Aug. 16, 2006
One thing that has fascinated me throughout the summer has been the countdown clock on the front page of our web site, www.und.com. It’s been ticking down the time until the kickoff of Notre Dame’s season-opening football game at Georgia Tech on Sept. 2. Occasionally, I’ll find myself taking a peek at the countdown and feel the anticipation grow with the knowledge that the nine-month layoff since the Fiesta Bowl is almost over.
I always feel the same way about basketball season. I really enjoy the season because it allows so many opportunities for success and redemption. Unlike football which only has 12 or 13 games per season, basketball has at least 30 games a year and you’re often playing two or three times a week. In that way, you never get too high after a win or too low after a loss. But when the season comes to end, in whatever form that takes as either victor or vanquished, there’s a logical letdown for a while.
But now, I can feel my own internal countdown clock ticking off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until we get to toss the ball up for the first time at fall practice on Oct. 14 (only 59 days, in case you’re wondering). And when that first practice takes place, you know the first game can’t be far behind. While I’ll be heading into my sixth year as the women’s basketball SID at Notre Dame (and ninth in this business), I still get that little twinge of nervous excitement in my stomach each time I watch the Irish take the floor. Guess I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel that way.
Another indication to me that basketball season is right around the corner is the flurry of activity coming from the office of our women’s basketball operations guru, Stephanie Menio. As I said in an earlier blog entry, Stephanie is a non-stop 24-7 bundle of energy. She’s always thinking of new and creative ways to make Notre Dame women’s basketball an even more fun and exciting event for the whole family. In fact, she just got back from a well-deserved vacation, and on her first day back, she dropped by my office and promptly rattled off half a dozen new ideas she’d thought of while she was away. I truly believe the woman doesn’t count sheep at night, but rather tries to think of more ways to make our fans happy.
This time of year, Stephanie has started to crank up our advertising for season tickets for the upcoming season. Between having 18 home games (and sorry, the schedule is still not approved for release yet) and three Indiana natives among the four-player freshman class, you can bet there’s a lot to be excited about with the coming year. Recently, she arranged a couple of extensive photo sessions with some of our most ardent fans, who got to hang out with the players and helped become the face of our billboard ads. Of course, when you put kids in front of the camera, they’re going to ham it up, but it was great to see the parents get so into the process.
We’ve also come up with a “fan marketing committee” that includes some of those same fans that were at the photo sessions. This group meets regularly with Stephanie to pass along their thoughts on the women’s basketball program, their likes and dislikes when it comes to the halftime and in-game entertainment from last year, and other ideas on how we can improve our product. We have been very fortunate to rank among the top 20 in the country in attendance the past six years, including a No. 11 ranking last year with more than 6,600 fans per game. But while we’re thrilled with the support we’ve received through the years, we know there are more folks out there who have yet to experience a Notre Dame women’s basketball game. And the first time they come check out the Irish, they’re going to be hooked. It certainly doesn’t hurt that our average price for one season ticket is only $4 per game … easily the best entertainment value in the Michiana area and probably the whole state of Indiana as well. Stephanie is always looking for more folks to serve on the fan advisory committee, so if you’re interested, give her a shout at (574) 631-3589 or email@example.com.
Sure, it helps when the team is having success on the floor as well. And a lot of folks are certainly curious about what lies ahead for the Irish in 2006-07. That’s why the preseason prospectus is such a good resource for early information on the team, whether it be the veterans or the rookies. What’s more, there are going to be other notes included in there that you likely may not be aware of. So if you have a chance, keep an eye on the women’s basketball page at und.com in the next couple of days and look for the prospectus link in the right hand column. You can also check out the new roster (and solve the mystery of what numbers our freshmen will be wearing) and read all about this year’s team.
Quick TiVo alert before we check out of here – former Notre Dame All-Americans Ruth Riley and Jacqueline Batteast are on the postseason roster for the WNBA’s Detroit Shock as they open the league playoffs this week. The Shock finished second in the Eastern Conference and will visit Indiana in the first game of their best-of-three first-round series Thursday at 7 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2. Game two is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. (ET), also on ESPN2, this time from the Palace of Auburn Hills. If a third game is needed, it would also be in Detroit on Aug. 21 at 8 p.m. (ET) and shown on NBA TV. Check the WNBA web site (www.wnba.com) for a complete rundown of the playoff schedule for the Shock.
We also can’t forget about our most recent WNBA rookie, Megan Duffy, who just finished up her first season with the Minnesota Lynx. Megan played in 31 of 34 games for Minnesota this year, averaging 3.4 points and 1.2 assists per game in a little more than 12 minutes per night. It was a challenging season for the Lynx, who went through a coaching change in midseason and finished up with a 10-24 record. But they kept battling all year long, as some of us discovered earlier this month when Minnesota made stops in Chicago and Indianapolis. Megan and her veteran teammate Tamika Williams had a sizeable cheering section for both games, especially Indianapolis, where not only did her family and friends make the two-hour trip over from Dayton, but also a large and boisterous contingent from both her alma mater, Chaminade-Julienne High School, and her old AAU program, the Dayton Lady Hoopstars. At the Chicago game, some of Notre Dame’s biggest fans, the Yoder family from Nappanee, Ind., were on hand to support Megan, getting a chance to see her afterwards and catch up.
That’s about it for now … just a reminder that if you get the chance, make sure to check out the exclusive und.com interviews Jack Nolan recently conducted with Irish men’s basketball coach Mike Brey and women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw (click here then scroll down to find the interviews). There’s no better source for information on both Notre Dame squads than from the coaches themselves, and both offered some unique insights on what they’ve been up to this summer as well as what lies ahead in 2006-07. Watching them might not totally stave off your hunger for basketball season to get here – but it might slow down that countdown clock just a little.