Brady Quinn, voted a team co-captain by his teammates this season, will lead the Irish into the 2005 season.

Football Media Day Notes Package

Aug. 8, 2005

Complete Release in PDF Format
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* – the PDF linked in above is highly recommended for ease of reading, additional side bar information and an updated 2005 roster.

2005: The Charlie Weis Era Begins…

The 117th season of Notre Dame football is the first in the tenure of head coach Charlie Weis, who is commencing his initial campaign today with his first fall media day.

Weis was named the 28th head football coach in Notre Dame history on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2004. A 1978 Notre Dame graduate, Weis takes the reins of the 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 comes to Notre Dame after excelling as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, where he played an integral role in New England’s victories in three of the last four 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).

A veteran of 26 seasons in coaching, 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 division crowns.

2005 Irish Captains and Team Representatives

The members of the University of Notre Dame football team have voted linebacker Brandon Hoyte and quarterback Brady Quinn as team captains for the 2005 season. By virtue of the vote, Hoyte and Quinn will be the team’s designated captains for each game of the ’05 season, to be joined each week by a special teams performer to be determined by the coaching staff. In `04, captains were selected on a game-by-game basis, with Hoyte earning the nod against Michigan State and Navy.

The following players have been named to the 2005 Irish Football House of Representatives, also by a vote of team members. These players comprise the team’s Leadership Committee for `05.

Victor Abiamiri (defensive line) – Veteran defensive end has played in all 24 Irish games over the last two seasons, amassing 37 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. The Randallstown, Md., native has five career starts and is poised to earn starting role this season.

Anthony Fasano (tight ends) – Verona, N.J., native has been a vital component of the Irish offense over the last two years while developing into one of the nation’s most productive tight ends. He hauled in 27 catches for 367 yards in ’04, including a Notre Dame tight end-record 155-yard outburst versus Purdue. In two years, he has turned in 45 catches for 536 yards and six touchdowns.

D.J. Fitzpatrick (special teams) – Former walk-on and local product (Mishawaka, Ind.) who has worked his way into eighth place in Notre Dame history in field goals made (23) heading into the ’05 season. Serves as both placekicker and punter for the Irish, with a long field goal of 50 yards and a long punt of 67.

Brandon Hoyte (linebackers) – Fifth-year senior is a leader for the Irish both on and off the field, notching 74 tackles and eight tackles fo loss in `04. The Parlin, N.J., native has totaled 205 career tackles, along with six sacks and four forced fumbles and is active in several community service projects.

Corey Mays (linebackers) – One of the team’s elder statesmen, the Chicago native has made almost 600 special teams appearances in his career, racking up 45 tackles and blocking two kicks. A force at linebacker as well, Mays has six tackles for loss and three sacks in an Irish uniform.

Rhema McKnight (receivers) – The leader of the Irish receiving corps, McKnight could threaten the Notre Dame career records in receptions and receiving yards. He is currently seventh in school history in both categories with 98 for 1,301. The versatile native of La Palma, Calif., also has returned nine punts for an average of 10.7 yards for the Irish.

Rashon Powers-Neal (running backs) – A versatile back who has seen a majority of his work at fullback the last two seasons, Powers-Neal has 387 career rushing yards and 126 career yards receiving. The St. Paul, Minn., native caught his first career touchdown pass in the ’04 upset of Michigan.

Brady Quinn (quarterbacks) – Already one of the most prolific passers in Notre Dame history, Quinn is poised to continue his assault on the record books under head coach Charlie Weis. Last season he compiled 2,586 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air – the finest statistical season for a sophomore quarterback in school history. The Dublin, Ohio, native has 4,417 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in his career.

Dan Stevenson (offensive line) – The Barrington, Ill., native is a three-time letterwinner who could emerge as one of the finest guards in the country this season. He started all 12 games last season, logging 348:05 of playing time and has a total of 33 games and 22 starts under his belt.

Tom Zbikowski (defensive backs) – As a sophomore in ’04, the Arlington Heights, Ill., native had a breakout year in his first season as a starter with 63 tackles and a fumble return for a touchdown. Known for his hard-nosed play, Zbikowski also displays intelligence and big-play ability on the field, as evidenced by his 75-yard touchdown scamper after forcing a fumble and recovering it against Michigan State to spark a 31-24 Irish win.

“Leadership is something we often talk about but is usually an inatngible quality,” head coach Charlie Weis said. “Leadership has to come from many places – the head coach and the coaching staff, for sure – but ultimately it must come from the players themselves. That’s why the Leadership Committee will be such an important facet of our football team.”

Award watch lists…

• In June, Irish junior quarterback Brady Quinn was one of 53 players named to the 2005 Maxwell Award Watch List. The award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club, is given annually to the college football player of the year.

Quinn threw for 2,586 yards in `04, his second as the starting quarterback for Notre Dame. His sophomore season ended up as the best second-year campaign ever for an Irish quarterback, finishing second on the single-season passing list behind Jarious Jackson’s 2,753 yards in `99. Quinn’s attempts (353) and completions (191) stand atop the single-season list at Notre Dame and he accouunted for 20 touchdowns (17 passing, three rushing) in `04.

Starting the last 21 consecutive games at quarterback for Notre Dame, Quinn has already posted the top freshman and sophomore statistical seasons in school history. He currently ranks fifth all-time on the Notre Dame passing list, just 403 yards behind Jackson for fourth place.

The award is named after Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, a Philadelphia native and former All-American guard at Swarthmore and Chicago who went on to a career that included professional football, coaching and sportswriting.

Notre Dame has seen four different players earn the Maxwell Award five times in the football program’s history. Tight end Leon Hart was the initial recipient in 1949, followed by HB John Lattner (1952 and `53), LB Jim Lynch (1966) and DE Ross Browner (1977).

• On Aug. 1, senior tight end Anthony Fasano was named to the 2005 John Mackey Award Watch List. The award honors the best collegiate tight end in the country and is presented by the Nassau County Sports Commission.

Fasano is coming off his most productive season in 2004. As a junior, he finished second on the team with 27 catches for 367 yards and four touchdowns. Proficient in pass catching, route running and blocking, Fasano is poised for a break out year in Notre Dame’s new offense – under the direction of head coach Charlie Weis and offensive coordinator Mike Haywood.

He exploded for career highs in catches and yards against Purdue, nabbing eight receptions for a Notre Dame tight end record 155 receiving yards.

2005: Year One for Head Coach Charlie Weis

As Charlie Weis heads into his first season at the helm of the Irish, here are a few notes on Notre Dame’s head coaches in their inaugural year.

• The 28 head football coaches in Notre Dame history have combined to amass a 168-60-12 (.700) record in their first year at the helm. Since 1913, Jesse Harper’s first season, Irish coaches have compiled a 103-41-5 (.691) in their initial campaign, including interim coaches Hugh Devore and Ed McKeever.

• Since Notre Dame Stadium was opened in 1930, five Notre Dame coaches – Hunk Anderson, McKeever, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Tyrone Willingham – have opened away from home in their first season – going 5-0 in those games.

• Weis will be the first coach to begin his Notre Dame tenure with the first two games on the road and on the opponent’s home field since Knute Rockne in 1918 (at Case Tech, at Wabash – both wins). Anderson faced his first two games away from Notre Dame in `31 (at Indiana, vs. Northwestern at Soldier Field – a win and a tie) and Devine also started with two games away from South Bend in `75 (vs. Boston College at Foxboro, at Purdue – both wins).

• The last Notre Dame coach to post a winning record in his first season with the Irish is Willingham, who went 10-3 in 2002. The last Irish coach to turn in a sub – .500 season in his first year is Lou Holtz, whose `86 team finished 5-6.

• The longest winning streak for a Notre Dame head coach to begin his career with the Irish is nine games, by Harper (1913-14) and Parseghian (`64).

• Weis is the second Notre Dame coach to face Pittsburgh on the road in his first game with the Irish. McKeever took on the Panthers in 1944, his first and only season at the helm and came away with a 58-0 win.

• Since 1913, four Notre Dame coaches – Elmer Layden, Parseghian, Holtz and Willingham – have taken over a program the year after his predecessor turned in a .500 or worse record. All but Holtz, who went 5-6 in `86, posted a winning record in his first season and the quartet had a combined 30-13 record in such seasons. The `04 Irish went 6-6 under Willingham.

Don’t forget the anniversary…

The 2005 football season marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of fabled Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have played 379 games in that facility to date and own a 287-87-5 (.757) record in the “House that Rockne Built.”

The Irish were 3-3 in Notre Dame Stadium in `04, running their home record to 91-28 (.765) over the last 20 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).

In `55, the stadium’s 25th anniversary, Notre Dame went 8-2 on the season for coach Terry Brennan, including 4-0 home record; the Irish turned in a 9-2-1 overall record, and a 5-0 home mark, to commemorate Notre Dame Stadium’s 50th anniversary in `80.

Irish will face another loaded schedule…

With the release of the USA Today Coaches Poll, Notre Dame found out just how tough the preseason prognosticators think the 2005 slate will be:

• Notre Dame is the only team that will play three games against top-four teams – #1 USC, #3 Tennessee and #4 Michigan in the poll.

•Only one other school – Ohio State – has multiple games against the top four teams in the poll (#2 Texas and #4 Michigan).

• Notre Dame is the only school that will face three of the top nine teams in the poll this season.

• Four other schools – Indiana (#4 Michigan, #9 Ohio State, #10 Iowa), Minnesota (#4 Michigan, #9 Ohio State, #10 Iowa), Northwestern (#4 Michigan, #9 Ohio State, #10 Iowa) and Ohio State (#2 Texas, #4 Michigan, #10 Iowa) – have regular season games scheduled against top-10 teams.

A little perspective…

• The Irish collected the program’s 800th football victory during the 2004 season when Notre Dame knocked off Stanford, 23-15, at Notre Dame Stadium on Oct. 9.

• The 1,100th game in Notre Dame football history occurred on Oct. 2 against Purdue (a 41-16 loss at Notre Dame Stadium).

• Notre Dame’s 6-6 record in `04 marked the fifth break-even season in Irish football history, joining similar .500 marks in `50 (4-4-1), `59 (5-5-0), `61 (5-5-0) and `62 (5-5-0).

• Notre Dame scored 289 points in `04 and allowed opponents to score the exact same total, the only time in Irish football history that has happened.

In front of the nation…

In 2004, the Notre Dame football team once again received more network television exposure and played in more highly-rated games than any other program in college football.

The Irish played in the highest-rated network game of the `04 regular season (and the highest-rated regular-season game overall in two seasons) in its `04 regular-season finale at USC. That game, televised by ABC Sports, received a 6.3 Nielsen rating and was seen in 6.898 million households.

Overall, Notre Dame played in six games that ranked among the top 25 highest-rated network telecasts, and no other school played in more than five (Tennessee and Georgia each played in five).

Including the Insight Bowl carried on ESPN, Notre Dame now has a remarkable streak of 148 consecutive games (more than 12 full seasons) that have been carried by either NBC (80), ABC (42), CBS (14) or ESPN (12). You have to go all the way back to the `92 season to find a Notre Dame game that wasn’t on one of those four networks.

Home series history a plus…

Notre Dame’s series record in Notre Dame Stadium against their six home opponents in 2005 (Michigan State, USC, BYU, Tennessee, Navy and Syracuse) is a combined 67-27-1 (.705). Their best mark over one of those opponents is the 25-3 advantage they own at home against Navy, and they have a losing record on their own field against only Tennessee.

Close shaves…

• One of the hallmarks of Notre Dame’s 2004 season was its penchant for playing close games. The Irish were 4-3 in games deceided by eight points or less, defeating No. 7 Michigan (28-20), Michigan State (31-24), Stanford (23-15) and No. 9 Tennessee, while losing to BYU (20-17), Boston College (24-23) and Pittsburgh (41-38).

• The 2004 team had Notre Dame’s third-most wins by eight points or less in a season. The record of six victories was set in `39, when the Irish had a 6-2 record in games decided by eight points or less, and equaled when the `02 squad went 6-1 in such games. The `37 and `74 teams both had five eight-point wins, while the `04 team joined the `29, `40, `84, `90, `97 and `98 Irish with four eight-point victories.

The sky is falling (on opposing defenses)…

The Notre Dame offense produced an average of 218.1 yards per game via the pass in 2004, ranking as the third-best per-game average in Notre Dame history (according to records kept since `46). Only two other Irish teams averaged more passing yards: the `70 squad led by Joe Theismann averaged 252.7 yards per game and the `99 unit led by Jarious Jackson passed at a clip of 238.2 yards. That success in the air contributed to Notre Dame’s total offense average of 357 yards per contest in `04, the most by the Irish since `99 (419.7 ypg).

Handling the pill…

The Irish completed 2004 with an impressive streak of six consecutive games without losing a fumble. Overall, Notre Dame did not lose a fumble in seven of 12 games and lost more than one only once all season (two at Michigan State). Since a fumble lost against Stanford on Oct. 9, the Irish enter the `05 season having gone 24 quarters and 184 rushing attempts without losing a fumble. Over that span, Notre Dame only fumbled twice, recovering both drops (vs. Navy and USC).

Below average is great for Irish…

Only one (Pittsburgh) of Notre Dame’s 12 opponents achieved its rushing average for 2004 against the Irish. Only three opponents managed to break the century mark in ground yardage (Michigan State, Washington and Navy) and only one average more than four yards per attempt (Michigan State, 4.7 yards per rush). Navy’s 216 yards (on 61 carries – a 3.5 avg.) was the only 200+-yard outing by an opponent.

Taking it `to the house’…

Notre Dame was solid on both sides of the ball in the red zone (inside the 20-yard line) in 2004. On offense, the Irish made 36 trips to the red zone, coming away with 25 touchdowns (a 69.4% TD percentage). Opponents visited the red zone 38 times, managing 19 touchdowns (a 50% TD percentage).

In front of a full house…

Notre Dame has played in front of sellout crowds in 171 of its previous 196 games, including 35 of its last 37 games dating back to the end of the 2001 season (the `03 game at Stanford and last year’s game vs. Navy at the Meadowlands were not sellouts). At Michigan in `03, the Irish and Wolverines attracted the largest crowd in NCAA history (111,726), marking the third time in the history of the series that an NCAA attendance record has been set. It also represented the sixth time in the last three seasons that Notre Dame has been part of establishing a new stadium attendance record (at Nebraska and Texas A&M in `01; at Air Force and Florida State, home vs. Boston College in `02).

Making the grade…

The last four seasons of Notre Dame football have produced some impressive semesters in the classroom for the Notre Dame football team. In fact, the Irish had a 2004 spring semester in which the team’s 104 players combined for a 2.96 grade-point average that ranks as the program’s best semester GPA on record (dating back to 1992). The Notre Dame football program’s top six semester GPAs since `92 were all posted in the seven semesters prior to the fall of `04, including the three semesters from from fall of `02 to fall of `03 (2.84 in fall of `02, 2.79 in spring of `03 and 2.82 in fall of `03). The football program’s second-best semester GPA of the past 12 years came in the spring of `02 (2.90), followed by a 2.80 in the spring of `01 and a 2.69 in the fall of `01. Upon closer examination, the 2004 spring semester saw 11 Irish football players post a Dean’s List GPA (sliding scale, based on major), while 21 turned in a semester GPA of 3.4-plus and more than half (53) had a GPA of 3.0 or better. In addition, two players – former DE Kyle Businscak and senior LB Brandon Hoyte – received Academic All-District V honors in `03, marking Budinscak’s third selection and Hoyte’s second to the prestigious squad. Budinscak followed up with another All-District V honor in `04.

Taking care of business off the field, too…

The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) annually honors the school with the highest graduation rate based on a particular entering freshman football class, and Notre Dame has won the award six times, most recently in 2001 with its 100-percent graduation rate (22 of 22 entering freshmen from `96 earned their degrees within five years). The `01 award followed Notre Dame’s previous honors in `82, `83, `84, `88 and `91. Notre Dame also holds the distinction of producing the first 100-percent rate in a single year when 24 of 24 student-athletes from the entering class of `82 earned their degrees within a five-year period (and 16 of those 24 did so within four years). Only eight other times has a school registered a 100-percent graduation rate. The `88 award had special meaning, as it was the first time a school won the national championship on the football field – as Notre Dame did, finishing 12-0 after a Fiesta Bowl win over unbeaten West Virginia – and in the classroom. Including the special mention category, the Irish have received some sort of recognition in 23 of the 24 years the award has been presented, with Duke next at 21.