Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

2003 Football Media Day Notes

Aug. 15, 2003

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The University of Notre Dame and its sports information office welcome you to the 2003 Notre Dame Football Media Day. Associate athletics director John Heisler, associate sports information director Lisa Mushett and assistant sports information director Chris Masters will serve as the primary media contacts for Irish football this season. However, all members of the Notre Dame sports information staff will be on hand for Friday’s Media Day and are happy to assist you in any way.

All of the day’s media activities will take place in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, beginning at 11 a.m. EST with a buffet-style lunch. At 11:30 a.m., Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham will address the media, followed by interviews with Irish players from 12:15-1 p.m. Media who are not able to attend in person will be able to hear Coach Willingham’s comments on a “listen-only” teleconference < contact=”” the=”” notre=”” dame=”” sports=”” information=”” office=”” for=”” the=”” access=”” number.=”” parking=”” is=”” available=”” for=”” the=”” media=”” off=”” juniper=”” road=”” in=”” the=”” lot=”” south=”” of=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium.=”” please=”” note=”” this=”” event=”” is=”” for=”” media=”” only=”” and=”” admission=”” is=”” by=”” reservation.=””>

Beginning on Aug. 11, the Irish have been conducting daily practices at the O’Neill Family Hall practice fields, their preseason camp site which is located west of Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus. The Irish will continue working at the O’Neill Family Hall site through Aug. 19 before returning to their regular practice facility, Cartier Field, for the remainder of the preseason. Media may attend the first 20 minutes of each practice session, and all interview requests must be directed to a member of the Notre Dame sports information staff by the end of the 20-minute media viewing period.

IRISH HEAD COACH Tyrone Willingham
A veteran with 26 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham begins his second season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame after serving as the leader at Stanford University for seven seasons. Willingham used his years of service in the coaching business to reverse the tides of the Irish program, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record in ’02 and a trip to the 2003 Gator Bowl. He became the first Irish head coach ever to win 10 games in his first season, and he was named the ESPN/Home Depot College Coach of the Year, the Scripps College Coach of the Year, the Black Coaches Association Male Coach of the Year and the George Munger Award College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. In addition, he made history as the first college football coach ever to earn The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year award in 2002. In eight years as a college head coach, Willingham has compiled a solid 54-39-1 (.580) record and guided his charges to bowl games on five occasions.

Willingham was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91. Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

At halftime of Notre Dame’s season opener vs. Washington State on Sept. 6, all former Irish football captains will be presented with a pin recognizing their leadership and service to the program. The pins were specially designed at the end of last season and the first recipients were last year’s captains <>Arnaz Battle, Sean Mahan, Gerome Sapp and Shane Walton < as=”” well=”” as=”” the=”” 2002=”” football=”” banquet=”” speaker,=”” former=”” irish=”” defensive=”” end=”” and=”” 1984=”” captain=”” mike=”” golic.=”” continuing=”” a=”” tradition=”” which=”” began=”” last=”” season,=”” notre=”” dame=”” will=”” select=”” its=”” captains=”” on=”” a=”” game-by-game=”” basis=”” in=”” 2003.=””>

Notre Dame’s rugged 2002 regular-season schedule featured eight teams that advanced to bowl games and early indications are that the ’03 Irish docket should be just as tough. Notre Dame opens the campaign with a home game against Bowl Championship Series qualifier Washington State on Sept. 6, followed by road games at preseason top 25 squads Michigan and Purdue (with a home date vs. Michigan State sandwiched in between). The Purdue contest kicks off a stretch of five consecutive games against bowl qualifiers for the Irish, highlighted by visits from BCS teams USC (Oct. 18) and Florida State (Nov. 1). This season, Notre Dame also will travel to three BIG EAST Conference schools < pittsburgh,=”” boston=”” college=”” and=”” syracuse=””>< as=”” well=”” as=”” pac-10=”” stalwart=”” stanford.=”” mid-november=”” visits=”” from=”” navy=”” and=”” byu=”” round=”” out=”” the=”” ardous=”” 2003=”” irish=”” schedule.=””>

Last year’s Notre Dame ledger was ranked 28th in the nation according to the final NCAA statistical reports, marking the 21st time in 26 seasons that the Irish have had their schedule ranked in the top 30 in the country. Notre Dame brilliantly navigated through its imposing 2002 schedule, defeating four ranked teams to tie Miami (Fla.) for top honors in that category.

Notre Dame and Washington State will be meeting for the first time ever when they square off in the 2003 season opener Sept. 6 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Cougars represent the 134th different opponent in Irish history, and the third in the last two seasons (following last year’s premieres against ACC members Maryland and North Carolina State). During its 114-year history, Notre Dame has faced 63 of the other 115 teams currently competing at the NCAA Division I-A level.

Notre Dame has compiled a record of 96-13-5 (.864) historically in its season-opening games, including winning 14 of their last 16 games (only losses coming to Northwestern in 1995 and at Nebraska in 2001). Last year, the Irish opened the Tyrone Willingham era in grand style, shutting out Maryland, 22-0 in Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. It was the first season-opening whitewash for Notre Dame since Sept. 22, 1973, when Ara Parseghian’s charges blanked Northwestern, 44-0, before a capacity crowd at Notre Dame Stadium. Willingham also became the first Irish head coach in nearly half a century to begin his tenure at Notre Dame with a shutout win < terry=”” brennan=”” was=”” the=”” last=”” to=”” pull=”” off=”” such=”” a=”” feat,=”” engineering=”” a=”” 21-0=”” win=”” over=”” fourth-ranked=”” texas=”” in=”” 1954.=””>

One additional note: Notre Dame is 4-0 all-time when opening against a Pac-10 school, including a 41-8 victory over California in 1967, the last time the Irish debuted against a Pac-10 club.

Notre Dame has had tremendous success in home openers during its 114-year history, going 91-17-5 (.827) in its inital on-campus contest of the season (there were no home games in 1929 due to the construction of Notre Dame Stadium). Among Irish head coaches, Jesse Harper (1913-17) and Terry Brennan (1954-58) both won all five of their home openers, while Knute Rockne (1918-30) went 11-0-1 in his first home game of the season (only a 7-7 tie with Great Lakes in 1918 sullied his record). More recently, Notre Dame has won six of its last seven and 12 of its last 16 home openers, including a 24-17 conquest of Purdue to open the 2002 home slate.

Senior Courtney Watson was tabbed the fourth-best inside linebacker in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Vontez Duff was rated the seventh-best cornerback and ninth-best all-purpose player by Lindy’s, and the nation’s 10th best as both a cornerback and kick returner by The Sporting News. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard was ranked the sixth-best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior free safety Glenn Earl placed 14th among free safeties by The Sporting News and 19th by Lindy’s. Senior Mike Goolsby was rated 12th among the nation’s inside linebackers by Lindy’s, while junior Ryan Grant was 18th among running backs and senior Darrell Campbell was charted 19th among defensive linemen by the same publication.

Senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson was a preseason first-team All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News. Meanwhile, senior cornerback/kick returner Vontez Duff was a preseason first-team All-American according to Street & Smith’s and a second-team choice by Athlon. The latter publication also named senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard to its preseason All-America third team. Senior free safety Glenn Earl, junior running back Ryan Grant and senior kicker/punter Nicholas Setta all were awarded preseason honorable mention All-America status by Street & Smith’s.

Athlon named the Irish linebacking corps the fourth-best unit in the country, while The Sporting News labelled them the ninth-best group in the land. In addition, Athlon selected the Notre Dame defensive line as the fifth-best unit in the nation.

Senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior free safety Glenn Earl have been named to the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association, based in Oklahoma City. Ten semifinalists for the award will be announced Nov. 3, with the three finalists selected on Nov. 24. The winner will be announced Dec. 9 at the ESPN College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for Feb. 9, 2004, in Oklahoma City.

Senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday has earned a spot on the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top quarterback by the Fort Worth Club in Fort Worth, Texas. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 9 at the ESPN College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Fort Worth.

Junior defensive end Justin Tuck has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive end by the Ted Hendricks Foundation in Chicago. In November, the semifinalists will be announced and the three finalists will be selected later in the month. The winner will be announced Dec. 9 at the ESPN College Football Awards Show with the official award presentation slated for February 2004 in Chicago.

Street & Smith’s tapped senior inside linebacker Courtney Watson for spots on its Butkus Award and Bednarik/Nagurski Award watch lists (as did Lindy’s). The former honor recognizes the country’s top linebacker, while the latter awards spotlight the nation’s best overall defensive player. In addition, Street & Smith’s placed senior cornerback Vontez Duff and senior free safety Glenn Earl on its watch list for the Thorpe Award (which goes to the top defensive back in the country), and the publication named senior kicker Nicholas Setta to its watch list for the Lou Groza Award (presented to the nation’s top kicker).

It’s a rite of spring at Notre Dame, a game that marks the end of spring practice. The 74th annual Blue-Gold Game took place on April 26, 2003, with the Blue defeating the Gold, 17-14, before 20,346 fans at Notre Dame Stadium. The Blue team forced three second-half turnovers and cashed all three in for points, leading to its victory. Sophomore QB Chris Olsen completed 11-of-25 passes for 146 yards and added a four-yard touchdown run to secure Offensive Player-of-the-Game honors. Senior WR Omar Jenkins caught four passes for 68 yards and sophomore TE Anthony Fasano added three catches for 63 yards in the contest.

On defense, junior DE Justin Tuck rang up three sacks and was named the Defensive Player of the Game. Senior ILB Courtney Watson and senior CB Jason Beckstrom each chalked up a game-high six tackles, with Watson adding a sack to his ledger.

Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2003 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 54,244 ticket requests for the Oct. 18 game vs. USC, making it the fourth-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Nov. 1 Notre Dame-Florida State game garnered 51,051 requests, placing it fifth on the all-time list. In fact, Notre Dame set a record by refunding $5.1 million to lottery losers in the University’s ticket distribution for contributing alumni. That total easily exceeded last year’s mark of $2.1 million and outdistanced the old refund record of $3.8 million in 2001.

The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set in ’01 when the Irish took on West Virginia. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest < plus=”” contributing=”” alumni=”” having=”” the=”” opportunity=”” to=”” apply=”” for=”” four=”” tickets=”” instead=”” of=”” the=”” usual=”” two,=”” based=”” on=”” its=”” designation=”” as=”” an=”” alumni=”” family=”” game.=””>

The Irish have posted 167 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 215 in their last 216 home games.

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 150 of its previous 173 games, including all 13 games last season. In addition, the Irish attracted stadium record crowds three times in 2002 < the=”” air=”” force=”” contest=”” brought=”” in=”” a=”” falcon=”” stadium-record=”” crowd=”” of=”” 56,409=”” (nearly=”” 4,000=”” more=”” than=”” its=”” listed=”” capacity),=”” while=”” the=”” florida=”” state=”” game=”” resulted=”” in=”” a=”” doak=”” campbell=”” stadium-record=”” gathering=”” of=”” 84,106=”” (more=”” than=”” 2,000=”” above=”” its=”” listed=”” capacity).=”” then,=”” with=”” the=”” addition=”” of=”” 140=”” field=”” seats=”” against=”” boston=”” college,=”” the=”” irish=”” and=”” eagles=”” set=”” a=”” notre=”” dame=”” stadium=”” attendance=”” record=”” of=”” 80,935.=”” all=”” told,=”” notre=”” dame=”” has=”” helped=”” set=”” a=”” new=”” stadium=”” attendance=”” record=”” at=”” an=”” opponents’=”” facility=”” five=”” times=”” in=”” the=”” last=”” two=”” seasons=”” (also=”” nebraska=”” and=”” texas=”” a&m=”” in=”” ’01).=””>

With the Washington State game slated to be televised nationally by NBC, the Irish will extend their streak of appearances on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) to 125 straight games. That1s a streak that spans 10 full seasons (1993-2002), and it will continue at least through the Michigan State game (Michigan State on NBC, Michigan on ABC). The last time the Irish didn1t appear on one of those four networks was more than a decade ago (Oct. 31, 1992), when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV.

In addition to continuing its streak of consecutive games played on one of the four major television networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN), Notre Dame will be spotlighted on the small screen in several other ways during the 2003 season. Here’s a thumbnail look at each of the individual TV projects which are featuring the Irish this year:

  • ESPN is filming “The Season: Notre Dame Football” in South Bend throughout the ’03 campaign. Crews from the network are attending practice sessions, team meals and other team-related activities, as well as conducting regular interviews with Irish players and coaches. “The Season: Notre Dame Football” will air for 10 weeks, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 9.
  • ESPN College GameDay is celebrating its 10th season of live remotes from college football’s top games. In recognition of its first-ever road trip (a Nov. 13, 1993 journey to South Bend for the game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame) will air weekly all-access features on the Irish which are adapted from its feature presentation, “The Season: Notre Dame Football.” Former Irish flanker and two-time All-American Raghib “Rocket” Ismail will lend even more of a Notre Dame flavor to the College GameDay broadcasts this year as he joins their crew for regular contributions.
  • College Sports Television (CSTV), the nation’s new 24-hour cable channel devoted exclusively to college sports, will highlight Irish athletics during a two-hour block on Sunday nights called “Notre Dame Primetime.” The show, which will be co-hosted by former Irish split end Derrick Mayes, focuses on all 26 Notre Dame sports and the continuing growth of Irish athletics.
  • Besides these features, Notre Dame is beginning the 13th season of its unique relationship with NBC. All Irish home football games since 1991 have been televised on the network, with the current agreement slated to continue through 2005. Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Pat Haden (analysis) are set to begin their third full season broadcasting the action for NBC in ’03.

Seven former Irish players were selected in the 2003 NFL Draft, the most of any school in the country with the exception of Florida and Ohio State (eight each). Leading the way was center Jeff Faine, who was chosen in the first round (21st overall) by the Cleveland Browns. Notre Dame now has had 58 opening-round selections, a figure that ranks second only to USC (62) in the 67-year history of the NFL Draft.

Joining Faine in Notre Dame’s ’03 draft class were: OT Jordan Black (fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs), OG Sean Mahan (fifth round by the Tampa Buccaneers), CB Shane Walton (fifth round by the St. Louis Rams), SS Gerome Sapp (sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens), WR Arnaz Battle (sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers) and OT Brennan Curtin (sixth round by the Green Bay Packers).

Former Notre Dame All-America quarterback Joe Theismann is one of 11 former college players and two coaches named March 24 to the National Football Foundation1s 2003 College Football Hall of Fame Division I-A class by Jon F. Hanson, chairman of the National Football Foundation.

The 2003 College Football Hall of Fame class will be inducted at the 46th Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9, 2003, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The players and coaches will be officially enshrined at the Hall of Fame in South Bend in August 2004.

Theismann launched an attack on the Irish passing record books, setting 19 school marks while leading the team to its first bowl appearance in 45 years in 1969 and a 10-1 record capped by a Cotton Bowl victory in 1970 over top-rated and unbeaten Texas.

A first-team All-America selection as a senior by Associated Press, Theismann was the runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1970. A participant in the 1970 Hula Bowl, Theismann set school records for passing yards in a game (526), yards in a season (2,429) and touchdowns in a season (16) among others. He ranked second in the nation in total offense as a senior at 291.3 yards per game < and=”” that=”” year=”” he=”” helped=”” the=”” irish=”” as=”” a=”” team=”” average=”” 510.5=”” total=”” yards=”” per=”” game=”” and=”” 252.7=”” passing=”” yards=”” per=”” game,=”” two=”” marks=”” that=”” remain=”” all-time=”” notre=”” dame=”” bests.=””>

In three seasons, Theismann led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3-2 record while completing 290 passes on 509 attempts for 4,411 yards, a mark that still ranks fifth in school history. Honored for his classroom prowess, he earned Academic All-America? honors in 1970 and was later named to the GTE Academic All-America? Hall of Fame.

Following graduation, Theismann embarked on a 15-year professional career, his final 12 years in the NFL as a member of the Washington Redskins. Upon retirement, he became a highly successful businessman as well as a prominent television sports analyst for ESPN. Theismann continues to support such charitable interests as the United Way, March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Cystic Fibrosis, Special Olympics, Boy Scouts of America and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Originally from South River, N.J., Theismann becomes the 40th Notre Dame player to be chosen for the Hall of Fame since inductions began in 1951. Five former Irish coaches also have been selected. No other school has produced more than those 45 enshrinees, the most recent being Ralph Guglielmi in 2001. Theismann also becomes the eighth Notre Dame quarterback selected to the Hall of Fame, joining Frank Carideo in 1954, Harry Stuhldreher in 1958, John Lujack in 1960, Angelo Bertelli in 1972, Paul Hornung in 1985, Bob Williams in 1988 and Guglielmi in 2001.

As part of its 2003 college football preview, developed its list of the top 10 most powerful programs in the nation and Notre Dame was listed second behind only Miami (Fla.). According to the website, “college football’s most recognizable program saw a return to glory under Lou Holtz, which included landing its own TV deal with NBC, and after a few down years appears to be headed in the right direction under Tyrone Willingham.”

Tickets are now on sale for the 2003 Notre Dame Kickoff Luncheons held the Friday prior to each Irish home football game. The luncheons feature Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham , Irish players and assistant coaches, plus special guests and other attractions.

Tickets are $18 each, with a handling fee of $3 (payment may be made with one check for more than one luncheon). There are 10 seats per table < and=”” if=”” you=”” wish=”” to=”” sit=”” as=”” a=”” group=”” at=”” the=”” same=”” table=”” with=”” other=”” guests,=”” please=”” return=”” all=”” reservations=”” in=”” one=”” envelope.=””>

Checks should be made payable to “University of Notre Dame” and mailed to: Athletics Business Office, 112 Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Telephone and credit card reservations are not accepted. You also can access a printed reservation form on Notre Dame1s athletic web site at

The luncheons are held in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome) on the University of Notre Dame campus, with a noon (EST) start. Be aware that advance reservations are required for tickets, and tickets are not routinely available at the door.

Luncheon dates are Sept. 5 (Washington State), Sept. 19 (Michigan State), Oct. 17 (USC), Oct. 31 (Florida State), Nov.7 (Navy) and Nov. 14 (BYU).

This season marks the 10th edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine < an=”” official=”” publication=”” by=”” the=”” university=”” of=”” notre=”” dame=”” athletic=”” department.=”” the=”” 1994,=”” 195,=”” 196,=”” 197=”” and=”” 198=”” and=”” 2000=”” editions=”” were=”” voted=”” best=”” in=”” the=”” nation=”” in=”” the=”” special=”” publications=”” competition=”” sponsored=”” by=”” the=”” college=”” sports=”” information=”” directors=”” of=”” america.=”” the=”” preview=”” magazine,=”” published=”” by=”” ave=”” maria=”” press,=”” numbers=”” nearly=”” 100=”” pages,=”” including=”” game=”” action=”” shots=”” of=”” returning=”” irish=”” players=”” and=”” coaches,=”” position-by-position=”” breakdowns=”” and=”” a=”” feature=”” on=”” head=”” coach=””>Tyrone Willingham. It1s a collectors item perfect for autographs < with=”” an=”” emphasis=”” on=”” outstanding=”” color=”” photography=”” unavailable=”” in=”” any=”” other=”” publication.=”” the=”” yearbook=”” is=”” priced=”” at=”” $8=”” (plus=”” $4=”” for=”” postage=”” and=”” handling)=”” and=”” can=”” be=”” ordered=”” by=”” calling=”” 1-800-647-4641.=”” with=”” an=”” emphasis=”” on=”” outstanding=”” color=”” photography=”” unavailable=”” in=”” any=”” other=”” publication.=”” the=”” yearbook=”” is=”” priced=”” at=”” $8=”” (plus=”” $4=”” for=”” postage=”” and=”” handling)=”” and=”” can=”” be=”” ordered=”” by=”” calling=””>