By John Heisler
Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 (and early on Saturday)

With promises of delightful conditions in Honolulu (forecast: sunny and 81 degrees for Saturday), weather in South Bend on departure day for the Irish football delegation proved truly frightful.

Thanks to a late-night/early-morning winter storm chock full of ice, Notre Dame’s travel party left South Bend about an hour and a half later than planned – with the thermometer at a chilly and damp 28 degrees.

The Northwest 747 coming from Detroit landed at 5:15 p.m. EST at Michiana Regional Airport – then left at 6:30 p.m., with an hour-long fuel stop scheduled in Los Angeles. The 747 apparently is the largest commercial plane ever to land at the South Bend airport.

The Irish football squad practiced late Thursday afternoon, then again Friday afternoon just prior to departure. Final exams finished at the end of the day on Friday, with Notre Dame then headed to its earliest-ever postseason appearance (the earliest previous Notre Dame bowl game was played on Dec. 27 in ’97 when the Irish met LSU in the Independence Bowl).

The Irish finally landed at 1:00 a.m. HST (6:00 a.m. EST) – and Irish players were still recovering luggage in the hotel ballroom at 3:30 a.m.

It’s been a long day – but for the first time in a while on Saturday the Irish will practice outdoors in the sunshine!