Nov. 12, 2015

Saturday marks Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.

It’s the final appearance on the Irish home field for 28 members of the 2015 football squad.

For Notre Dame team captains, all-stars and Indianapolis products Sheldon Day and Nick Martin, it’s cause for celebration.

For another Indianapolis product, Irish senior safety John Turner, the emotions and feelings of the day are likely to represent something completely different.

Turner will be the first Irish player introduced Saturday, and he’ll take the field to meet his father Troy, younger brother William and younger sister Lauren.

On another day, he would have been sharing hugs with his mother Stephanie as well. Except that John, Troy, William and Lauren buried their mother and wife Monday in Indianapolis after she died Nov. 2 due to complications from breast cancer.

One of Stephanie’s final yet triumphant days was documented by Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel, who spent a recent Saturday afternoon with members of the Turner family as they watched Lauren compete for Brebeuf High School in the Indiana Class 2A girls soccer state championship game.

On the same day in which Notre Dame’s football team was playing 21st-ranked Temple in Philadelphia, John had come home to Indianapolis to be with his mother in what appeared to be her final days after her health took a serious turn for the worse.

Stephanie waged a five-year battle with cancer, but the cancer apparently was about to win the war-or at least that’s what doctors had said. They didn’t give Stephanie long to live, and that’s why Irish coach Brian Kelly told John Turner not worry about football and that he should come home to be with his mother, now under hospice care.

Stephanie, who last saw the Irish play football in late September against Georgia Tech, had other ideas.

Lauren was the goaltender for Brebeuf-and Stephanie was convinced she would find a way to see her daughter win a state title.

So, somehow-and to nearly everyone’s amazement-Stephanie found her way to Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis. She and family members sat together in a suite.

As Brebeuf faced off against Penn for the championship, Stephanie sat in a wheelchair, covered in a blanket. She could barely speak, but she wouldn’t miss this for the world. She was covered head to toe in Brebeuf gear–because that’s what mothers do.

It doesn’t start well for Brebeuf. Penn notches a goal in the opening minutes, and the score remains at 1-0 into the second half. Finally, Brebeuf ties the contest about midway through the period. There’s a celebration in the Turner suite. Then, Brebeuf takes the lead with another goal with about six minutes remaining-and there are more smiles and hugs and high-fives among the Turners. And the Braves hold on to win 2-1 and they are state champions.

Lauren knows exactly where her mother is. Moments after the final gun Lauren heads for the suite where her mother has been watching-and she’s followed by every other member of the team.

Within seconds everyone present is hugging and crying and nowhere near keeping it together.

By then, it should have been time to head home. But there was a trophy to be presented.

“I have to be there,” Stephanie told Doyel.

So the Turners pushed her wheelchair down near the field, and Stephanie had an up-close-and-personal view from under her blanket as the players received their championship medals.

After the Brebeuf team received its championship trophy, Lauren took it over and set it on her mother’s lap.

Stephanie Turner had accomplished what she set out to do. Early on Monday afternoon the cancer overtook her one last time.

There are bound to be tears-mostly of joy–Saturday for various members of the Notre Dame football team as they are introduced prior to the 2015 home finale against Wake Forest. For most, it has been a long and winding journey, both on and off the football field.

For John Turner, his dad Troy and the other Turner family members here today, we can only imagine their range of emotions.

Two weeks ago Stephanie Turner somehow found a way to get out of bed and summon enough strength to watch her daughter triumph in one of her finest moments. She didn’t quite have enough of that strength left to make it to see her older son Saturday at Notre Dame.

Often in the athletic world we find ourselves caught up in a flurry of touchdown passes and tackles for losses. We forget that there’s another world we never see-with its share of personal moments, some of them ordinary, some uplifting, some tough to handle.

That’s the world in which John Turner has lived over these four years at Notre Dame-with his mother in some stage of a fight for her life throughout that period. Stephanie won’t be here in May to see her son receive his marketing degree.

So, as Day, Martin and Turner and the rest of the Notre Dame seniors are introduced to the crowd Saturday, appreciate all the challenges they have confronted during their various journeys.

And maybe stop by the Grotto and light a candle for Stephanie Turner.


— Notre Dame’s 2015 season represents the first in which the Irish have gained at least 400 yards total offense in each of their first nine games. The highest-gaining total yardage Irish seasons in history came in 1968 (final average of 504.4 yards per game) and 1970 (510.5 yards per game), but neither of those years featured that milestone:

n 1968-The Irish gained only 363 yards in the fourth game of the season versus Northwestern.

n 1970-The Irish gained only 277 yards in the ninth game of the season versus LSU.

— Here’s what happened the previous two times an Irish football team started 8-1 by winning its first four games, losing its fifth, then winning its sixth, seventh and eighth:

Year Final Record Final AP Ranking
1916 8-1
1972 8-3 14th (Orange Bowl)

Here’s how 11 other Notre Dame teams finished that started 8-1 (no matter when the defeat occurred). Seven of these teams played in bowl games (three wins) and five finished in the Associated Press top 10:

Year Final Record Final AP Ranking
1908 8-1
1921 10-1
1954 9-1 4th
1955 8-2 9th
1974 10-2 6th (Orange Bowl champion)
1977 11-1 1st (Cotton Bowl champion)
1987 8-4 17th (Cotton Bowl)
1990 9-3 6th (Orange Bowl)
1991 10-3 13th (Sugar Bowl champion)
1998 9-3 22nd (Gator Bowl)
2006 10-3 17th (Sugar Bowl)

— The nine teams Notre Dame has played so far in 2015 stand a combined 47-33. The eight Irish wins have come over teams that are a combined 38-33, including 8-1 Temple and 7-1 Navy, plus USC and Pitt (both 6-3). The three teams remaining on the Irish slate are a combined 14-14, including 8-1 Stanford.

This week’s NCAA toughest schedule numbers (no games versus non-FBS teams are included) show Notre Dame’s cumulative schedule ranking 31st (52-39 for .571), its past schedule 19th (41-25 for .621) and its future schedule 80th (11-14 for .440).

Notre Dame’s last five games have been against teams that are a combined 36-8: Clemson 9-0, Navy 7-1, USC 6-3, Temple 8-1 and Pitt 6-3. By comparison, Maryland is the team the NCAA says has played the toughest schedule to date, with the last five Terp foes going a combined 40-7 (Michigan 7-2, Ohio State 9-0, Penn State 7-3, Iowa 9-0, Wisconsin 8-2).

— Twenty-eight senior Irish football players will be introduced prior to kickoff of Notre Dame-Wake Forest: Conor Hanratty, Travis Allen, Nick Ossello, Cam Bryan, Hunter Smith, Pat Mazza, Eamon McOsker, Josh Anderson, Connor Cavalaris, Mark Harrell, John Turner, Scott Daly, Avery Sebastian, Nicky Baratti, Jarron Jones, Romeo Okwara, KeiVarae Russell, Elijah Shumate, Chase Hounshell, Jarrett Grace, Amir Carlisle, Chris Brown, Ronnie Stanley, C.J. Prosise, Matthias Farley, Joe Schmidt, Sheldon Day and Nick Martin.

— Here are other introductions slated for the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game:

* Presenting the national colors will be the student government leaders from the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College — Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas, the student body president and vice president at Notre Dame; Kaitlyn Baker and Maddie Kohler from Saint Mary’s; and Patrick O’Connor and Evelyn Gonzalez from Holy Cross.

* The Presidential Team Irish Award goes to London Global Gateway.

* Senior student managers, student trainers, student football staff and cheerleaders who will be introduced are: managers Andrew Vista, Emily Morgan and Matthew Schade; athletic trainers Anthony Acuna, Mary Grace Gallagher, Claire McCarthy, Katherine McIntyre, Adam Rainey, Michelle Summers and Amber Thomas; video assistant Ned D’Arcy; Irish Ambassadors Kelsey Amarosa, Keenan Bailey, Ali Bow, Zach Grant, Christine Juan, Riley Koval, Allison Lukomski, Olivia Mitchell, Anthony Segreto, Jasmine Sharp, Jasmine Smith, Jourdhyn William and Kent Zier; and cheerleaders Ali Arguelles, Rachael Biscocho, Carson Bogatto, Dennis Coulter, leprechaun John Doran, Teri Dye, Mike Favia, Bobby Fischer, Matt Kirian, Julia Lee, captain Ryan Lopez, Olivia Mitchell, Nikki Murgas, Patrick Walsh and captain Lizz Weir.

* The Notre Dame faculty recognition goes to Alan Seabaugh, professor of electrical engineering, director of the SRC-NRI Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery (MIND) and associate director of the Notre Dame Center for Nano Science and Technology.

— The Notre Dame-Pittsburgh football game drew a 2.5 final rating on ABC Sports Saturday.

— The Notre Dame-Temple game in prime time on ABC Sports drew the highest rating ever in the Philadelphia market for a college football game at 17.6 (and it finished with a 3.6 final national rating). Next were 12.4 for Ohio State/Michigan in 2006, 10.3 for Penn State/Ohio State in 2008, 8.4 for Notre Dame/USC in 2006 and 8.3 for Penn State/Ohio State in 2008. For comparison, Penn State/Ohio State in prime time earlier in 2015 did a 5.7, and Penn State/Ohio State (a double overtime game) in prime time in 2014 did a 5.5.

— The Notre Dame-Wake Forest football game will mark the final time the current press box atop the west side of Notre Dame Stadium is utilized. The current press box will be removed a few weeks after the end of the 2015 season, and a new version will be in place on the east side of the stadium for the 2016 season.

— Wake Forest will have a 50-member pep band at the football game Saturday, but it will not perform on the field pregame or at halftime.

— Florida Citrus Sports will be represented at the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game, as will NFL scouts from teams from Houston, Oakland, St. Louis and Buffalo.

— Fans headed to any of four University of Notre Dame home athletic events Friday night are encouraged to utilize particular parking lots recommended for the various events.

Here are the four Irish athletic events slated for Friday (Nov. 13):

* 5:45 p.m. EST–Notre Dame-Wake Forest pep rally in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse (north dome)

* 7 p.m. EST-Notre Dame first-round NCAA women’s soccer game vs. Oakland (Alumni Stadium)

* 7:35 p.m. EST-Notre Dame hockey game vs. Northeastern (Compton Family Ice Arena)

* 7:30 p.m. EST-Notre Dame men’s basketball regular-season opener vs. St. Francis (Purcell Pavilion)

Fans attending one or more of these events are urged to park in these designated lots:

  • Pep rally: Wellness Center, Library and Bulla Lots (all three lots are six-to-eight-minute walks from the Joyce Center)
  • Women’s soccer and men’s basketball: Stadium, North and Mideast Lots
  • Hockey: Compton, Band and Innovation Park Lots, as well as the Eddy Street Garage (Innovation Park and the Eddy Street Garage are 10-minute walks from Compton)

Shuttle buses will run south continuously from the Bulla Lot beginning at 4:30 p.m. EST-with stops at the northeast corner of the Library Lot, Gate 8 of Purcell Pavilion, the northeast corner of Compton Family Ice Arena and the Innovation Park Lot.

Parking in all Notre Dame lots is free. Parking at the Eddy Street Garage is free for the first two hours, $2 for two to three hours, $4 for three to four hours and $6 for four to five hours, $8 for five to eight hours and $10 for eight to 24 hours.

Due to the multiple events, fans are urged to allow for extra travel time in order to arrive at venues on time.

— Former Notre Dame men’s basketball standout Matt Carroll returned to campus to speak at the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s fall letter jacket ceremony Tuesday night at Club Naimoli atop Purcell Pavilion. At the ceremony 115 student-athletes and student managers received monograms, representing the Irish sports of baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s fencing, football (managers only), men’s and women’s golf, hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, rowing, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s track and field.

Here are a few of Carroll’s remarks:

* He kidded that his five-year-old daughter gives him a hard time about his minimal gray hair: “Am I getting that old?” asked Carroll, now the community ambassador for the NBA Charlotte Hornets (he also does both radio and television work on Hornet games).

* Both of Carroll’s parents attended Penn State and his father played football for the Nittany Lions. So, when it came time for Matt to make a college choice, Notre Dame was an option . . . “But you better get a scholarship,” said his mother.

* On college life, “In pro sports, you do your job and go home. Hold on to the camaraderie you have with your teammates. Not long from now you’ll want those things back.”

* On the confidence his sister had after he went undrafted by the NBA in 2003, “She said it was time for me to buy a laptop and find a real job.”

* Carroll noted that at different times in his NBA journey he was cut by the New York Knicks the day before one season began, released by Portland the day before his contract would have been guaranteed and cut by Golden State after the final preseason practice.

* He recalled how his prep work began at Notre Dame, including “late nights shooting in the Pit when most people were sleeping.”

* Carroll kidded about all the old NBA gear he still has from the list of teams for whom he played, yet it’s when he wears something with an ND on it that someone invariably says “Go Irish” to him.

* To the student-athletes, he offered, “Everybody in this room is a role model. I understood it better when I had children of my own and saw the look in their eyes when they met one of you.”

— Ed Sullivan, captain of the 1957 Notre Dame football team that ended Oklahoma’s record 47-game win streak, died Thursday morning in South Bend. Originally from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Sullivan earned two monograms while playing both center and tackle for the Irish from 1955-57.

— The Irish men’s soccer team knocked off the top-ranked team in the country and the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Wednesday night with a 1-0 semifinal win at Wake Forest. It marked Notre Dame first men’s soccer win over a number-one-rated opponent since a 2007 overtime season-opening win over UCLA. The Irish now play host to seventh-seeded Syracuse at 1 p.m. Sunday at Alumni Stadium in the ACC title game.

John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.

Heisler produces a weekly football commentary piece for titled “Sunday Brunch,” along with a Thursday football preview piece. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series. Here is a selection of other features published recently by Heisler:

— Top 10 Things Learned About the Irish So Far in 2015:

— Brey’s Crew Receives Rings, Prepared to Raise Banner-and Moves On

— Jim McLaughlin: New Irish Volleyball Boss Is All About the Numbers:

— Men’s Soccer Establishes Itself with Exclamation:

— Australia Rugby Visit Turns into Great Sharing of Sports Performance Practices:

— Bud Schmitt Doesn’t Need a Map to Find Notre Dame Stadium:

— Sunday Brunch: Daytime Look at Irish Is Revealing

Remembering Bob Kemp: Notre Dame Lacrosse Family Honors Devoted Father

— Community Service a Record-Setting Event for Irish Athletics in 2014-15: