Monday, August 31, 2009

Charlie Weis’ Fork in the Road: How Will History Repeat Itself?

Clashmore Mike, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Football

The summer-long conversation regarding the fate of Notre Dame head coach will soon be over. Unfortunately, most of the discussion on this subject, from the television sports channels to internet bloggers, has offered more heat than light. In less than a week, the Irish will tee it up against the University of Nevada in Notre Dame Stadium. Charlie Weis’ legacy may well be decided in this very first game. Notre Dame and Coach Weis are at a fork in the road, and which direction they go will soon be known. Will it be mediocrity? Or the proverbial “Return to Glory?”

The Spanish philosopher George Santayana said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." This goes for institutions as well as individuals, and throughout the history of Notre Dame’s football program, many of the same mistakes have been made, then corrected, then made again. It’s a lesson for those with short memories, those who believe that the program’s recent decade of mediocrity is a new phenomenon, and that Notre Dame’s best days are behind her.

We all know about Knute Rockne, the legendary coach who not only set the bar so high for the Irish, but also with his celebrity, his marketing savvy, and his winning percentage (still the highest in the history of the game), created Big Time College Football. But with his death in 1931 there began a cycle of feast or famine for Notre Dame Football that continues to this day.

Rockne was followed by Elmer Layden, who coached from 1934 to 1940. Layden was one of the legendary “Four Horsemen,” but as a coach, especially following Rockne, his teams were a disappointment. His best year was 1938, when the Irish went 8-1. Otherwise, six or seven wins out of a nine game season was about average. Not bad, but for Notre Dame, not good enough.

But soon Irish eyes were smiling. Under Frank Leahy (1941-43, 1946-49) Notre Dame won four National Championships. Some Irish Faithful may think it blasphemous, but Frank Leahy was Notre Dame's greatest coach. His winning percentage of .864, was just under that of Knute Rockne’s.

But as Leahy’s success grew, the University began feeling self-conscious about what might seem to be an over-emphasis on football, and the football coach. This wasn’t new…during the heyday of Rockne, the feeling that the colorful coach was beginning to eclipse the educational and spiritual mission of the school was growing. However, Rockne died before it came to a head. Not so with Leahy. The administration began to restrict the coach’s scholarships and power, and eventually forced him out.

What followed was a decade of mediocrity. From1954 to 1963, the Irish underperformed. First was coach Terry Brennan, followed by Joe Kuharich. Neither was a success. Fans grieved and detractors gloated that Notre Dame’s success was history. Done. They were “irrelevant.” (Sound familiar?) Then came Ara Parseghian.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Resurrection Reviewed

Brian Dascenzo, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Football
Book Review

Resurrection is the latest book by Jim Dent, author of Junction Boys and Twelve Mighty Orphans. The book revolves around the 1964 Notre Dame football season and Ara Parseghian's first year as head coach. It is more than a book about a football season. It is the story of a college football Goliath recovering from the slingshot attack.

Jim Dent did hours and hours of interviews with the main characters of the book and it shows in the depth of the stories. Dent's storytelling goes into Tom Coughlin playing a part in Tony Carey getting kicked out of school, why Nick Rassas spent the summer before '64 at a Wyoming farm and how a Heisman Trophy winner didn't have a letter jacket to wear to the dinner in New York. Dent brings up the fact that most of the Notre Dame stories have to do with big-time winning and how this isn't his style. He had been searching for a Notre Dame story to write when he was asked to speak at Notre Dame during the summer of 2008 and he says that "the story found him."

He uses the '64 season as a way to explore the history of Notre Dame football. Discussion of Leahy's Notre Dame career and how that led to Father Hesburgh becoming sick of his school being referred to as a Football Factory. The rantings and ravings of the players about Joe Kuharich not knowing to do with all the talent on his roster. It also shows how Ara was doing more with less at Northwestern then should be asked of anyone.

This book tells the story of one of the few times that Notre Dame was a true underdog story. I recommend this book to anyone interested in college football not just specific to Notre Dame fans. Enjoy.

To purchase this book at a discount, click on the image title below.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Irish Land Their 14th!

The Irish recruiting class of 2010 gained another body on Tuesday as Prince Shembo of Charlotte, NC gave the University of Notre Dame his word. The 6'2''/232 pound defensive end chose Notre Dame over his other finalists of Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and North Carolina State.

Shembo becomes the third defensive end to commit to this recuriting class and the eighth defensive commitment so far. He joins Blake Leuders and five-star prospect Chris Martin at the defensive end position in this class.

In eleven games last season Shembo racked up 86 tackles with 9 sacks. He added a pair of interceptions and fumble recoveries as well. ranks Shembo as their 14th best defensive end in the class of 2010 while giving him a 4-star rating. He possesses excellent strength with his bench press max being listed at 325 pounds while he was able to put up 545 pounds on the squat rack. At this point it seems that his leg strength is far ahead that of Lueders who only maxed out 470 pounds on his squat.

The class grows to 14 with the addition of Shembo with a lot of work remaining needed to be done. With Shembo giving his word, now ranks Notre Dame 9th overall in the nation, just ahead of both Michigan, Stanford, and USC.

Welcome to Notre Dame, Prince Shembo!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Men's Basketball Gets Second 2010 Verbal

Mark Allen, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Men's Basketball

Alex Dragicevich remembers watching his favorite team on television as a boy. He also knew that, as soon as he received an offer from that team, his recruiting was over. On Tuesday, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey received a verbal commitment from Dragicevich.

Dragicevich becomes the second verbal for the incoming class of 2010. He joins 6-0 point guard Eric Atkins.

Dragicevich is a 6-6, 180 pound shooting guard out of Northbrook, Illinois. Last season, he averaged 21 points and 6 rebounds per game. He shot 35 percent from 3-point range.

He saw his stock rise at the recent AAU performance in Las Vegas. Initially, he was being looked at by mid-majors. But, the offers came rolling in from the bigger names. Notre Dame won out over schools such as Oklahoma State, Xavier, Rhode Island, Utah, Loyola-Chicago and Miami of Ohio.

Mike Brey compares Dragicevich to a former Irish player. That player is Colin Falls. Fans might remember that Falls, a sharpshooter, set records in the Big East Conference as well as owning the record at Notre Dame for all-time 3-pointers made. His size might make one remember another Irish great, Matt Carroll.

Dragicevich will make his official visit on a very popular day. It seems like every player the Irish are recruiting in football, let alone, basketball, will be in town that day. That day is October 17 - the day of the rivalry game between Notre Dame and USC.