In The Merry Month of May
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 Be Watching You: Turning our foucs on to football, two of the Irish captains for 2008 - David Bruton & Maurice Crum, Jr. - have been named to the preseason watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive player. Crum was also named the preseason list for the Lott Trophy (named for Ronnie Lott), an award recognizing both on-field prowess and off-field character.
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).
DC United: Charlie Weis was appointed to the Presidential Commission for People With Intellectual Disabilities, a two-year term which began officially today. Weis has of course been highly visible in raising money and awareness in this area on behalf of his daughter, Hannah, who suffers from global developmental delay, since well before he became head coach at Notre Dame. Weis recalled the humorous first contact with the White House and his plans for serving with the committee in a South Bend Tribune article which ran on Saturday:
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.'And last, but certainly not least...
"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.
Coach Lou Holtz was elected to College Football Hall of Fame last week, becoming the sixth Irish head coach inducted and the 48th representative of Notre Dame. Other recent Irish inductees include Chris Zorich (2007), John Huarte (2005), & Joe Theismann (2003). UND.com's All-Access page has more highlights of Lou during his tenure in South Bend, although one always wishes that somebody had been rolling a camera during the famous, "Save Jimmy Johnson's [expletive] for me" moment.