Notre Dame Fighting Irish - Official Athletics Website

Media Day Notes

Aug. 14, 2002

Complete Football Notes in PDF Format
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The University of Notre Dame and its sports information department welcome you to the 2002 Notre Dame Football Media Day. All of the day’s media activities will take place in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, beginning at 11 a.m. EST with a buffet-style lunch. At 11:30 a.m., Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham will address the media, followed by interviews with Irish players from noon-12:45 p.m. Please note this event is for media only and admission is by reservation.

The sixth annual Notre Dame Fan Appreciation Day is scheduled from 1:15-2 p.m. EST on the concourse at Notre Dame Stadium. Irish players and the Notre Dame coaching staff will be available to sign autographs during this time. The event is open to the public and admission is free. The public will be admitted to Notre Dame Stadium through Gates A (northeast corner), B (southeast corner) and C (south end of the Stadium) beginning at 1:15 p.m. Parking for the event will be located in the stadium lot south of Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish will conduct two-a-day practices at their preseason camp site at the intramural fields west of Hammes Bookstore on the Notre Dame campus for much of the next two weeks before holding their first fall scrimmage on Wednesday, August 21 at 4 p.m. Media may attend the first 20 minutes of each practice session, except where noted. The following is a practice schedule and media accessibility for preseason practice:

Saturday, Aug. 10 8:45-11 a.m., 4-5:50 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 11 4-6 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 12 8:45-10:55 a.m., 4-5:55 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13 8:45-10:55 a.m., 4-5:55 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 14 8:45-11 a.m., 4-5:50 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 15 9-11:30 a.m., 4-6 p.m. (Morning session closed to media)
Friday, Aug. 16 9:30-11 a.m., 4-5:55 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 17 8:45-10:45 a.m., 4:30-6 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 18 5-6 p.m. (Closed to media)
Monday, Aug. 19 8:45-11 a.m., 4-5:55 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 20 9-11:30 a.m., 4-6 p.m. (Morning session closed to media)
Wednesday, Aug. 21 4-5:40 p.m. (Scrimmage) (Closed – post-practice interviews only)

All Remaining Sessions Held At Practice Fields East Of Joyce Center
Thursday, Aug. 22 4-5:45 p.m. (Scrimmage) (Closed – post-practice interviews only)
Friday, Aug. 23 9:30-11 a.m., 4-5:35 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 24 9:30-11:10 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 25 No practice
Monday, Aug. 26 4-6:10 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 27 4-6:20 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 28 4-5:45 p.m.

A veteran with 25 seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Tyrone Willingham begins his first season as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. He was introduced as the new Irish mentor on Jan. 1, 2002, following seven seasons as the head coach at Stanford University. He compiled a 44-36-1 (.549) record during his tenure at Stanford, guiding the Cardinal to four bowl games, including the Rose Bowl following the 1999 season. Willingham was a two-time Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year (1995 and 1999), the only Stanford coach to earn that award more than once, and he was a finalist for national coach-of-the-year honors in ’95 and ’99. Most recently in 2001, he piloted the Cardinal to a 9-3 record, a berth in the Seattle Bowl, and final regular-season rankings of ninth in the Bowl Championship Series poll and 11th in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls. All told, Willingham spent 10 years at Stanford, initially serving as running backs coach from 1989-91. Between his stints with the Cardinal, Willingham coached in the professional ranks for three seasons (1992-94) with the Minnesota Vikings, helping his team win a pair of NFC Central Division championships and reach the playoffs all three years. Willingham began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Michigan State, in 1977, before moving to Central Michigan as the defensive secondary coach for two years (1978-79). He returned to MSU from 1980-82, working with the secondary and special teams units, and also served at North Carolina State (1983-85) and Rice (1986-88).

For only the second time in the 114-year history of football at Notre Dame, the Irish will designate captains on a game-by-game basis this season. In 1946, legendary head coach Frank Leahy elected to choose captains for each game – the result was an 8-0-1 record and the fifth of Notre Dame’s 11 national championships.

Once again, Notre Dame will face one of the nation’s toughest schedules, as the Irish will face five teams that are ranked in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll (No. 4 Florida State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 18 Michigan State, No. 19 USC and No. 20 Maryland). In addition, four other Notre Dame opponents are receiving votes in the preseason coaches’ poll – Boston College, Purdue, Stanford and Pittsburgh. All nine foes appearing in the poll went to bowl games last season, highlighted by Maryland’s Orange Bowl berth, Michigan’s spot in the Citrus Bowl and Stanford’s trip to the Seattle Bowl. All of this comes on the heels of the 2001 Irish schedule, which was ranked 22nd most difficult in the nation and featured nine opponents that appeared in bowl games – Notre Dame was the only school in the country to play nine bowl-bound teams last season.

The Notre Dame football team will open the 2002 season against Maryland on Saturday, Aug. 31, at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. EST in South Bend) in Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. ABC Sports will televise the game on a national basis. This will mark the second appearance for Notre Dame in the Kickoff Classic. The defending national champion Irish defeated Virginia, 36-13, in the 1989 game. This year’s contest will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Maryland on the gridiron – and it will mark the debut of new Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham.

Notre Dame and Maryland will be meeting for the first time ever when they square off in Kickoff Classic XX Aug. 31 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Terrapins represent the 132nd different opponent in Irish history, and the first new regular-season adversary on the schedule since Arizona State in 1998 (the Irish played Oregon State for the first time ever in the 2000 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl). During its 113-year history, Notre Dame has faced 61 of the other 115 teams currently competing at the NCAA Division I-A level.

Notre Dame will be playing its season opener in the month of August for only the third time in school history when it faces Maryland Aug. 31 in Kickoff Classic XX at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Irish are 2-0 all-time in the month of August – they defeated Virginia, 36-13, on Aug. 31, 1989, in Kickoff Classic VII, also at the New Jersey Meadowlands, and dispatched Kansas, 48-13, on Aug. 28, 1999, in the State of Indiana Eddie Robinson Classic at Notre Dame Stadium.

Notre Dame has compiled a record of 95-13-5 (.863) historically in its season-opening games, including winning 13 of their last 15 games (only losses coming to Northwestern in 1995 and at Nebraska in 2001). The Aug. 31 game with Maryland marks the second consecutive season Notre Dame has opened away from home. The last time that happened was 18 years ago, when the Irish fell to Purdue 23-21 on Sept. 8, 1984, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, after defeating the Boilermakers, 52-6, in West Lafayette, Ind., a year earlier.

Notre Dame will be playing at Giants Stadium for first time since 1995, when the Irish downed Army, 28-27. It also will be Notre Dame’s 10th visit to the East Rutherford, N.J., facility that is home to the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets, as well as Major League Soccer’s New York/New Jersey MetroStars (capacity 80,242). The Irish have never lost at the Meadowlands, thanks to five wins over Navy (1980, 1982, 1984, 1990 and 1992), three over Army (1977, 1983 and 1995) and one over Virginia (1989). Notre Dame is slated to return to Giants Stadium on Oct. 16, 2004, when it faces Navy in the continuation of the nation’s longest intersectional rivalry.

When Notre Dame faces Maryland in its season opener Aug. 31, head coach Tyrone Willingham will be seeking to continue a long trend of early success among Irish mentors. Dating back to Jesse Harper’s first game as Notre Dame’s head coach in 1913, Irish skippers are 10-3 in their debut contests. Only Elmer Layden in 1934 (7-6 loss to Texas), Hugh Devore in 1963 (14-9 loss to Wisconsin) and Lou Holtz in 1986 (24-23 loss to Michigan) failed to win their first game at Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame Club of New Jersey has organized a pep rally festival for Irish fans prior to Notre Dame’s battle with Maryland in Kickoff Classic XX on Aug. 31 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. The festivities get underway at 1 p.m. EDT at Paddock Park at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Irish-American troubadour Marty McKernan and the group Lenahan will provide the crowd with musical entertainment throughout the afternoon before the pep rally begins at 5:30 p.m. Members of the Notre Dame Alumni Pep Band, as well as cheerleaders and other guest speakers will address fans, before the band leads fans on a march into Giants Stadium at 7 p.m., prior to the 8 p.m. kickoff. Following the game, a Midnight Mass will be held under the stars at Racetrack Park.

Tickets for the event are $25 per person if ordered by Aug. 15, and $30 per person at the gate on game day, and prices include an all-you-can-eat buffet meal. Children 16-and-under will be admitted free. For more information on this event, or to purchase tickets, contact Larry Keary or Craig Lombardi with the Notre Dame Club of New Jersey at (201) 934-8844 or (973) 263-7224.

Former Notre Dame HB Aubrey Lewis, who passed away on Dec. 10, 2001, will be honored at halftime of Kickoff Classic XX on Aug. 31 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.. Lewis, a native of Montclair, N.J., was a three-year monogram winner for the Irish from 1955-57, leading the team in punt return average (9.2 yards per return) and interceptions (three for 39 yards) in 1956. In his later years, Lewis served as a Trustee on the Board of the Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey from 1992-2002, and was one of the original members of the Board. He was appointed Chairman of the Board of the Hall of Fame by Governor Christine Todd Whitman on March 31, 1998, a post he held until his passing last winter. The Hall of Fame was organized as a non-profit corporation of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to recognize persons, teams and sporting events that have made significant and lasting contributions to the Garden State’s sports history.

Senior Jeff Faine was tabbed the fifth-best center in the country by Lindy’s and The Sporting News, while senior Gerome Sapp was rated the fifth-best strong safety in the land by The Sporting News. Senior cornerback Shane Walton was ranked 12th in the nation by The Sporting News, while senior Nicholas Setta was placed fifth among kickers by Lindy’s and 13th by The Sporting News. Senior Courtney Watson was rated 17th among the nation’s middle linebackers by The Sporting News, while senior Tom Lopienski was charted 18th among fullbacks by the same publication.

Senior center Jeff Faine was a first-team preseason All-America selection by Street & Smith’s and a second-team All-America choice by Athlon. Faine is seeking to become Notre Dame’s first All-America center since Tim Ruddy in 1993.

Street & Smith’s cited six Irish players as preseason honorable mention All-America selections. Senior Jordan Black was listed among offensive linemen, senior Shane Walton and junior Vontez Duff among defensive backs, senior Courtney Watson among linebackers, senior Joey Hildbold among punters and senior Nicholas Setta among kickers.

Senior center Jeff Faine has been named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. In addition, for the second consecutive season, Faine has been named to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. The Lombardi Award is given annually to the nation’s top lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.

Senior kicker Nicholas Setta has been named to the Lou Groza Award watch list. The Groza Award is given annually to the nation’s top placekicker by the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sports Commission.

Street & Smith’s tapped senior center Jeff Faine for a spot on its Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. In addition, senior kicker Nicholas Setta earned a place on the publication’s Lou Groza Award watch list.

Demand for tickets to two of Notre Dame’s six home games in 2002 ranks among the top five in the history of Notre Dame Stadium. The Notre Dame ticket office received 55,482 ticket requests for the Nov. 2 game vs. Boston College, making it the third-highest requested Irish home game in history. In addition, the Sept. 14 Notre Dame-Michigan game garnered 50,883 requests, placing it fourth on the all-time list. That falls in line with the Wolverines’ last visit to Notre Dame Stadium, which generated 47,233 requests, the eighth-highest total ever.
The Notre Dame Stadium record of 59,368 ticket requests was set last season when the Irish took on West Virginia on Oct. 13. Demand for that game was based on parents of current Notre Dame students being guaranteed four tickets for that contest – plus contributing alumni having the opportunity to apply for four tickets instead of the usual two, based on its designation as an alumni family game.
The Irish have posted 161 consecutive sellouts at Notre Dame Stadium and the 209 in their last 210 home games. Here are the top 10 games in terms of alumni ticket demand at Notre Dame Stadium:
1. West Virginia 2001 59,368
2. USC 1997 57,048
3. Boston College 2002 55,482
4. Michigan 2002 50,883
5. Michigan State 2001 48,404
6. Nebraska 2000 47,865
7. Michigan State 1997 47,681
8. Michigan 1998 47,233
9. USC 2001 47,127
10. USC 1999 46,658

Heading into the 2002 season, Notre Dame has played in front of capacity crowds in 137 of the previous 160 games. Last year, not only were 10 of the games designated sellouts (only Stanford was not), eight of Notre Dame’s 11 games came in front of stadium-record crowds. The Irish played before 78,118 fans at Nebraska, welcomed Notre Dame Stadium-record crowds of 80,795 for the Michigan State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, USC, Tennessee and Navy games, and took the field before 87,206 fans at Texas A&M, setting a Kyle Field, Big XII Conference and state of Texas record in the process.

With all 11 of Notre Dame’s 2001 games shown on television, the Irish have been on one of four major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS or ESPN) in 111 straight games. That’s a streak that includes nine full seasons (1993-2001), and it will continue into the first three games of 2002, all of which are slated to be televised as well. The last time the Irish didn’t appear on one of those four networks was Oct. 31, 1992, when Notre Dame downed Navy, 38-7, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That game was only shown locally in the South Bend area on WNDU-TV. Here’s a breakdown of the networks on which the Irish have played during this impressive streak:

1992 4 3 1 — —
1993 12 7 4 — 1
1994 12 7 5 — —
1995 12 6 4 1 1
1996 11 6 2 2 1
1997 13 6 3 2 2
1998 12 7 3 2 —
1999 12 7 3 1 1
2000 12 6 3 3 —
2001 11 6 4 — 1
Totals 111 61 32 11 7

It’s a rite of spring at Notre Dame, a game that marks the end of spring practice. The 73rd annual Blue-Gold Game took place on April 27, 2002, with the Gold defeating the Blue, 3-0, in rainy conditions before 17,025 fans at Notre Dame Stadium. Senior kicker Nicholas Setta booted a 37-yard field goal midway through the third quarter to provide the only points of the contest, which was played in 12-minute quarters with a running clock. Sophomore TB Ryan Grant was named the Offensive Player of the Game after rushing seven times for 45 yards for the Blue squad. Senior SS Gerome Sapp was selected the Defensive Player of the Game after registering five solo tackles and an interception for the Gold side. Other standout performers included senior WR Arnaz Battle, who caught five passes for 73 yards, and senior NG Cedric Hilliard, who collected five solo tackles.

Notre Dame mentor Tyrone Willingham has been named a head coach for the 78th East-West Shrine Game, to be played Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003, at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco.
Willingham will pilot the East squad, while Washington State skipper Mike Price will lead the West team. Both men previously served as assistant coaches at the Shrine Game — Willingham worked with the West squad in 1998, while Price was a West assistant in 1996. The Shrine Game showcases the talents of many of the nation’s top college senior players, while raising funds for thousands of children who receive medical care, at no cost, from the 22 Shriners’ Hospitals for Children throughout North America. In the recently-completed NFL draft, 33 players from the 2002 Shrine Game were selected, including the third overall pick, Joey Harrington of Oregon.

Former Notre Dame tight end Dave Casper – who starred for 11 seasons in the National Football League with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1974-80, 1984), Houston Oilers (1980-83) and Minnesota Vikings (1983) – became the ninth Irish player to be inducted into the National Professional Football Hall of Fame, as a member of the class of 2002. He is the third former Notre Dame player in the last three years to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Curly Lambeau, who lettered for the Irish in 1918, was a charter member of the Hall in 1963 as a founder, player and coach for the Green Bay Packers from 1919-49.
The other seven former Notre Dame players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame include: 1964 inductee George Trafton (C, Chicago Bears 1920-22), 1968 inductee Wayne Millner (E, Boston and Washington Redskins, 1936-41, 1945), 1975 inductee George Connor (T/LB, Chicago, 1948-55), 1986 inductee Paul Hornung (QB, Green Bay 1957-62, 1964-66), 1988 inductee Alan Page (DT, Minnesota 1967-78, Chicago 1978-81), 2000 inductee Joe Montana (QB, San Francisco 1979-92, Kansas City 1993-94) and 2001 inductee Nick Buoniconti (LB, Boston Patriots 1962-68, Miami 1969-74, 1976).
The 2002 induction ceremonies were held in Canton on Aug. 3, with the event moved from the steps of the Hall to adjacent Fawcett Stadium, where a stadium-record crowd of 17,700 looked on. Casper was presented into the Hall by his former coach with the Raiders, John Madden. Others inducted into the 2002 Hall of Fame class were George Allen (posthumous), Dan Hampton, Jim Kelly and John Stallworth.

Former Notre Dame All-American and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was named the winner of the 2002 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in recognition of his playing excellence and off-the-field community service. It marked the second consecutive year a former Notre Dame player won the award, following Jim Flanigan in 2001. Previous winners from Notre Dame are Joe Theismann (1982) and Dave Duerson (1987).

Six former Irish players were selected in the 2002 NFL entry draft, while five other players signed free agent contracts. Anthony Weaver (second round, Baltimore Ravens) was the first Notre Dame player chosen. Rocky Boiman (fourth round, Tennessee Titans) was next, followed by John Owens (fifth round, Detroit Lions), Tyreo Harrison (sixth round, Philadelphia Eagles), Javin Hunter (sixth round, Baltimore Ravens) and David Givens (seventh round, New England Patriots). Tony Fisher (Green Bay Packers), Grant Irons (Buffalo Bills), Ron Israel (Washington Redskins), Jason Murray (Cincinnati Bengals) and Kurt Vollers (Indianapolis Colts) all signed free agent deals.

The Notre Dame football squad had two of its most successful semesters in the classroom in the history of the program, based on final grades from the 2001 fall semester and the 2002 spring semester. In the fall of 2001, the Irish team finished with its second-highest combined grade-point average on record (2.685) since statistics were kept beginning in 1992. A total of 12 players earned Dean’s List recognition and 38 players posted a “B” average or higher last fall. Then, in the spring of 2002, the Irish topped that mark with a record-setting 2.911 combined team GPA, with 13 players making the Dean’s List and another 47 averaging a “B” or better.

This season marks the ninth edition of the Notre Dame Football Preview Magazine – an official publication by the University of Notre Dame athletic department. The 1994, ’95, ’96, ’97 and ’98 and 2000 editions were voted best in the nation in the special publications competition sponsored by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The preview magazine, published by Host Communications, numbers nearly 100 pages, including game action shots of returning Irish players and coaches, position-by-position breakdowns and a feature on new head coach Tyrone Willingham. It’s a collectors item perfect for autographs – with an emphasis on outstanding color photography unavailable in any other publication. The yearbook is priced at $8 (plus $4 for postage and handling) and can be ordered by calling 1-800-313-4678 or by writing to: Notre Dame Programs, 904 N. Broadway, Lexington, KY 40505.

The final NCAA statistical rankings for Notre Dame in 2001 (top 50 for team ranks):

Team Rankings Notre Dame
Rushing Offense 30th at 188.18
Rushing Defense 39th at 132.27
Passing Defense 10th at 172.64
Pass Efficiency Defense 38th at 113.66
Total Defense 14th at 304.91
Scoring Defense 22nd at 19.55
Net Punting 39th at 36.40
Punt Returns 49th at 10.07
Kickoff Returns 13th at 24.28
Turnover Margin 36th at 0.27 (+3 overall)

Individual Rankings Notre Dame
Punting Joey Hildbold (35th at 42.23)
Field Goals Nicholas Setta (17th at 1.36)
Punt Returns Julius Jones (39th at 10.67)
All-Purpose Runners Julius Jones (32nd at 124.73)