good things to say about the school and his coaches. He just didn't like the odds of trying to fight for playing time at one of the few truly stocked positions on the Notre Dame depth chart for this and upcoming seasons:
"Notre Dame is still a great school," Nagel said. "We told coach Weis that we wish him the best of luck this year. Next year and down the road they're going to be back contending for national championships year in and year out. There are no hard feelings about it."
On May 31, 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers completed Moses Malone's "fo-five-fo" run to the NBA title, sweeping the hated Lakers in the process. Since then, fans from the City of Brotherly Love have been met with heartache on the level of the fine cities of Cleveland and Buffalo (this post will NOT compare the relative merits to each city's heartache; safe to say, when you're mentioned in the class of those towns, things have been bleak). A quick non-precalculus bit of math says that the Flyers being bounced from the playoffs by a nauseating 6-0 defeat to an emerging intrastate rival means that it has been an even 100 seasons since there was a parade down Broad Street (I would double-check the strike/lockout intracacies, but I always end up slamming my head into my keyboard. I'll take SI's word for it). Think about that: One-hundred preseasons/exhibitions/spring trainings with glimmers of optimism. One-hundred dismal rounds of golf in May/July (the end of NBA playoffs?!?)/October/ February. Here is a breakdown of 100 seasons of disappointment:
Horrible Draft Picks
The Damage: Drafting Shawn Bradley; trading an entire draft for Eric Lindros only to watch the Nordiques take the Flyers players, become the Avalanche, and run off 2 Cup titles -- Wait, I just looked it up: The Flyers gave up 5 players, the rights to Peter Forsberg, 2 first-round picks, fifteen million dollars (US dollars! Deal breaker alarm!), and Herschel Walker for Eric Lindros. Wow. -- Going gaga when an undersized d-lineman from BC! benches a few more reps than other players who spend their workout time on football drills, and drafting an unsignable player (though attendance numbers and Duracell stock did notice a modest increase in the late '90s).
In other words: drafting the most comical lottery pick ever, a trade for a prospect which actually overshadows the Herschel Walker deal, the prime example of being duped by a workout, and introducing the term 'signability' to the sports world.
Each team has reached their respective final round/game, notching a total of 3 victories. Between a horribly overrated walk-off winner, a sweep at the hands of Hockey Town, a Game 1 teaser before Shaq made The Wagging Finger his blond-headed stepchild, and a Super Bowl loss that brought about the T.O. Fiasco and ruined a team, the rare championship games have led to the destruction of milk cartons everywhere.
I could go into more (namely the Barkley and Iverson trades, 10,000 losses, booing McNabb on draft day, numerous playoff collapses at the hands of Marty Brodeur, the Triple Crown collapse of Smarty Jones), but I'll save those for when the Phillies pass the Washington Generals in the L column sometime after Cole Hamels wins game 7 and the Malibu Marlins celebrate their 5th World Series in franchise history.
To all: savor the titles of the Red Sox, Colts, Cardinals, White Sox, Pistons, Rams, Red Wings, Bulls, and Twins. You never know when the next (first) one might be.
As if they weren't redundant enough with the whole "Angels Angels"...of Anaheim, the ballpark is called Angel Stadium...of Anaheim. What city do these guys play in, again? By the way, I'm sitting next to the John Leyhane of Angel fans out here. Charming company.
"On the heels of the Reggie Bush debacle, USC should be crushed by the NCAA, the Pac-10 and its own administration for the latest revelations about O.J. Mayo...", writes ESPN.com's Pat Forde.
All I can say is that it's about time someone said it. Thank you, Mr. Forde.
And yes, we are talking about the same Pat Forde who publicly called out our very own Kevin Braun in the Fall of 2006 for not bringing his A game to the ND-Michigan game. Kev, it took him a while, but he seems to have finally come around. Maybe it's because Forde actually listened to Mike Valenti's rant after the 2006 ND-Michigan State game?
Apparently the new NCAA coaches' vote to restrict activity in April and May had an adverse effect not just on head coaches and recruiting efforts, but also on Buzz Bissinger's preferred source of news, the blogosphere. All's been (mostly) quiet on the Irish front since the flurry of news near the end of April concerning the Blue-Gold game and recruiting, but there has been some moving and shaking since then for both the football program and other Notre Dame sports as they wrap up the school year. Let's go around the horn:
Baseball: The Irish have enjoyed a strong season in year two of the Dave Schrage era, currently at 33-15-1 with only a three-game series at South Florida before postseason play begins. At 16-7 in conference, the Irish can lock up the second seed for the Big East tournament with a weekend sweep of the eighth-place Bulls. They still have an outside chance at the regular season title, but that would require first-place St. John's being swept at Villanova. Pacing the power attack for the Irish has been a familiar face to football fans, Evan Sharpley. The second-string quarterback leads the team with 10 HR and is third with 35 RBI to go with a .311 average. Sophomore AJ Pollock has emerged as the offensive sparkplug, hitting .379 with 40 RBI and 22 steals in 24 attempts, while senior Ross Brezovksy is hitting .337. All nine Irish regulars hit over .290, with solid production up and down the lineup. On the mound it's another footballer leading the way - Eric Maust, who figures to be the first-string punter this fall, is 6-1 with a 2.97 ERA. Another Sharpley, freshman Ryan, is 4-1 in spot-starting duties while senior Wade Korpi and junior David Phelps fill out the rotation. The Irish probably need a deep run in Big East tourney play to return to the NCAAs and have a shot at their first College World Series since 2002.
Lacrosse: Without the services of their best scoring threat and freshman All-America Will Yeatman (who moonlights as tight end with the football team), the Men's LAX team still has a 13-2 regular season and snared a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. Against 11th-seeded Colgate the Irish won an 8-7 overtime thriller - junior Peter Christman scored the golden goal with 1:37 left in the first extra session. The Irish, who a year ago suffered an overtime loss to Johns Hopkins in the first round, advance to the Round of 8 against third-seeded Syracuse. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU this Sunday at 3 PM ET.
The women's lacrosse team wasn't as fortunate and walked away with another tough ending. After reaching the Final Four in 2006 only to miss the NCAAs last year, the Lady Irish drew two-time defending national champion Northwestern in this year's opening round. Despite a strong opening half on Sunday which saw them take a 3-1 lead and earn a 5-5 tie at the break, the Wildcats pulled away in the second half by shutting out ND's Jillian Byers, the fifth-best scorer in the nation. Final score: Northwestern 15, Notre Dame 7.
We'll Always Have Dallas: The next officially announced game in Kevin White's grand "off-site home games" strategy was announced last week, which will see the Irish returning to Texas in 2013 after their matchup with Washington State in San Antonio next Halloween. Same conference, same state, but different sites, as this time it will be Arizona State and the Irish playing in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium slated to open next year. Far more in-depth thoughts on this matchup and the scheduling philosophy as a whole are percolating inside the minds of several members of the blog here, but I for one would rather have gone back to Tempe and hit up Mill Avenue (not to mention the Hotel Valley Ho).
When you get a call from the White House, it shows up as six digits on your cell phone," Weis said. "When I was in Houston waiting in that hangar to get on a plane, the phone rings, and I say, 'Oh it's the White House calling.' And the guy sitting next to me looks at me like, 'Yeah, right.'
"I don't want to act like I have the answers to the test," Weis said, "because I'm not even there yet. But the one thing I thought I'd be able to bring to the table with this commission is public service announcements. I think it stays in line with Maura's and my vision about compassion and awareness for people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities. It's a great opportunity to spread the word.
Meet the Mets, meet the Mets Come on out and GREET the Mets! Bring the kiddies, bring the wife, Guaranteed you'll have the time of your life!! Because the Mets are really sockin' the ball, hittin' those home runs over the wall! Eaaaast-side, Weeeeesst-side, everybody's comin' down! To meet the M-E-T-S, METS! Of New York towwwwwn!!!