April 21, 2006

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77th Annual Blue-Gold Game

Presented by Chick-fil-A

The Date and Time: Saturday, April 22 at 1:35 p.m. EST.

The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass)

The Tickets: Available through the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356) – cost is $10 for adults, $8 for youths (18 and under). Tickets purchased on game day will cost $12 for adults, $8 for youths (18 and under).

The Radio Plans: The Blue-Gold Game will be broadcast live on radio by South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1490 AM (Sean Stires) and www.und.com.

Blue-Gold Game history –
This is the 77th Annual Blue-Gold football event, Notre Dame’s final controlled scrimmage of the 2006 spring practice schedule.

Proceeds from the game –
Proceeds from the Blue-Gold Spring Football Festival benefit the scholarship fund of the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley, which is sponsoring Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game.

Supporting sponsors –
Media partner for the Blue-Gold Festival is WDND South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1490 AM, which will broadcast the Blue-Gold game live on radio. Supporting sponsors are Chili’s, Papa Vino’s and WMWB-TV (the local Warner Brothers affliate – WB 25).

Scrimmage format –
GAME CLOCK – There will be four 15-minute quarters with a running clock … clock stoppages will only occur due to injuries or time outs called.
TIMEOUTS – Each team will be allowed three timeouts per half (clock will stop at each timeout).
HALFTIME – Halftime will last 20 minutes.
COIN TOSS – There will be a ceremonial coin toss at the beginning of Saturday’s game. The game will begin with the Blue offense (first-team offense) taking on the Gold defense (first-team defense).

Other scrimmage rules – Starting quarterback Brady Quinn will be the only player wearing a red jersey during the game. The other quarterbacks will be fully “live” for contact.

Special offense/defense rules –
OFFENSE – Each possession will begin from the offense’s own 30-yard line … no special goal-line offense will be used.
DEFENSE – Must play a 4-3 … only one linebacker is allowed to blitz; no secondary blitzers allowed.
SPECIAL TEAMS – No kickoffs or kickoff returns will be used … point-after conversion kicks are live ball situations … on punts, only five defenders may rush and each punt will be fair caught.

Weekend activities –

  • A special VIP Brunch ticket ($50 for adults, $35 for youth 18 and under) offers fans a full day of activities with the Irish, including joining the squad for itspre-game meal. The brunch will be held at 9:00 a.m. EDT in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (doors open at 8:30 a.m. – enter Gate 2 of north dome). All those attending the brunch also will have access to an autograph session with the current players from 9:45-10:30 a.m. EDT in the north dome – and there will be some limited public access to the autograph event as well (enter Gate 3).
  • Then, VIP fans can sit in the gold chairback seats on the east side of the Stadium to enjoy their first look at the 2006 Irish. The VIP brunch is sponsored by South Bend Orthopaedic Associates.
  • There will be approximately 100 seats available ($75 each) in the Notre Dame Stadium press boxwhere fans can have the same view as media covering Irish football. Fans seated in the press box receive a game program, as well as the same press box lunch fare served to media (hot dogs, soup, popcorn, soft drinks).
    The press box is available any time after 11:00 a.m. EDT.
  • A free-to-all interactive fan fest will take place from 10:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EDT in the Joyce Center South parking lot.
  • Former Notre Dame football playerswill take part in flag football game in Notre Dame Stadiumfrom 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. EDT prior to the Blue-Gold con-test.
  • All former Irish football players will be invited back for the weekend.
  • The Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley will hold a silent auction of sports memorabilia on Saturday morning in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, in conjunction with the VIP brunch.

Four former Irish greats to serve as honorary coaches for Saturday’s game –
Following the tradition established last season when Tim Brown, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann and Chris Zorich served as honorary coaches, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis has invited another four former Irish players to this season’s Blue-Gold Game to serve as honorary coaches.

Brothers Bob and Mike Golic will return to campus this weekend, along with Raghib `Rocket’ Ismail and Super Bowl Champion Jerome Bettis. Bettis (running backs) and Mike Golic (defensive line) will coach on the staff of the Blue Team while Bob Golic (linebackers) and Ismail (wide receivers) will be on the staff of the Gold team.

Bob Golic played linebacker for the Irish from 1975-78 and was a unanimous All-America selection as a senior captain in `78. He was a member of the 1977 national championship team and contributed 146 tackles, one blocked kick and three interceptions during the `77 campaign. For his career, Bob Golic piled up 479 tackles and six interceptions. A second-round selection by the New England Patriots, Bob Golic played in the NFL from 1979-92 with New England, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Raiders.

Mike Golic was an outside linebacker for the Irish from 1981-84 and served as one of three team captains during his senior season. He compiled 104 tackles during his Notre Dame career along with four sacks and four fumble recoveries. Mike Golic also was a member of the Notre Dame wrestling team during his tim on campus.

Mike Golic is currently the co-host of Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio. He also serves as an analyst for ESPN and ESPN2’s NFL studio programming, as well as for the networks’ college football game coverage.

Before working for ESPN, Mike Golic was a nine-year NFL veteran, playing defensive tackle for the Houston Oilers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Miami Dolphins where he accumulated 11.5 career sacks and 3 interceptions. Mike was a tenth round pick in the 1985 draft, taken 255th overall by the Houston Oilers.

Raghib “Rocket” Ismail was one of the most dynamic players to every take the field for Notre Dame. A two-time All-American and runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 1990, Ismail was a key player as a freshman on Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team. He returned five kickoffs for touchdowns during his career at Notre Dame and averaged 15.3 yard per play.

Ismail began his professional football career in the CFL as a member of the Toronto Argonauts and led the team to a Grey Cup title in his rookie season. He eventually moved on to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991 and played in the NFL until 2001, appearing on the field for the Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys.

Jerome Bettis has just recently retired from the NFL after leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl LX victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Bettis finished his remarkable NFL career as one of the all-time greatest `big backs,’ finishing fifth on the NFL rushing list with 13,662 yards. A six-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1996 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, “The Bus” played for the Irish from 1991-93.

At Notre Dame, Bettis finished his career with 1,912 yards (5.7 yards per rushing attempt avg.), and caught 32 passes for 429 yards (13.4 yards per reception). He was the MVP of the 1992 Sugar Bowl when he rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Irish to a 39-28 upset of #3 Florida.

Bettis has signed on as a studio commentator on NBC’s new Football Night in America Sunday night pregame show.

2006: Year two of the Charlie Weis era –
The 118th season of Notre Dame football is the second in the tenure of head coach Charlie Weis, who started his career with a 9-3 record in 2005, including wins over three ranked opponents and a berth in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Notre Dame’s first Bowl Championship Series appearancesince 2000).

The winner of the 2005 FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, Weis turned around Notre Dame’s football fortunes in astonishing fashion. He took most of the same talent of a 6-6 team in `04, installed his offensive system, and produced a team that came within four points of a perfect regular season record. One of the Fighting Irish losses was a last-second defeat to defending national champion USC.

There was a little doubt from the beginning of the 2005 season things would be different under Weis. With victories at Pittsburgh and Michigan to open the season, Weis became the first Irish head coach to win his first two career games on opponents’ home fields since Knute Rockne in 1918. Weis made the Fighting Irish the most prolific scoring team in modern school history (36.7 ppg) and qualified the Irish as the most improved offensive team in the country.

Weis was named the 28th head football coach in Notre Dame history on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004. A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis took the reins ofthe Irish program after a highly successful career as an assistant coach in the National Football League. The owner of four Super Bowl champion rings as products of a stellar 15-season career as an NFL assistant, Weis is a widely respected disciple of professional coaching standouts Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. He came to Notre Dame after excelling as offensive coor-dinator of the New England Patriots, where he played an integral role in New England’s victories in three Super Bowls. Weis is the first Notre Dame graduate to hold the football head coaching position at his alma mater since Hugh Devore (a ’34 graduate) served as interim coach in 1963 and is the first Notre Dame graduate to serve as the Irish football coach on a full-fledged basis since Joe Kuharich (a ’38 graduate who coached at Notre Dame from 1959 through ’62).

Entering his 28th season in coaching in 2006, Weis coached nine seasons with the Patriots, including five as offensive coordinator. He helped produce four Super Bowl championships (New York Giants following the 1990 season, Patriots following ’01, ’03 and ’04 seasons), five conference titles and seven divisioncrowns.

Thomas, Quinn and Zbikowski named 2006 team captains –
Charlie Weis announced the 2006 team captains at a short press gathering on Wednesday, April 12 in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.

As voted on by their teammates, seniors Brady Quinn (offense), Tom Zbikowski (defense) and Travis Thomas (special teams) will serve as Notre Dame’s three team captains in 2006. Thomas will serve as the special teams captain for each game of the season, which will be a change from the ’05 campaign. The Irish coaching staff named a special teams captain each week of the season last fall.

Quinn will repeat his offensive team captaincy from 2005, becoming Notre Dame’s first repeat captain since Grant Irons from 2000-01. He shared the ’05 team MVP award with receiver Jeff Samardzija and was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. He also became Notre Dame’s all-time career passing leader in attempts (1,135), completions (640) touchdown passes (58), yards (8,336) and yards per game (231.6) during the ’05 season.

Zbikowski was voted as a captain by his defensive teammates after enjoying a breakout season in ’05. Named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press, Zbikowski was one of the nation’s finest safeties and return specialists last season. He was one of four recipients of the Nick Pietrosante Award, which is presented annually to the Notre Dame player who best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and pride shown by the late Irish fullback.

For the ’05 season, Zbikowski started all 12 games, finished fourth on the team in tackles with 71 (42 solos) and returned 27 punts for 379 yards (14.0 average) and two touchdowns (78 and 60 yards).
Thomas made his mark on the ’05 Irish team with both is work on special teams and in the Notre Dame backfield. He played on all four special teams units in ’05, calling the blocking assignments and signals on the punt unit. Thomas ended up making 132 special teams appearances and posting seven tackles (five solo). From the Irish backfield, Thomas rushed 63 times for 248 yards and five touchdowns.

2006 Top returnees –

  • QB Brady Quinn Three-year starter … has started 33 games in career … fourth in ’05 Heisman Trophy voting … Third-Team All-American by Associated Press in ’05 … 292 of 450 for 3,919 yards and 32 TDs with 7 INTs in ’05 … broke every single-season Irish passing record in ’05 … holds 31 season or career Notre Dame records … has started NDs last 33 games at QB … shared ’05 Irish Most Valuable Player Award with WR Jeff Samardzija) … 2006 team captain (offense).
  • WR Jeff Samardzija ’05 Consensus First-Team All-American … Biletnikoff Award finalist … tied Irish single-season record with 77 catches in ’05 … set Notre Dame record with 1,249 yards and 15 TDs in ’05 … ranks ninth in Irish history for career receptions (101) and receiving yards (1,576) … tied for fifth in school history in TD catches (15) … shared ’05 Irish Most Valuable Player Award with QB Brady Quinn.
  • RB Darius Walker Rushed for 1,196 yards and nine TDs in `05 … has rushed for 1,982 yards and 16 TDs in his career … has played in 23 games, starting 14.)
  • WR Rhema McKnight Has played in 38 games in career, 20 starts … led ND in catches in ’03 and ’04 … has 103 career catches, 10th in Irish history … has 1,370 receiving yards, 11th in ND history.
  • LT Ryan Harris Three-year monogram winner … has started 32 games in career … played 358:10 in `05.
  • DE Victor Abiamiri Started 12 games in ’05 … has played in 36 games in career … three-year monogram winner … 48 tackles, eight sacks 15 TFLs in ’05 … ranks 11th in Irish history for career sacks with 11 … winner of the 2005 Lineman of the Year Award from the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.
  • DT Derek Landri 34 games played in career … 25 games started … 43 tackles, eight TFLs, three sacks in `05.
  • DT Trevor Laws 24 games played in career … 12 games started, all in ’05 … 33 tackles, three TFLs and 1.5 sacks in ’05 … blocked two field goals in ’05 … shared with OL Dan Santucci the 2005 Westwood One/State Farm Student Athlete of the Year Award.
  • SS Tom Zbikowski Third-Team All-American by the Associated Press in ’05 … fourth on Irish in ’05 with 71 tackles – 42 solos, five interceptions, one forced fumble … scored four TDs in ’05 (two via interception, two via punt) … shared the 2005 Nick Pietrosante Award) … 2006 team captain (defense).

Samardzija earns consensus All-America honors –
Record-setting University of Notre Dame junior wide receiver Jeff Samardzija was named a consensus football All-American for 2005 by the NCAA.
The NCAA selects a consensus squad each year based on All-America selections made by the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, The Sporting News, the American Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America.

Samardzija was a first-team pick by both the FWAA and The Sporting News. He also was a first-team selection by Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com, CBS Sportsline.com, Rivals.com and a second-team pick by Walter Camp and the AP. The Valparaiso, Ind., native was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award presented to the top wide receiver in the country. He and quarterback Brady Quinn shared the Notre Dame Monogram Club Team Most Valuable Player award.

He is the first Notre Dame consensus All-American since cornerback Shane Walton claimed unanimous All-America honors in 2002. He’s Notre Dame first consensus All-America receiver/end since Raghib Ismail in 1990 – also joining Eddie Anderson (1921), Tim Brown (1987), Pete Demmerle (1974), Bob Dove (1941 and ’42), Tom Gatewood (1970), Heisman Trophy winner Leon Hart (1948 and ’49), Wayne Millner (1935), Jack Snow (1964), Monty Stickles (1959), Chuck Sweeney (1937) and John Yonakor (1943) as Irish consensus receivers. Hart, Millner and Dove are members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Samardzija is Notre Dame’s 79th consensus All-American (an NCAA record – Yale is second with 69), with those 79 players now having earned the consensus designation on 95 occasions.

Samardzija set Notre Dame single-season records in 2005 with his 1,249 receiving yards and his 15 touchdown receptions. His 77 catches in ’05 tied the Irish single-season mark for receptions set by Gatewood in 1970. Samardzija finished second nationally in TD catches, with his 15 (in 12 games) finishing behind only fellow consensus receiver Dwayne Jarrett of USC (he had 16 in 13 games).

Samardzija finished fourth nationally in `05 in receiving yards per game with 104.08. He ranked 22nd in receptions per game at 6.42 and 51st in scoring at 7.5 points per game. He set a Notre Dame record by catching at least one scoring pass in eight straight games to begin the 2005 season.

Nine veterans return to lead Irish defense into 2006 –
A solid group of returning veterans returns to lead the Irish defense in ’06, led by nine starters from last season including four players entering their third season on the starting unit. Cornerback Ambrose Wooden (74 tackles in ’05) and safety Tom Zbikowski (71 stops in ’05) are the leading returning tacklers of the unit. While both figure to provide valuable leadership, other key returnees figure to be just as vital to the unit’s continued improvement.

Chief among those returnees are senior defensive end Victor Abiamiri (eight sacks in ’05), senior tackles Derek Landri (eight tackles for loss in ’05) and Trevor Laws (33 tackles and two blocked field goals last season) and linebacker Maurice Crum, Jr. (57 tackles in ’05).

The ’05 Irish defense’s statistical totals may not have been impressive, but their performances over the balance of the season were drastically improved from the previous season. Even a marginal improvement this fall figures to go a long way toward helping the team take the next step up the ladder of success.

2005 Irish team produces outstanding grades in the classroom –
The 2005 Irish football team returned to the ranks of the nation’s elite programs under head coach Charlie Weis, and led by Associated Press All-Americans Jeff Samardzija at wide receiver, Brady Quinn at quarterback and Tom Zbikowski at safety, the Notre Dame football team achieved unprecedented results in the classroom during the 2005 fall semester. The Irish football players combined for a 3.04 team grade-point average during the ’05 fall semester, marking the highest semester average ever achieved by the football squad. That figure includes 56 of 97 players achieving a 3.0 average or higher.

Rob Woods named top student-athlete honored for academic excellence –
Irish senior football player Rob Woods earned top honors Monday night at the 14th annual Academic Excellence Awards Dinner organized by the University of Notre Dame’s Office of Academic Services for Student-Athletes and sponsored by the Athletics Department.

The dinner, held in the Monogram Room of the Joyce Center on Monday, April 10. honored 324 student-athletes who possess a 3.2 cumulative grade-point average or higher. Also honored were the student-athletes on each varsity team with the highest cumulative GPA (athletic trainers, managers and cheerleaders included), plus the teams with the highest combined GPAs in each semester.

Fernand “Tex” Dutile, professor in the University’s Law School served as guest speaker.

Woods (from Atlantic, Iowa), a mechanical engineering major (in the College of Engineering), was honored with the Top Gun Award as the graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA (3.953).

Historic Notre Dame Stadium –
The 2006 football season will mark the 76th year of Irish football in fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 386 games in the facility to date and own a 291-90-5 (.760) record in the “House that Rockne Built.”

The Irish were 3-3 in Notre Dame Stadium in `04, but rebounded to finish 4-2 at home in `05 and push the team’s record at home to 95-32 (.748) over the last 21 years. The most wins in a season by the Irish at home is seven by the `88 national championship team and the longest home winning streak in Notre Dame football history is 28 games (from 11/21/42 through 9/30/50).

Weis in the Power 100 –
University of Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis ranks 53rd on The Sporting News Power 100 list. The list appeared in the Jan. 13, 2006, issue of The Sporting News.

Weis is the highest-ranking individual associated with college athletics and is one of only six on the list connected exclusively with college sports (the others are Big Ten Conference commissioner Jim Delany at 58th, NCAA president Myles Brand at 63rd, USC quarterback Matt Leinart at 81st, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno at 84th and Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski at 95th.

Coaches at any level who made the list are the Miami Heat’s Pat Riley (47th), Weis (53rd), the Chicago White Sox’ Ozzie Guillen (61st), Paterno (84th), the New York Knicks’ Larry Brown (88th) and Krzyzewski (95th).

Weis led the Irish to a 9-3 mark in his first season as Notre Dame head football coach in 2005. His team finished ninth in the final Associated Press poll (Notre Dame’s first top 10 AP finish since 1993), after ending up sixth in the final regular-season Bowl Championship Series standings and playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl for Notre Dame’s first BCS appearance in five years.

With the season-opening Irish victories at 23rd-ranked Pittsburgh and at third-rated Michigan in `05, Weis became the first Irish head coach to win his first two career games on the opponents’ home fields since Knute Rockne in 1918 and the first Notre Dame head football coach ever to open with two victories over ranked opponents. The Irish also won at 22nd-rated Purdue in ’05 to post three wins over ranked opponents (all on the road) in their first five games of the campaign.

Weis’ impact on the Irish program both on and off the field (his players achieved a program-record 3.04 combined grade-point average during the ’05 fall semester, with 56 of 97 players earning a 3.0 average or better) proved monumental enough that midway through the ’05 season he agreed to a new 10-year contract that takes effect in 2006 and extends through the 2015 season.

Notre Dame announces enhanced bowl game options –
When the next four-year Bowl Championship Series football contract comes into play starting with the 2006 season, the University of Notre Dame will have the opportunity to play one time each during that four-year window in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, the Toyota Gator Bowl, the Vitalis Sun Bowl and the EV1.net Houston Bowl.

These options, which cover the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons, are based in part on BIG EAST Conference relationships with the Toyota Gator Bowl, the Vitalis Sun Bowl and the EV1.net Houston Bowl. For those four years, Notre Dame continues as part of the BIG EAST’s secondary bowl package for those seasons in which it is not selected for a BCS game.
On that basis, Notre Dame most recently played in the Toyota Gator Bowl following the 1998 and 2002 seasons and in the Insight Bowl (in Phoenix, Ariz.) following the 2004 season.

The Toyota Gator Bowl, played on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville, Fla., features an Atlantic Coast Conference squad as the host team that twice in four years will face a Big 12 Conference opponent and twice will meet a BIG EAST team or Notre Dame.

Similarly, the Vitalis Sun Bowl, played on New Year’s Eve afternoon in El Paso, Texas, will feature a Pacific-10 Conference team as its host squad – with a Big 12 opponent in two of those years and a BIG EAST or Notre Dame team in the other two.

The alternating-selection agreement between the Gator and Sun Bowls is believed to be the first partnership of its kind in postseason bowl history.

The BIG EAST relationship with the EV1.net Houston Bowl begins in 2006 and will feature a BIG EAST team against a team from the Big 12 Conference each of the next four years. The game will be played annually on Dec. 31 in Reliant Stadium in Houston.

The AT&T Cotton Bowl, played on New Year’s Day in Dallas, Texas, normally features teams from the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conferences – but the new, four-year Cotton Bowl/SEC agreement permits the Cotton Bowl to select Notre Dame once in the next four years in place of an SEC team.

“As much as we would hope our football program will be good enough in any given year to play in a Bowl Championship Series game, if that doesn’t happen we will have a series of extremely viable options in excellent locations against opponents from major conferences,” said Notre Dame athletics director Kevin White.

“Notre Dame has a great history with the Cotton Bowl, and we’ve had excellent experiences in Jacksonville twice in recent years. In addition, the potential opportunities to play in El Paso and Houston would take us into a state in which we have a sizeable alumni presence and in which we expect to continue to have a major recruiting presence.”

Fiesta Bowl ratings high –
The University of Notre Dame’s 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl football appearance against Ohio State Jan. 2 on ABC Sports earned a 12.9 Nielsen television rating, up four percent from the comparable time slot a year ago (a 12.4 for Texas’ 2005 Rose Bowl win over Michigan).

The 12.9 rating marked the highest non-championship game rating for the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl since the start of the Bowl Championship Series in the 1998 regular season. The Fiesta Bowl earned 17.2 figures both for its Tennessee-Florida State title game in 1999 (’98 season) and its Ohio State-Miami championship matchup in 2003 (’02 season). The previous Fiesta high for a non-title game matchup was an 11.3 for Oregon vs. Colorado in 2002. Notre Dame’s other BCS appearance in 2001 in the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon State earned a 10.7 rating.

The 12.9 number represents Notre Dame’s highest rating of the 2005 season (the Oct. 15 Notre Dame-USC game on NBC drew a 6.7, highest of the regular season), its largest rating for any game since a 16.0 for the 1993 Notre Dame-Florida State contest – and its highest bowl rating since a 17.5 for the 1991 Orange Bowl (’90 season) between Notre Dame and Colorado.

Other recent ratings for Irish major bowl appearances included an 18.5 for the 1990 Orange Bowl vs. Colorado, a 15.0 for the 1989 Fiesta Bowl vs. West Virginia, a 12.5 for the 1996 Orange Bowl vs. Florida State, an 11.4 for the 1992 Sugar Bowl vs. Florida, an 11.3 for the 1994 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M, and a 10.2 for the 1993 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas A&M.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl rating mirrored Notre Dame’s regular-season home game ratings on NBC Sports – which were up 44 percent from the previous year, based on a six-game 3.6 average in 2005. The 6.7 rating for the ’05 Notre Dame-USC game marked Notre Dame’s highest rating for a home game in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, the four 2006 BCS games combined for a 55.9 cumulative rating, up 27 percent from a year ago and the highest in the eight-year history of the BCS.

County non-smoking ban to be enforced in Notre Dame Stadium –
In accord with a new no-smoking ordinance in St. Joseph County, smoking will be prohibited in Notre Dame Stadium and other athletics venues at the University of Notre Dame.

The ordinance, which was passed in February by the County Council, took effect Monday (April 10) and bans smoking in most public places. It will be applied at Notre Dame Stadium for the Blue-Gold spring football game April 22 (Saturday).

Violators of the county ordinance will be given a warning and asked to refrain from smoking. If a person continues to smoke, he or she will be escorted from the stadium. There will not be a “pass-out” system for people to smoke and then return to the stadium, nor will there be a designated smoking area in or near the stadium.

Notre Dame established its own no-smoking policy in 1992 which prohibited smoking in all buildings, stadiums and vehicles owned by the University. The prohibition against smoking in stadiums was enforced only when a complaint was registered.

Notre Dame sixth in the NACDA Cup –
The University of Notre Dame, in first place through the fall and the first set of winter sports standings, stands in sixth place in the latest winter standings released in the 2005-06 United States Sports Academy Division I Directors’ Cup all-sports competition sponsored by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (formerly known as Sears Directors’ Cup).

In winter sports NCAA competitions, the Irish earned 158 points based on their fourth-place finish in fencing (40 points), a 33rd-place finish in men’s indoor track and field (39.5), a 39th-place finish in women’s indoor track and field (32.5), a 41st-place finish in women’s swimming (21) and a first-round NCAA appearance in women’s basketball (25).

Fall NCAA competition earned the Irish 412 points based on their third-place finish in men’s cross country (85 points), their seventh-place finish in women’s cross country (69 points), their quarterfinal appearance in women’s soccer (73), their third-round appearance in men’s soccer (64), their regional semifinal appearance in women’s volleyball (64) and their 11th-place finish in football based on the final USA Today poll (57). Notre Dame ranked atop the final fall standings for the second straight year – and its 412 points marked its highest-ever fall total.

Stanford (737 points) is first, thanks to its ’05 NCAA title in women’s cross country and runnerup finishes in men’s water polo and women’s indoor track and field. Texas (women’s indoor track and field NCAA champion) is second with 647.5 points, followed by Wisconsin (616 points), NCAA champion in men’s cross country and both men’s and women’s ice hockey.

The current standings include results from NCAA fall competition in women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, men’s Division I-A and I-AA football, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s water polo – plus winter competition in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s gymnastics, fencing, rifle, skiing, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s wrestling, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.

The final set of winter standings will be available April 27 following the conclusion of NCAA women’s gymnastics.

In previous years in which the Directors’ Cup competition has been held, Notre Dame has finished 11th in 1993-94, 30th in 1994-95, 11th in 1995-96, 14th in 1996-97, tied for 31st in 1997-98, 25th in 1998-99, 21st in 1999-2000, 11th in 2000-01, 13th in 2001-02, tied for 13th in 2002-03, 19th in 2003-04 and 16th in 2004-05.
Here are the current standings:
1. Stanford 737, 2. Texas 647.5, 3. Wisconsin 616, 4. Penn State 586.25, 5. Ohio State 575.25 6. Notre Dame 570, 7. Minnesota 565.75, 8. USC 558.75, 9. North Carolina 554, 10. Tennessee 547.

Pope-Davis takes over the reigns of the Faculty Board on Athletics –
Don B. Pope-Davis, associate vice president for graduate studies and professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, has been appointed chair of the University’s Faculty Board on Athletics and its NCAA faculty athletics representative by Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president.

“As a member of both the Faculty Board on Athletics since 2002 and the Provost Advisory Council since 2004, Don has a distinct understanding of and appreciation for the blend of athletic and academic excellence that we seek at Notre Dame,” Father Jenkins said. “I am pleased that he has accepted this appointment and look forward to the leadership he will bring in this area.”

Pope-Davis succeeds Fernand N. “Tex” Dutile, professor of law, who had served in both positions since 2000.

A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 2000, Pope-Davis studies in the areas of multicultural psychology, counseling and education.
Specifically, he is interested in cultural and racial identity development, cultural competency training, development, and assessment. Other areas of research include multicultural supervision in professional psychology, development of multicultural measures for assessing environments and supervision, issues of mental health of people of color, and cross-cultural communications.

The Faculty Board on Athletics serves as the principal dvisory group to the University president on educational issues related to athletics. The board is composed of 15 members: seven elected from the University’s teaching and research faculty; four appointed by the president (three from the teaching and research faculty and one from the student body); and four ex officio members – the vice president for student affairs, the director of athletics, the director of academic services for student-athletes, and a representative from the president’s office.

The board’s principal purpose is to foster the University’s commitment to academic integrity in athletics and to ensure that the athletic program operates in consonance with the University’s educational mission. It also serves as a formal liaison between the faculty and athletic department. Among its activities, the board monitors data on the admission of student-athletes and their academic performance, progress toward degrees, and graduation rates. It also assesses the effectiveness of institutional support for student-athletes. The board approves or declines all petitions for fifth years of eligibility.

The board’s activities closely match the responsibilities of the NCAA faculty representative, who also is expected to advise the president, uphold academic integrity and student welfare, and serve as the liaison to the institution’s faculty. The faculty representative also functions as a principal link between the institution and the NCAA in matters of eligibility, certification and compliance with NCAA regulations.

`For The Love Of Pete” –
The 1966 Notre Dame national championship football team will host a dinner in honor of Pete Duranko – a former All-America defensive lineman for the Fighting Irish and former All-Pro with the Denver Broncos. Duranko is battling ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The 1966 championship team members have organized the dinner to help support Duranko, who has been fighting the illness since his diagnosis in 2000. The tribute dinner, “For the Love of Pete,” will be held after the Blue-Gold Football Game and will feature former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner, All-American and College Football Hall of Famer Jim Lynch, and other teammates of Pete’s from the `66 national championship team. Special guests include Pete’s teammates, Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Seymour, Kevin Hardy, Larry Conjar, George Goeddeke, and many other former players, classmates, and fans.

Irish football coach Charlie Weis has named Duranko honorary captain for the 2006 Blue-Gold Game. The tribute dinner will be held on April 22, 2006, after the Blue-Gold Game. The dinner is open to the public and donations are tax deductible. It will be held at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center. Space is limited. Tickets may be purchased ($125/ticket) through the Notre Dame Monogram Club. For reservations, dinner tickets, and to make contributions, or for more information, contact Julie at the Notre Dame Monogram Club, 574-631-5450, or Email: Jdeschai@nd.edu.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1966 national championship. Pete’s teammates and friends want to rally around a great guy who’s facing the toughest fight of his life. Duranko was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2000. It is a progressive neuromuscular disease that weakens and eventually destroys the components of the nervous system that connect the brain with the skeletal muscles. A person with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) eventually becomes paralyzed and loses all respiratory function. There is no cure.

If you’ve ever heard the Notre Dame Victory March sung in Polish – you’ve met Pete Duranko. The problem is, Pete doesn’t know Polish – he makes up the words! He’s a great guy and a joker, with a tremendous sense of humor. Even more important he has given so much to ALS with his attitude and his strength in the face of the most difficult opponent of his life. We want to rally behind him and give him something to smile about.

Two former football program leaders named to the NCAA 100 –
Former University of Notre Dame football standout Alan Page and former Irish football coach Knute Rockne are Notre Dame’s two representatives on the list of “100 Most Influential NCAA Student-Athletes” announced in conjunction with the NCAA Centennial celebration in 2006.

The NCAA defines the 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes as those who have made a significant impact or major contributions to society. A special panel that included college presidents, athletics directors, faculty representatives, student-athletes and conference representatives chose the list.

Institutions with more than one student-athlete selected to the list included UCLA (seven), Stanford (six), Yale (four), the U.S. Naval Academy (four), the U.S. Military Academy (four), Tennessee State (three), Princeton (three), Ohio State (three), Notre Dame (two), North Carolina (two) and Columbia (two).

The 100 student-athletes will be honored in two one-hour programs aired by ESPN Classic. The shows first air today at 8:00 p.m. EST (100 to 51) and 9:00 p.m. (50-1). The shows re-air Tuesday on ESPN Classic and will air six more times on ESPNU (March 14, 15, 16, 22; April 20; May 6).

Page led the Notre Dame football team to Associated Press and United Press International national championships in 1966 and a combined 25-3-2 mark from 1964 to 1966. A first-round NFL draft pick and 15th selection overall, he went on to collect 164 career sacks, block 28 punts or placekicks, recover 24 fumbles and appear in eight Pro Bowls in a professional football career that spanned 15 seasons, including 10 as a member of the Vikings and five with the Chicago Bears.

Page made an appearance in every game of his professional career and started all but three matchups, a string of 215 consecutive contests that included 16 playoff games, four NFL championships and Super Bowls IV, VII, IX and XI.

In 1971, the four-time NFC defensive player of the year became the first defensive player in NFL history to earn the league’s most valuable player award. Page was selected to the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 1993.

An NCAA Silver Anniversary Award recipient in 1992, Page has been a member of the National Bar Association since 1979 and currently sits on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and the board of directors for the Minneapolis Urban League. Since 1980, he has been a member of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers’ Association, and he has served as an advisory board member to the League of Women Voters since 1984.

In 2004, Page became the 37th recipient of the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, the NCAA’s highest honor. In 2005, he received the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation. In 2001, Page received the Dick Enberg Award from the Academic All-America program sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The award is given annually to a person whose actions and commitments have further strengthen the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America program and the student-athlete while promoting the values of education and academics.

A 1967 Notre Dame graduate with a degree in political science, he graduated from the University of Minnesota’s law school in 1978. He attended law school while playing with the Vikings, began practicing with a Minnesota law firm in 1979, later became an assistant attorney general and was sworn in as an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993.

Originally from Canton, Ohio, Page and his wife Diane in 1988 established the Page Education Foundation to provide educational grants to students of color to attend Minnesota colleges. The foundation has awarded more than 5,100 scholarships worth more than $4.5 million to 2,393 individual students.

Rockne was a receiver for the Notre Dame football team in 1912 and ’13, earning third-team All-America honors as a senior. He majored in chemistry, graduating magna cum laude with a grade average of 90.52 on a scale of 100.

As an undergraduate, Rockne worked as a chemistry research assistant in the laboratory of Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, the renowned chemist who discovered the formulae for synthetic rubber. Upon graduating, Rockne was offered a position at the University as a graduate assistant in chemistry, which he accepted on the condition that he be allowed to work as an assistant to football coach Jesse Harper.

When Harper retired after the 1917 season, Rockne was appointed head coach and Notre Dame’s football program soared to national prominence. He coached from 1918 through 1930, finishing with a 105-12-5 (.881) career record that still ranks as the best winning percentage in the history of college football. His teams won consensus national championships in 1924, 1929 and 1930, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1951.

Rockne died at age 43 in a plane crash March 31, 1931, in Bazaar, Kan.

Rockne remembered 75 years after his death –
Knute Rockne hasn’t coached a football game for 75 years, yet his legacy lives on all over the world.

Friday, March 31, 2006, marked the 75th anniversary of the death of the former University of Notre Dame football coach in a plane crash in Bazaar, Kan., and the anniversary was remembered — from Kansas to the Notre Dame campus to Norway — in a handful of ways, past, present and future:

  • Near Bazaar, Kan., where Rockne’s plane went down, the Wichita (Kan.) Rockne Memorial Club hosted a special memorial service at 10:00 a.m. CST, Friday, at the crash site.
    Family members of the eight men who were killed in the crash were on hand. Students, alumni, staff, friends, family and fans of Notre Dame and Rockne were invited to attend.
    The memorial service included refreshments, a program on Rockne’s life and legacy presented by former executive director of the College Football Hall of Fame Bernie Kish, films on Rockne and the plane crash and pictures and artifacts relating to the day. Among those sharing their recollections of the crash will be Easter Heathman, caretaker of the memorial marker and crash site for the past 75 years.
  • In Voss, Norway, Rockne’s birthplace, a statue of Rockne was dedicated at the exact time Rockne’s plane crashed into the Kansas hillside 75 years earlier.
    The statue, sculpted by 1962 Notre Dame graduate Jerry McKenna, is identical to the one that was dedicated in March 2005 in front of the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend.
    The molten bronze McKenna used to create the statue contained three particular elements – steel parts from Voss from a carriage made by Rockne’s father in 1888 (representing Knute Rockne’s birth), gold leaf from the golden dome at Notre Dame (representing Knute’s life at Notre Dame) and scraps of aluminum from the plane that crashed and carried Rockne to his death.
  • On the Notre Dame campus, there were multiple showings Friday of a 52-minute video documentary on Rockne titled, “Knute Rockne and His Fighting Irish” to recognize the anniversary of the Hall of Fame coach’s passing.
    The video originally was shown on the PBS show “The American Experience.”
  • McKenna also created a life-size bust of Rockne that was dedicated March 4 (Rockne’s birth date) in Rockne, an unincorporated Central Texas town of about 400 residents a dozen miles southwest of Bastrop, in a ceremony in the front yard of the Rockne Historical Association Museum.
    Marian Nelson, president of the RHA, said she hopes the $20,000 bust lures visitors to the museum, which includes exhibits on the life of the German-Catholic community founded in 1846 and its namesake coach.
    At the time, Rockne (the town) was called Hilbigville, after W.M. Hilbig, the owner of the town’s general store. Before that, it had been called Walnut Creek and Lehman. The community never had an official name, so in 1931 the parish priest at the only school in town, Sacred Heart Catholic, decided that the town’s children should vote on one. The choice for the town’s name was between two national icons, Rockne and poet Joyce Kilmer.
    The vote was a tie, so the priest sent the children home to think about it. The next day, a student named Edith Ayers changed her vote. Ayers was very close to her father, and he was a big admirer of Rockne’s, so she changed her vote because it was something she could do to please her dad.
  • From May 27 through Jan. 7, 2007, the Center for History in South Bend will offer the exhibit “Rockne: Crossing the Last Chalk Line.”
    The exhibit will include a variety of Rockne artifacts and photos, an electronic field trip for students, an exhibit catalog and audio tour and a lecture series.
    Among the artifacts that will be on display are a sweater and whistle used and worn by Rockne, a Rockne automobile developed by the Studebaker Corporation, a wristwatch worn by Rockne at the time of the crash — and a telegram from Rockne to his wife sent just before the plane took off that sent him to his death.

Rockne was a receiver for the Notre Dame football team in 1912 and ’13, earning third-team All-America honors as a senior. He majored in chemistry, graduating magna cum laude with a grade average of 90.52 on a scale of 100.

As an undergraduate, Rockne worked as a chemistry research assistant in the laboratory of Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland, the renowned chemist who discovered the formula for synthetic rubber. Upon graduating, Rockne was offered a position at the University as a graduate assistant in chemistry, which he accepted on the condition that he be allowed to work as an assistant to football coach Jesse Harper.

When Harper retired after the 1917 season, Rockne was appointed head coach and Notre Dame’s football program soared to national prominence. He coached from 1918 through 1930, finishing with a 105-12-5 (.881) career record that still ranks as the best winning percentage in the history of college football. His teams won consensus national championships in 1924, 1929 and 1930, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame with the inaugural class in 1951.