Friday, May 30, 2008

Kevin White to Duke

First reported by WNDU's 11 o'clock news tonight. Now's about the time when it might be helpful for a certain member of the board who happens to be a Duke law student to chime in with any appropriate thoughts regarding its accuracy.

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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Moving In, Moving On

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.

Putting Calabrese into the fold helped take a little bit of sting off the news that came out yesterday concerning the future of Irish linebacker Aaron Nagel. The sophomore-to-be from Lemont, IL has elected to transfer, emphatically citing playing time (or lack thereof and diminishing chances of getting it in the future) as the reason for his departure:
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."
Best of luck to him on all fronts in the future.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Meetin' the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium

Paulie! Paulie!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meetin' the White Sox at Angel Stadium

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.

Monday, May 12, 2008

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.'

"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.
And last, but certainly not least...

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).'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.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Mets Take the Field at Dodger Stadium

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!!!