April 22, 2004
The Date and Time: Saturday, April 24, 2004, at 1:30 p.m. EST.
The Site: Notre Dame Stadium (80,795/Natural Grass) in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Tickets: Available through the Notre Dame athletics ticket office (574-631-7356) — cost is $8 for adults and $6 for youths 18-and-under. Fans also could purchase special ticket packages to this year’s game. The “Pre-Game with the Irish” package includes pre-game brunch with Irish players and coaches Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (EST), and sideline access and preferred seating during the game, while the “View from the Top” package features press box seating for Saturday’s game. Tickets for both the “Pre-Game with the Irish” (1,000 seats) and the “View From the Top” (150 seats) package are sold out. Ticket purchased at the stadium on game day will cost $10 for adults and $8 for children 18-and-under. A handful of tickets also remain for reserved chairback seats in the “Gold” section on the west side of the stadium — the cost for those tickets is $12 each.
The Radio Plans: The Blue-Gold Game will be broadcast live on radio by South Bend’s ESPN Radio 1580 AM (Sean Stires, Andy Budzinski and Mike Frank). The broadcast also will be available through the official Notre Dame athletics department web site at www.und.com.
This is the 75th annual Blue-Gold football event, Notre Dame’s final controlled scrimmage of the 2004 spring season.
THE PROCEEDS OF 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.
RULES OF THE GAME
The Blue-Gold Game will feature a matchup of teams selected by the Irish coaching staff prior to the contest. Some players also may change teams during the course of the game and all of the Notre Dame coaches are expected to be on the field during the course of the game.
There will be four 12-minute quarters with the clock running continuously, except for the final two minutes of each half, when conventional clock stoppage rules will apply (incomplete passes, out of bounds, first downs, penalties, etc.). Each team also will be given three timeouts per half, during which time the clock will be stopped. In addition, there will be live kick returns and quarterbacks will be considered “downed” when they are touched by a defensive player.
Much of the Blue-Gold crowd typically has been of the walk-up variety on gameday. The attendance when the game has been played at Notre Dame Stadium has been routinely at least 20,000 fans — with highs of 35,675 in ’81, 32,071 in ’86 and 29,541 in ’90. Last year’s game drew a crowd of 20,346 to see the Blue team pull out a 17-14 victory. In 1997, Notre Dame conducted a pair of Blue-Gold scrimmages at Moose Krause Stadium (capacity 9,700), drawing crowds of 8,240 and 9,241. Those spring games were moved to the smaller Krause Stadium (currently the home of the Irish men’s and women’s lacrosse and track teams) while the expansion of Notre Dame Stadium was being completed.
THE PRE-GAME FESTIVITIES
The Blue-Gold Spring Football Festival begins at 9:30 a.m (EST) with the pre-game brunch with Notre Dame players and coaches inside the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (tickets only). An interactive fan festival will take place in the Joyce Center south parking lot from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and the Notre Dame Stadium gates will open at 11:30 a.m. for the alumni flag football game. At noon, a group of former Irish football players will participate in the annual alumni flag football game.
A total of 35 former players are scheduled to return for the flag football game, including the following: Pat Boggs*, Tom Burger*, Al Bucci, Jim Carroll*, Phil Carter, John Dampeer*, Tim Foley*, Ben Foos, Tom Galloway, Bob Gladieux*, Tom Gorman*, Paul Grimm, Benny Guilbeaux, Kris Haines, Dave Humenik*, Chuck Killian*, Jack Landry, Charles (Chick) Lauck, Kevin McShane, Mark Monahan, Norm Nicola*, Brendan O’Connor, Mike Perrino, Vince Phelan, Chuck Puntillo*, Ryan Roberts, Chris Smith, Bill Snyder, Cornelius (Corny) Southall, Pat Steenberge, Jack Stephan, Willie Townsend, Mike Tribe, Robin Weber and Kurt Zackrison (* – indicates those who will be in attendance at the game, but will not play).
Beginning at 10:30 a.m. (EST) Saturday, Irish players will sign autographs inside the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome). The one-hour session is available to those persons who have purchased the special “Pre-Game with the Irish” ticket package and there will be some very limited access to the event by the general public.
Several presentations will take place at halftime of Saturday’s game including the William D. Reynolds Award; the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Award; and the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Scholarship Awards.
Six returning veterans have changed jersey numbers for the 2004 spring season, with many of the changes related to their respective position switches. Defensive back Tom Zbikowski has donned No. 9, while running back Travis Thomas is sporting No. 26, and Thomas’ old number No. 20 now belongs to defensive back Isaiah Gardner. In addition, newly-converted offensive lineman Dan Santucci is wearing No. 50 (formerly worn by Cedric Hilliard), new defensive back Chinedum Ndukwe has reversed his previous uniform number, trading No. 81 for No. 18, and defensive back Ambrose Wooden has slipped into the No. 22 jersey that was worn last year by Julius Jones.
WALK-ON PLAYERS JOIN THE IRISH SQUAD THIS SPRING
Seven walk-on Irish players also have been added to the 2004 spring roster. Junior linebacker Joseph Boland (Drexel Hill, Pa./Monsignor Bonner HS) is wearing No. 53, while sophomore wide receiver/defensive back A.J. Cedeno (Pittsburg, Kan./St. Mary’s-Colgan HS) is sporting No. 31. Sophomore outside linebacker Casey Cullen (Victoria, Texas/St. Joseph HS) has been issued No. 60 and junior wide receiver Brandon Harris (New Orleans, La./Benjamin Frankin HS) has donned No. 81. In addition, sophomore running back John Lyons (Sioux Falls, S.D./O’Gorman HS) has slipped on No. 27, while junior quarterback Marty Mooney (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier HS/Yale) is wearing No. 8 and junior defensive back/wide receiver Rich Whitney III (Warminster, Pa./Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst HS) has put on the No. 45 jersey.
Eight Notre Dame players have changed positions for the Irish during the offseason. Senior Jerome Collins has moved from outside linebacker/defensive end to tight end after playing the latter position in high school. Senior Carlyle Holiday has worked exclusively at wide receiver this spring after spending the past three seasons at quarterback (and working some as a wideout last season), while sophomore Dwight Stephenson, Jr., has been seeing time at both linebacker and defensive end during the spring. Sophomore Chinedum Ndukwe has moved from wide receiver to defensive back, while junior Dan Santucci has changed over from the defensive line to the offensive line. Lastly, sophomore Isaiah Gardner will work entirely as a defensive back after also splitting time as a wide receiver last year, and sophomore Ambrose Wooden has moved from wide receiver to defensive back.
Notre Dame has one new face on its coaching staff for the 2004 season. Steven Wilks, defensive backs coach in 2003 for a Bowling Green squad that tied a school record for victories, has been named the new Irish secondary coach. He replaced Trent Walters, who served in that role at Notre Dame in 2002 and ’03 before taking a similar position with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in February.
As a member of head coach Gregg Brandon’s staff in ’03, Wilks helped the Falcons become the first Bowling Green football team in history to finish in the final polls (23rd in both Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls) — after a 28-24 Motor City Bowl win over Northwestern pushed the final Falcon record to 11-3. In 2003, he saw junior defensive back Keon Newson lead the Mid-American Conference in forced fumbles (with six) and senior All-America cornerback Janssen Patton lead the league in interceptions (with seven, giving him 18 in his career). The Falcons ranked second in the MAC in both total defense and scoring defense in ’03.
Wilks came to Bowling Green after spending the ’02 season as East Tennessee State’s co-defensive coordinator under head coach Paul Hamilton. At East Tennessee State, three members of the Buccaneers’ secondary earned all-Southern Conference honors in ’02, including two (Tony Tiller and Gerald Sansabaugh) who earned first-team honors. Under Wilks’ direction, East Tennessee State led the league in turnover margin (plus-0.83 per game) and ranked second in pass efficiency defense (104.0 rating), while permitting only 156.2 passing yards per game.
He also coached defensive backs on staffs at Appalachian State (2001) and Illinois State (2000). Working under head coach Denver Johnson, he helped the Redbirds in ’00 to a 7-4 record and a final ranking of 24th in The Sports Network NCAA I-AA poll – while coaching a pair of defensive backs (Ryan Szokola and Sam Young) to all-conference honors. At Appalachian State under head coach Jerry Moore, Wilks contributed to a Mountaineer unit that finished 10-4 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA I-AA playoffs. Appalachian State in ’01 finished fourth in the final TSN I-AA poll.
Wilks served as head coach at Savannah State University in Georgia in 1999. He also coordinated defenses at Savannah State (1997-98) and Johnson C. Smith University (1995-96) in Charlotte, N.C. At Savannah State in ’98, his defense finished number-one in the nation in total defense (166.3 yards per game) in Division II — and he was honored as the Division II defensive coordinator of the year by American Football Quarterly. That same year he saw four players earn all-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors, including the SIAC player of the year, linebacker Reginald Jackson.
Wilks played for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League team in ’93 (as a 5-11, 185-pound defensive back/wide receiver), helping the team to the playoffs that year. He was invited to training camp with the NFL Seattle Seahawks in ’92. As a ’92 graduate and defensive back in football at Appalachian State (1987-91), he recorded 103 career tackles, with four interceptions and four blocked kicks. The Mountaineers played in the NCAA I-AA playoffs in both ’89 and ’91, finishing with respective 9-3 and 8-4 marks.
Born August 8, 1969, the Charlotte, N.C., native holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. Wilks and his wife Marcia have a daughter, Marissa.
2004 NOTRE DAME OPPONENT UPDATE
Notre Dame once again played one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2003, as it faced nine teams that appeared in bowl games (Washington State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Pittsburgh, USC, Boston College, Florida State and Navy). The Irish schedule in 2003 was ranked the toughest in the nation prior to the bowl season and was third overall at the end of the ’03 campaign.
This season could prove to be just as tough as the Irish face two Bowl Championship Series teams (Michigan and USC, who met in the Rose Bowl) and eight teams that went to bowl games in 2003. Notre Dame also will play four teams that finished in the AP Top 25 (#1 USC, #6 Michigan, #15 Tennessee and #18 Purdue) and nine teams with records of .500 or better last year.