April 28, 2009

1. Three Notre Dame teams now know their postseason plans:

— The Irish women’s golf squad is headed for the NCAA Central Regional May 7-9 in Columbus, Ohio. Notre Dame is seeded 12th among the 21 teams, with the top eight advancing to the NCAA Finals May 19-22 in Owings Mills, Md. The ’09 BIG EAST runner-up, Notre Dame will be making its fourth NCAA appearance in program history.

— The Irish men’s tennis team (13-12) also is headed to Columbus, Ohio, for a first-round match May 8 against Michigan (13-14). Winner of that match plays May 9 against the winner of #3 national seed Ohio State (31-1) vs. Xavier (17-7). Notre Dame made the bracket in the 17-32 seed range. All 12 of the Irish losses came to teams that made the 64-team NCAA bracket – including national seeds Virginia (#1), Ohio State (#3) and Florida State (#16). Notre Dame now has made the NCAA bracket 18 of the last 19 years. The first-round matchup is a rematch of Note Dame’s 5-2 win over Michigan at Notre Dame back on March 4.

— The Irish women’s tennis team, as the #5 national seed, plays host to first- and second-round matches May 8-9. Notre Dame (24-4) plays host to UIC (15-7) in the first round. The winner of that contest plays the winner of Michigan (17-6) vs. Sacramento State (19-8). UIC is part of the 49-64 seeds. Of the three other teams sent to South Bend, the only one that met the Irish earlier this season is Michigan (a 4-3 Notre Dame win on Feb. 6). Notre Dame is making its 14th straight appearance in the NCAA bracket. If the Irish are fortunate to win two matches on their home courts (and all other national seeds advance), here’s how the Round of 16 would stack up beginning May 15 at Texas A&M:
#1 Northwestern vs. #16 Fresno State
#8 California vs. #9 Georgia Tech
#4 Baylor vs. #13 Stanford
#5 Notre Dame vs. #12 Clemson
#11 UCLA vs. #6 Miami (Fla.)
#14 Arkansas vs. #3 Duke
#10 Tennessee vs. #7 USC
#15 Florida vs. #2 Georgia

2. Check out the Q&A with Irish QB Jimmy Clausen posted today on sportingnews.com. Talking about his freshman season, Clausen said, “I wasn’t completely healthy until the Duke game (Week 11). I probably shouldn’t have been playing the first six games. I probably should have redshirted but my teammates needed me. I was trying to compete the best I could. I don’t ever look at it as a lost year because I learned a lot.”

3. A new book published by BenBella Books titled “The 100 Sporting Events You Must See Live” puts attending a Notre Dame football game #39 on the list. The top five entries are the Masters, World Cup, Super Bowl, Summer Olympics and Army-Navy football. Other college events in front of Notre Dame are North Carolina-Duke basketball in Durham (#10), the BCS title game in New Orleans (#15), Michigan-Ohio State football in Ann Arbor (#17), the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four (#20), Harvard-Yale football at Yale (#23), and the Rose Bowl (#26). The book includes recommendations for lodging, dining and accessing tickets.

4. If you missed it, former Irish two-sport standout Jeff Samardzija jumped back onto the Chicago Cubs roster last Thursday. Samardzija had been 0-0 with the Iowa Cubs (AAA) in three appearances (two starts, 12 total innings) with a 3.75 ERA. Samardzija has made two appearances with Chicago, allowing two runs in two innings thrown. Former Irish star Aaron Heilman is 2-0 with the Cubs with a 0.82 ERA in 11 appearances (11 innings pitched).

5. Notre Dame’s two football players playing baseball this spring are having solid seasons. Golden Tate is hitting .336, while pitcher Eric Maust is 5-2.

April 27, 2009

1. Notre Dame played in front of the largest regular-season crowd in men’s lacrosse history Saturday when the Irish finished off their first-ever unbeaten regular season (13-0) with a come-from-behind 14-8 win at Ohio State in Ohio Stadium. But that was only part of the story. The announced lacrosse attendance of 30,192 was based on the number of fans in the stadium at the beginning of the lacrosse game (11:00 a.m. start). By the end of the lacrosse game there were some 70,000 fans watching. The official attendance for the Ohio State spring football game that followed was 95,722, a national record for spring football game attendance. How crazy was it in Columbus? The Notre Dame bus needed a police escort to reach the stadium prior to the contest.

Kevin Corrigan’s team won the game by rebounding from an early 3-0 deficit, tying the contest at 4-4 at halftime on a Zach Brenneman goal with one second left in the second period. Notre Dame then scored seven straight goals to open the third period, including three in the first four minutes.

This marked the 12th Great Western Lacrosse League regular-season title for the Irish and the eighth time they’ve been unbeaten in the process. That means Notre Dame is the #1 seed in the GWLL Tournament, that begins against #4 seed Quinnipiac at 5:00 p.m. EDT Friday at Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Mich. The #2 and #3 seeds are Ohio State and Air Force (they play at 7:30 p.m.). The championship game is at noon Sunday. The Irish already boast regular-season victories over all three other teams in the event – 10-2 vs. Quinnipiac, 10-4 vs. Air Force and 14-8 vs. Ohio State. Notre Dame’s Friday night matchup is a rematch of last year’s GWLL semifinal, which Notre Dame won 10-6.

This is the second and last GWLL Tournament for Notre Dame, with the Irish moving to BIG EAST Conference competition starting in 2010. The 2009 NCAA bracket is announced at 9:00 p.m. EDT Sunday, with the Irish hoping to play host to a first-round game as they did a year ago.

The Irish moved to #2 in this week’s Inside Lacrosse poll behind only 11-2 Syracuse.

2. Meanwhile, the Irish women’s lacrosse team made history over the weekend, not only winning a BIG EAST Championship game for the first time, but also avenging regular-season losses to both Syracuse and Georgetown to win the BIG EAST title.

Note Dame had fallen in the regular season 14-12 to Georgetown and 14-13 to Syracuse – but Tracy Coyne’s squad turned both those tallies around over the weekend. On Friday night, the Irish posted a 16-10 victory over Syracuse, then came back Sunday to knock off host Georgetown 12-10 after taking a 9-2 halftime edge. The Irish had lost to Georgetown 15-14 in triple overtime in the ’08 semifinals at Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame also fell 12-10 to Georgetown in the ’07 semifinals in the first year of the BIG EAST Championship).

Irish goalkeeper Erin Goodman was named the most outstanding player of the championship.

Notre Dame is now 14-4, one win away from the Irish record of 15 from 2006 (the Irish finish the regular season Saturday at Cornell). Coyne’s squad is now guaranteed a first-round NCAA contest on May 10.

3. In addition to David Bruton’s fourth-round NFL draft selection by Denver, free-agent signings Sunday included David Grimes (Denver), Pat Kuntz (Indianapolis), Terrail Lambert (San Francisco), Asaph Schwapp (Dallas) and Mike Turkovich (Dallas). That means over the last three years 25 Irish players have either been drafted or signed free-agent contracts (that number could grow if Justin Brown and Maurice Crum sign in the next few days based on upcoming tryouts with Washington and Tampa Bay, respectively).

Here’s what Pro Football Weekly had to say about Bruton’s selection: “No team has revamped a position group more than the Broncos have done with their secondary this offseason and Notre Dame S David Bruton is the latest addition, joining Alphonso Smith and Darcel McBath in this draft along with a healthy group of free-agent additions. Bruton is a straight-line striker whose most value could come as a gunner on special teams. Having been coached by Charlie Weis likely helped Bruton’s chances.”

4. The Notre Dame women’s rowing team secured its sixth consecutive BIG EAST Championship Saturday in Pennsauken, N.J. – as the Irish won four of six gold medals and finished no worse than second in every one of the grand final races. With gold medal victories by the novice four, second varsity four, varsity four and second varsity eight and runner-up performances by the novice eight and varsity eight, the Irish were able to defeat Syracuse and extend the BIG EAST’s second-longest current active title streak — behind only Notre Dame swimming and diving, which now sits at 13 straight titles after again claiming the crown in February. Notre Dame finished with 112 points, followed by Syracuse (97), Louisville (92), Georgetown (85), Rutgers (62), Connecticut (57), Villanova (46) and West Virginia (38).

5. The BIG EAST crowns over the weekend in rowing and women’s lacrosse gave Notre Dame 99 in the history of Irish membership in the conference (also this year in women’s soccer, women’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, women’s swimming and diving). The Irish have four more opportunities this spring to hit the century mark – May 1-3 in the men’s and women’s track and field championships in Philadelphia, May 14-16 in the softball championships in Louisville, and May 19-23 in the baseball championships in Clearwater, Fla.

6. The Rockne Dinner Friday night in Chicago featured Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick and former coach Lou Holtz as its main speakers – in front of a packed ballroom of nearly 1,000 attendees at the Hilton Chicago.

Holtz’s presence drew more than the usual number of former Notre Dame football players – with those spotted including Tony Rice, Pat Terrell, Chris Zorich, Tim Ryan, Kurt Zachrison, Allen Pinkett, Tom Thayer, Tom Gorman, Tony Furjanic, Pat Eilers, John Scully, Reggie Brooks. Others in attendance included former Irish basketball player Scott Paddock and former WNDU reporter Anne Thompson, who now is an NBC News correspondent for environmental affairs. His wife Beth, his daughter Liz and her husband Mike accompanied Holtz to the event.

Holtz kidded that he now is paid thousands of dollars to speak, yet he spoke to his players every day of the week and they never took a note. He noted that everyone needs “something to do, someone to love, something to believe in and something to hope for.” Holtz suggested that, in life, you’re ether growing or dying – and that “you’re either trying to maintain or you’re trying to get better.” He closed with the poem “The Dash” by former Irish player Alton Maiden.

Swarbrick talked about how Jesse Harper made some “incredible decisions” back in December 1912 that involved Notre Dame playing road football games at Army, Penn State and Texas in a 27-day period to end Harper’s first season as Irish head coach in ’13 (a 7-0 campaign). Swarbrick quoted Rockne as saying “I implemented his plan” – and that led the Notre Dame’s tradition of playing national schedules.

Former Irish All-American John Scully played the piano, while Cathy Richardson sang a powerful rendition of Scully’s hit “Here Come the Irish.” Richardson, who now lives in San Francisco, formerly sang with Jefferson Starship and with Janis Joplin’s original band, Big Brother and the Holding Company.

7. Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis spoke to the Notre Dame Club of El Paso (Texas) Saturday and made the following comments:
— “I’d be very disappointed if we’re not in the BCS discussion this year.”
— “I’m not going to make any brash statements, but we started as many as 11 freshmen two years ago. We’ve gone from a freshman team to a freshman and sophomore team to a junior, sophomore and freshman team with enough sprinkled-in senior guys. The whole chemistry of the team has changed the last couple of years.”
— “We’ve gone from playing a bunch of pups to playing guys who have played a couple of years. There’s a big transformation from being 18 years old to being 22 years old.”
— “Last year, we were close to coming to El Paso, and that would have been a great experience. Instead, we had to go to Honolulu. It was absolutely miserable. We laid a whooping on Hawai’i, looked over the ocean and waited for Santa Claus.”

The benefit at the Camino Real Hotel, which drew 200 people, was on pace to raise more than $6,000 for a scholarship fund before Weis upped the stakes. As he came to the dais, he decided to auction off an autographed football and four tickets from his personal allotment to the Notre Dame-Michigan State game. There were still three bidders left when the price got to $2,500, so Weis changed the prize to three balls and 12 tickets and declared all three bidders winners. Just like that, the club had an additional $7,500.

8. Notre Dame deputy athletics director Missy Conboy received the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s James E. Armstrong Award Friday night at a dinner on the concourse of the Joyce Center. Approximately 275 individuals attended the event, many of them members of the Alumni Senate. Chuck Lennon and Dolly Duffy made the presentation, which included a letter from Conboy’s husband Bill who could not be present. Established in 1978, the Armstrong Award is conferred on an alumnus/alumna who is a current employee of Notre Dame and has rendered distinguished service to the University.

Conboy was appointed deputy director of athletics in October 2004. Previously, she served as senior associate athletics director, as associate athletics director, and as assistant athletic director. She also acted as interim director of athletics from June-July 2008. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Conboy was a four-year member of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, and a senior captain during her time under the Dome. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1982, she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas Law School in 1985. She then became an enforcement representative for the NCAA, and spent two years in that capacity, investigating infraction reports and processing cases for the NCAA’s committee on infractions.

In August 1987, Conboy joined the staff at Notre Dame as assistant athletic director. In her current position as deputy director of athletics, she is responsible for overseeing the legal affairs of the athletics department as well as the master plans for facilities, human resources, and legal contracts. In addition to her role as the liaison to the Athletic Affairs Committee and the Board of Trustees, she is the sport administrator for volleyball, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming, and the men’s and women’s fencing and rowing programs.

Previous winners of the Armstrong Award from Notre Dame athletics included Brian Boulac, Dr. James Moriarty, Joe O’Brien, Roger Valdiserri, Father Jim Riehle, Mike DeCicco, Moose Krause and Dominic Napolitano.

9. Notre Dame Academic All-America nominees in baseball are Cole Johnson, Mick Doyle and Brayden Ashdown – to go with Linda Kohan, Beth Northway, Erin Marrone and Christine Lux in softball.

10. Former Irish lineman Dan Modak, now living in Warren, Ohio, is putting together a reunion this fall (at Sept. 19 Michigan State game) for members of Frank Leahy teams from ’46 through ’49 (none of those four teams ever lost a game). Modak says there are nearly 100 players remaining from those four combined teams.

11. Jimmy Clausen’s two-year combined statistics (’07 and ’08) are shockingly similar to those of Brady Quinn in his first two Notre Dame seasons in ’03 and ’04. Both attempted 685 passes over those two years. Clausen threw for 4,426 yards during that period; Quinn threw for 4,417.

12. Setup is ongoing in the Joyce Center arena for the annual O.S.C.A.R.S. (Outstanding Students Celebrating Achievements & Recognition Showcase) event set for Wednesday. It’s the year-end celebration of Notre Dame athletics.

April 23, 2009

1. Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick and former Irish football coach Lou Holtz are the main speakers Friday night in Chicago at the annual Rockne Dinner sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Chicago.

2. Jack Swarbrick spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week in Pasadena at BCS meetings. The most publicized event during the meeting was the proposal by Mountain West Conference and commissioner Craig Thompson of an eight-team playoff format with selection of teams by a committee. The presidents group will consider any potential changes when it meets in June.

3. Former Notre Dame men’s swimmer Vince Kuna (’99) was ordained this past weekend at the Basilica.

4. Three Notre Dame freshman football players combined efforts to knock off the defending Bookstore Basketball champions Tuesday night, 21-19. Quarterback Dayne Crist, tight end Joseph Fauria (Bookstore MVP) and running back Jonas Gray (he was captain of the team) helped lead their squad, Hallelujah Holla Back, past Main Street Pub.

5. Two individuals with athletic connections – Myles Brand and Cindy Parseghian — will receive honorary degrees at the May 17 University of Notre Dame commencement ceremonies.

Brand, president of the NCAA since 2003, previously served as president of Indiana University from 1994 to 2002 and as president of the University of Oregon from 1989 to 1994. Trained as a philosopher, he has studied the nature of human action with a focus on intention, desire, belief and other cognitive states, as well as deliberation and practical reasons, planning and general goal-directed activity. He earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his doctorate from the University of Rochester. He began his academic career at the University of Pittsburgh and also has served on the faculties and in administrative positions at the University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Arizona and Ohio State University. His service to the academy includes membership on the boards of the Association of American Universities (as chair), American Council on Education and National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. He revealed in January that he is battling pancreatic cancer.

Parseghian, a 1977 Notre Dame graduate, serves on the University’s College of Science Advisory Council. Along with her husband, Michael (a former Notre Dame football player and son of former coach Ara Parseghian), she is co-founder of the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, which they started in 1994 in an effort to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder that struck three of their four children. The foundation is named in honor of the children’s grandfather and Notre Dame’s legendary football coach. Cindy is president of the foundation, which has raised more than $33 million to help scientists identify the gene responsible for the disease and develop therapies to help the children affected.

6. More than 500 runners took part in the “Finish On the 50” run/walk Saturday that benefitted Hannah & Friends.

7. Award-winning Notre Dame alumni clubs at which Irish football coach Charlie Weis is speaking these days include Central Missouri and Milwaukee (April 22), Fort Wayne, Ind., and Detroit (April 23), El Paso (April 25), Stuart, Fla. (May 29), North Florida (June 1) and Hilton Head, S.C. (June 18).

8. Check out the newest print edition of The Sporting News. Charlie Weis and Jimmy Clausen are on the cover – and the accompanying story by Matt Hayes has some interesting angles and details on Clausen’s original commitment and his freshman season injuries, among other things.

9. Lisa Maunu turned in a dominating back-nine to claim the 2009 BIG EAST individual golf crown Tuesday as she finished at minus-one for the tournament after carding a final round minus-two 70. As a team, the Irish shot a final day 294 to finish at plus-23, good for second place honors at the championship. Louisville came in first with a plus-12 mark. In the final round of play in Dade City, Fla., Maunu, was plus-two at the turn and then bogeyed the 10th to go three-over with eight holes to play. But with birdies on the 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 17th she was able to secure the BIG EAST title as she turned in one of only two under-par rounds on the day. She finished three shots ahead of Louisville’s Sara-Maude Juneau, who came in second. Maunu, celebrating her 22nd birthday, gave the Irish back-to-back BIG EAST individual titles, as junior Annie Brophy won the title at last season’s championship. The Irish now wait for NCAA selections to be announced Monday, as they look forward to NCAA Regional play, which begins May 7 in Gainesville, Fla., Tempe, Ariz. and Columbus, Ohio.

10. Notre Dame led the way yesterday among all 119 Football Bowl Subdivision institutions as the NCAA honored Division I sports teams with 2009 public recognition awards for their latest multi-year Academic Progress Rate scores.

These teams posted multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports (those scores ranged from 976 to 1,000). These awards are based on the most recent APR numbers that represent the combination of scores from the 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years.

Notre Dame had 14 of its programs honored for the multi-year achievement -men’s baseball, men’s basketball, men’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s ice hockey, men’s soccer, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, women’s fencing, women’s rowing, women’s soccer, women’s softball, women’s tennis and women’s volleyball. Eleven Irish programs were honored each of the last two years, in both 2007 and 2008.

No other former Division I football-playing institution had more programs honored this year than the 14 by Notre Dame. Next in line were Duke (12); the U.S. Naval Academy, Boston College and Stanford (11 each); Rice (seven); Michigan and North Carolina (six each); followed by Northwestern, Penn State, Virginia and Wake Forest (five each).

11. Author Jim Dent (The Junction Boys, Twelve Mighty Orphans) has written the story of Notre Dame’s 1964 football season, titled Resurrection: The Miracle Season That Saved Notre Dame, to be published this fall. He’s on campus helping videotape interviews for an accompanying DVD.

April 18-20, 2009

1. Blue-Gold football leftovers: Robert Hughes added a second-half two-yard TD run (following an Armando Allen 26-yard “explosive play” run) to make it 48-26 for the offense. Brandon Walker added a 48-yard field goal and the offense won 68-33. The attendance figure ranks fifth all-time for Blue-Gold games – with four of the top six crowds in history coming in the last six years. MVP awards went to RB Armando Allen (70 rushing yards) and CB Robert Blanton. The Irish rushed for 247 yards – 93 by Hughes, 89 by Jonas Gray and 70 by Allen. Kyle Rudolph led the receivers with four catches for 27 yards. Jimmy Clausen finished eight of 17 for 70, Dayne Crist was four of 10 for 40 and Nate Montana was two for two for 51. Freshman-to-be Zeke Motta led all tacklers with seven – four players had six. After the on-field MVP presentations, the Irish players headed over to the corner where the Notre Dame band had played to sing the alma mater. Other on-field sightings later in the day – former Irish standouts Grant Irons and Ryan Grant. Most of Charlie Weis’ postgame comments dealt with the emphasis on the running game this spring.

2. Jillian Byers set a Notre Dame lacrosse single-game scoring record with 12 points on seven goals and five assists in the 20-5 Irish women’s lacrosse home win over Connecticut on Saturday.

3. Participants for the State of the Black Student-Athlete Town Hall Meeting Saturday morning at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center included athletics director Jack Swarbrick, vice president and associate provost Don Pope-Davis (he’s chairman of the Faculty Board on Athletics), assistant men’s basketball coach Anthony Solomon, assistant athletics director for student welfare and development Charmelle Green, admissions counselor and African-American recruitment coordinator Christina Brooks, and sophomore men’s basketball forward Tyrone Nash. More than 100 attended the session.

4. The Saturday night dinner on the Joyce Center concourse highlighting the 60th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion of Black Student-Athletes proved to be one of the more powerful events seen at Notre Dame. From the scene-setting welcoming remarks from event chairman Marvin Lett, to taped remarks from former president Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., to poignant and insightful reflections from former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown and former University Trustee (and one-time cheerleader, now married to former Irish running back Jim Stone) Phyllis Stone, to comments from Paul Thompson (son of Frazier Thompson, first African-American monogram winner at Notre Dame) to the commemorative video, it was an evening to reflect and remember. A number of current student-athletes also attended, including Morrice Richardson, who provided the benediction. The Monogram Club presented a special award to Dave Duerson, who was the first African-American president of that organization.

5. Talk about a daily double. Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate played Saturday afternoon in the Blue-Gold Game (catching one pass for 14 yards, returning one punt for seven, and rushing the ball one time) and then headed over to Eck Baseball Stadium where he had three hits (one RBI, one run scored) in the 8-6 Irish win in the first game of a doubleheader against West Virginia. Then Eric Maust, who punted in the Blue-Gold contest (five kicks for 37.8 average), threw a nine-inning shutout (five hits allowed) in the second game of the twin bill, winning 3-0. Tate had a double and a run scored in that contest. Go to the front page of UND.com and click on the video tab to find a feature on Tate’s hectic day.

6. The fourth-ranked and top-seeded Irish women’s tennis team defeated second-seed DePaul 4-2 Sunday, earning its second straight BIG EAST Championship. The victory gave Notre Dame its ninth overall league title and a berth in the NCAA Championships for the 14th consecutive year. The Irish (24-4) have won their last six matches and handed the Blue Demons two of their five losses this season. They also snapped DePaul’s five-match win streak.

Meanwhile, the #28 Irish men’s tennis team ended up fourth in the BIG EAST Championships. The Irish are now 13-12 overall, but among those dozen defeats are losses to teams ranked #3 (Ohio State), #5 (Virginia), #11 (Florida State), #12 (Tulsa), #14 (Pepperdine), #22 (Boise State), #23 (Louisville/BIG EAST), #26 (Louisville again), #29 (Wisconsin), #39 (Wisconsin again), and #41 (South Florida/BIG EAST).

7. The Irish men’s lacrosse squad completed its own daily double, traveling to defeat Quinnipiac 10-2 on Saturday, then returning home Sunday to dispatch St. John’s 12-2 by scoring the last 11 goals of the game. The Irish are now 12-0, remain the lone unbeaten Division I team in the country and boast the longest home win streak in the country at 25. Notre Dame closes its regular season at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at Ohio State, in a game that will be played at Ohio Stadium just prior to the Buckeyes’ spring football game.

8. The Notre Dame-Northwestern baseball game last week at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago proved to be the first out-of-town event streamed live on UND.com.

9. More BIG EAST Championships this week – the men’s and women’s golf events in Dade City, Fla., continue through Tuesday. Georgetown plays host to the women’s lacrosse championships, with the Irish facing #8 Syracuse at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Friday in the semifinals (the title game is at 1:00 p.m. Sunday). The rowing championships are Saturday in Cherry Hill, N.J.

10. Wednesday of next week (April 29) is the final day of classes at Notre Dame. That’s the same night as the OSCARS – Notre Dame’s season-ending athletic celebration, at which all the most noteworthy awards will be presented.

11. Notre Dame’s athletic web site, UND.com, will be undergoing a redesign, with launch expected in July.

12. Lou Holtz and his staff Saturday night announced 50 members of the Irish alumni team that will head to Japan in to take on a Japanese squad in the Notre Dame Japan Bowl July 25. Among the most familiar names are OL Jeremy Akers, RB Autry Denson, QB Tony Rice, OL Tim Ruddy, DB Jeff Burris and DB Shane Walton, all of whom earned some sort of All-America honors. Former Irish captains on the list include RB Lee Becton, Rice, Ruddy, Burris, DL Melvin Dansby, LB Mike Goolsby, LB Bobbie Howard, LB Brandon Hoyte and Walton.

April 18, 2009

2:30 p.m.

Robert Hughes added a second-half two-yard TD run (following an Armando Allen 26-yard “explosive play” run) to make it 48-26 for the offense. Brandon Walker added a 48-yard field goal and the offense won 68-33.

In a highlight from elsewhere on campus, Jillian Byers set a Notre Dame lacrosse single-game scoring record with 12 points on seven goals and five assists in the 20-5 Irish women’s lacrosse home win over Connecticut.

Back to football, the attendance figure ranks fifth all-time for Blue-Gold games – with four of the top six crowds in history coming in the last six years.

MVP awards went to RB Armando Allen (70 rushing yards) and CB Robert Blanton.

The Irish rushed for 247 yards – 93 by Hughes, 89 by Gray and 70 by Allen. Kyle Rudolph led the receivers with four catches for 27 yards. Jimmy Clausen finished eight of 17 for 70, Dayne Crist was four of 10 for 40 and Nate Montana was two for two for 51. Freshman-to-be Zeke Motta led all tacklers with seven – four players had six.

3:15 p.m.

After the on-field MVP presentations, the Irish players headed over to the corner where the Notre Dame band played to sing the alma mater.

Other on-field sightings later in the day – former Irish standouts Grant Irons and Ryan Grant.

Most of Charlie Weis’ postgame comments dealt with the emphasis on the running game this spring.

April 18, 2009

1:30 p.m.

Before the start of the game, Charlie Weis presented framed photo montages to honorary coaches Justin Tuck, Bertrand Berry and Reggie Brooks (Jeff Faine was unable to be present).

Others spotted on the field pregame included current Irish basketball coach Mike Brey, former Irish coach Digger Phelps, former star quarterbacks Joe Montana (he later got to watch his son Nate produce an “explosive play” on a 34-yard pass completion to tight end Mike Ragone) and Terry Hanratty, all-star running back Jerome Heavens, and standout safety Pat Terrell. Athletics director Jack Swarbrick spent the early portion of the contest watching the action from field level with University president Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., — while also greeting a number of former Irish players in attendance.

Early action in the game produced touchdowns on a 48-yard interception return by Robert Blanton and a seven-yard run by Robert Hughes. Both TDs produced indescribable end zone celebrations by the respective units. A late first-half TD came on a five-yard run by Jonas Gray.

The attendance was 31,104. The entire available lower bowl seating area was packed – and the south end zone upper bowl area had to be opened, something that had not been anticipated. The weather was picture perfect.

The first half ended with the offense on top 33-26 based on the scoring system that awards points for various sorts of plays.

Golden Tate and Eric Maust are taking part in the Blue-Gold football game, then will head off to Frank Eck Stadium for the Irish baseball doubleheader later this afternoon against West Virginia.

12:15 p.m.

The Gold team defeated the Blue squad 20-14 in the flag football game, thanks to a length-of-the-field interception return with about three minutes left by A’Jani Sanders (he was the unanimous MVP). Former Joe Theismann backup Pat Steenberge wore a red jersey and quarterbacked much of the afternoon. Others who participated included Melvin Dansby, Dean Lytle, Lee Becton, Ray Zellars. Brian Boulac served as coach on the field, with Tony Yelovich in the press box assisting while also working on the Japan Bowl roster selections. Tim Brown viewed the flag game from the field in a Heisman Trophy t-shirt.

Among those in attendance this weekend are Notre Dame ISP Radio Network play by play veteran Don Criqui, NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer, former Irish coach Gerry Faust – and a handful of executives from Japan who are involved with the Japan Bowl in various capacities. Media in attendance include a video crew from ESPN.

Because construction made the Notre Dame Stadium locker area off-limits, the Irish players actually dressed at the Gug and traveled by bus to be dropped off at the north end of the Stadium.

April 18, 2009

9:00 a.m.

There was a star-studded cast Saturday morning on the Notre Dame football practice fields, as some 70 former Irish players in t-shirts and shorts went through tryouts and workouts for the July 25 Notre Dame Japan Bowl. Among the familiar names? Tony Rice, Bobbie Howard, Brandon Hoyte, Mike Goolsby, Jeff Burris, Ray Zellars, Tim Ruddy, Jeremy Akers, Shane Walton, Bobby Brown. The oldest candidate? Kris Haines, a senior on the ’78 team. Notre Dame film/television/theatre professor Ted Mandell was all over the field, filming a documentary on the Japan Bowl experience. There were a variety of media in attendance, some following Lou Holtz (and his staff) as he went from position group to position group. All the players ran 40-yard dashes to determine speed and conditioning. The players wore shirts with the Japan Bowl logo on the front and the adidas logo on the back. After the practice session, Holtz kidded that most of the announcements coming were about food. He suggested that about 52 players would be selected today and that there would be some alternates “in case I shoot somebody!” Holtz’s last comments to the squad were: “This will be one of the great experiences you will have. That’s my commitment to you.” At his press conference, Holtz said, “We’ll ask all these guys to play five plays as hard as they can, then we’ll give `em mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until we can get `em back in there.”

9:15 a.m.

The north dome of the Joyce Center was packed this morning for brunch with the Irish, with a full-blown autograph session following. More than 1,100 fans attended the event, with the Notre Dame players scattered one per table.

April 17, 2009

1. As Irish basketball All-American Luke Harangody confirmed Thursday that he officially will test the NBA waters, the biggest difference between past cases involving Irish players is that NCAA rules now permit players more latitude to travel to work out for NBA teams with those teams able to pay expenses. Harangody, sitting with coach Mike Brey in the Joyce Center C-14 Hammes Auditorium, was non-committal as to what would make him jump to the pros, saying it was way too early in the process. Brey suggested that what he is hearing right now is mostly late first round, early second round for Harangody.

There are 10 days left of classes at Notre Dame, then finals from May 4-8 – so most of Harangody’s workouts and trips are likely to take place after that. Brey suggested that it may well take until very close to the June 15 deadline to accumulate all the necessary information to make a good decision. With the rest of the Irish players able to engage in offseason workouts, Brey suggested that half the time he thinks about the what the 2009-10 team would look like with Harangody, and the other half he thinks about what it would be if Harangody goes pro.

2. Highlight of the Notre Dame Monogram Club annual dinner Thursday night at the Joyce Center was presentation of the Moose Krause Award to longtime Irish fencing coach Mike DeCicco – with former fencing All-American Mike Sullivan making the introduction. Most of DeCicco’s acceptance remarks dealt with Krause – in particular a 1950s-era NCAA meeting that DeCicco attended along with Krause at which DeCicco came to appreciate the sphere of influence Krause and Notre Dame held with other schools and their football programs.

Honorary monograms went to longtime sports information administrative assistant Susan McGonigal (presented by John Heisler and Roger Valdiserri) and to ’65 Notre Dame graduate Jim Rakers, a former Irish football player whose injuries prevented him from ever earning a letter at that time.

Former Irish All-America football center John Scully, who wrote “Here Come the Irish,” played that number on the piano while his daughter Britt (a current Notre Dame student) sang a tender rendition.

Irish football coach Charlie Weis was the final speaker of the evening, and he talked about the energy level of the current team being “the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here. They feel this is their time. As a coach, I hope they’re right.”

Speaking to DeCicco’s fencing background, Weis talked about his assignment decades back at Morristown (N.J.) High School as head fencing coach (as well as head basketball coach for a period).

Weis also talked about how on one of the Chicago-to-Honolulu flights to recruit Manti Te’o, he ended up sitting next to Hawaii governor Linda Lingle. The governor invited Weis to stop by her office on a later visit (which he did) and not long after Te’o announced for Notre Dame she e-mailed Weis to tell him kiddingly she “was taking credit for all of the Notre Dame recruiting success.”

New Monogram Club directors (through 2012) include ’98 grad Pat Garrity (the former basketball All-American and 10-year NBA veteran begins the MBA program at Duke this fall), ’95 grad Ryan Leahy (former Irish football captain), ’78 grad Ken MacAfee (former All-American now is a Massachusetts oral surgeon), ’98 grad Kate Markgraf (former soccer All-American has spent 10 years on the U.S. National team, including Olympic gold medals in ’04 and ’08) and ’94 grad Terri Vitale (former Irish tennis standout).

The annual meeting and dinner also marked the end of ’82 grad Marc Kelly’s two-year term as president and began a two-year presidency run for ’78 grad Joe Restic, a former Irish safety and punter.

3. On Friday morning, a plaque was dedicated and blessed at Gate D of Notre Dame Stadium honoring the contributions of the late Easter Heathman. Speakers included Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick, Nils Rockne (Knute’s grandson) and Greg Cloyd (a Notre Dame alumnus who was the driving force behind the plaque). The plaque was created by Jerry McKenna, who also did the Moose Krause, Lou Holtz, Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian sculptures. Rockne described Heathman as the “unofficial/official caretaker of the Rockne crash site” near Bazaar, Kan. Cloyd (from Hudson, Ohio) suggested that Heathman spent some 60 years driving visitors to the site in his truck thousands of times until he was nearly 90 years old.

Heathman was an honorary monogram recipient several years ago. Among the attendees was Heathman’s daughter, Sue Ann Brown, and several other family members. Former College Football Hall of Fame executive director Bernie Kish, who now lives in Lawrence, Kan., had expected to attend but was a late scratch.

4. If you attend the Blue-Gold game Saturday, don’t be surprised to see most of the north end of Notre Dame Stadium taped off due to construction. The tape begins about the 10-yard line in the northwest corner and extends to the 20-yard line on the northeast side (essentially from section 30 through section 8). There are six sections in which the bleacher seats have been removed to reinforce the concrete.

5. A large crowd outside the Hammes Bookstore watched Friday afternoon as the 2009 version (20th anniversary) of “The Shirt” was unveiled. With former head coach Lou Holtz speaking, the Notre Dame band and glee club performing and Mike Collins serving as master of ceremonies, there was a carnival-like atmosphere in the air under sunny, blue skies and 70-degree temperatures. The ’09 shirt is light gold, with the words “Rise And Strike” on the front (from the song “Hike, Notre Dame”), and the words “Defend Our Honor” on the back along with an artistic football scene. Also seen in the crowd were white t-shirts with blue lettering (“20th Anniversary”) promoting the unveiling.

6.The Notre Dame Monogram Club on Friday evening on the arena floor of the Joyce Center hosted more than 600 people for a dinner that included the current Irish football team and staff and former Irish football players and their families. Ruth’s Chris Steak House catered the event. Irish coach Charlie Weis introduced former coach Lou Holtz (in town to handle workouts for the Japan Bowl squad Saturday) and when the reaction wasn’t as loud as he expected he asked for another and got the crowd on its feet hooting for Holtz. Weis introduced honorary captains Reggie Brooks, Justin Tuck and Bertrand Berry (Jeff Faine was a late scratch due to a family illness). After Brooks suggested the offense would put up 50 points and “let’s take it to the house,” Tuck responded by asking “You know I’m coaching, right?” After Weis provided a complimentary introduction of Tuck, the current New York Giant responded by saying, “You’re too kind. You must think if you keep doing that, that if we play the Patriots I’ll take it easy on your boy (Tom) Brady.” Talking about spring practice, Weis said, “We hit full speed every day almost every period.” In introducing his new staff members, Weis said of defensive line coach Randy Hart, “He’s 61 years old and he’s wearing everybody out. He’s like the Energizer Bunny.”

7. Several hundred people attended a reception in the Notre Dame Stadium press box Friday night beginning the weekend celebration of the Success of Black Student-Athletes at Notre Dame. Former Irish track star Errol Williams introduced former Notre Dame president Rev. Edward “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., who offered some brief observations. He noted coming from a diverse high school basketball background in Washington D.C., to Notre Dame where in his sport (basketball) the lone black player on the Irish squad during his time was Larry Sheffield.

8. Football testing for potential Notre Dame Japan Bowl participants continues for two hours early Saturday morning. Several individuals who can’t be here the rest of the weekend worked out on Friday, with running backs Autry Denson and Lee Becton and kicker Scott Cengia earning notice.

9. The 11th annual Notre Dame Strength and Conditioning Clinic is on Saturday at the Loftus Center.

10. Patience at the plate pays its dividends, and the Notre Dame softball team has certainly shown its patience this season — through the first 15 games of the season the Irish hit just six home runs — currently, the team total stands at 48 — the mark is already third-best in a single season (49 in 2003 and 54 in 2002) — the Irish have sent at least two home runs out of the park in 14 games while ranking ninth nationally with 1.21 home runs/game — the team has posted streaks of 11- and seven-straight games with at least one home run — two games have seen four home runs leave the park — 20 of those home runs have been belted against BIG EAST teams, the best of any conference program — Louisville is second with 15.

Christine Lux has been a key contributor to the flurry of Irish home runs this season — Lux set a single-season record with 15 home runs in 2008 and has 13 home runs in 2009 — after not hitting a home run until the 15th game of the season, she now ranks eighth nationally with 0.34 home runs/game — furthermore, her 42 RBI are good for a 1.05 RBI/game average which is 22nd-best in the country (she had 42 RBI in 2008) — Lux has 31 career home runs which puts her in a three-way tie for second all-time — Jarrah Myers is the program leader with 36 round-trippers.

April 15, 2009

1. The College of Science and the Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases at Notre Dame are co-sponsoring a 5K run April 29 on campus with the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. Register at science.nd.edu/ara. “Running for a New Ara”
5K campus run (or one-mile walk)
Fighting for a Cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease
6 p.m., April 29, 2009 (the last day of classes!)
Start: north side of Notre Dame Stadium, between stadium and library quad
$10 Registration fee includes a free t-shirt
Register by April 21st, 2009
Prizes include Notre Dame memorabilia autographed by former head coach Ara Parseghian.

The College of Science has a long tradition of collaboration with the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. Notre Dame faculty and students conducting research on Niemann-Pick type C disease are funded by the foundation to elucidate the mechanisms of the disease and search for a cure. Niemann-Pick type C is a genetic disease that usually appears in early childhood and is inevitably fatal. Currently, there is no treatment or cure.

2. The Sept. 26 Notre Dame football game at Purdue will kick off at 8:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised by either ESPN or ABC. That’s the only road kickoff announced so far.

3. Both Notre Dame lacrosse teams boast national player-of the-year candidates. Notre Dame senior captain Jillian Byers is one of 25 women’s nominees for the 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy that is presented annually to the top male and female collegiate lacrosse players in the nation. For Byers, this is the second time that she has reached the level of being a nominee as she and teammate Caitlin McKinney were among the 2008 nominees. She is the first Notre Dame player to be nominated twice. Scott Rodgers, a senior goalie on the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team, has been selected as one of 21 men’s nominees for the 2009 Tewaaraton Trophy. Rodgers, a team captain, is a key reason why the third-ranked Fighting Irish are off to the best start in program history with a 10-0 record. He ranks second nationally with a .649 save percentage in addition to being fourth with a 6.91 goals-against average.

4. Notre Dame’s two basketball banquets the last two nights displayed two distinctively different senior classes. The women had no senior players on the roster (so the lone senior speeches Tuesday came from the two student managers), with much of the conversation devoted to hopes for next winter. Meanwhile, the men’s event Wednesday involved farewell comments from a quartet of Irish veterans – Kyle McAlarney, Zach Hillesland, Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller. The men’s banquet included a presentation by the Leprechaun Legion, Notre Dame’s student spirit group, of a check for more than $2,800 to Mike Brey for his Coaches vs. Cancer program. Brey introduced the seniors by talking about the first time he saw each of them play during the recruiting process. McAlarney cited Brey as the reason he returned to Notre Dame after his sophomore season suspension – “I didn’t want to play for anyone else.” Mike’s wife Tish orchestrated the videos for the banquet, with many of the award intros set to Bruce Springsteen tunes. The videos for the four seniors were set to particular songs, including Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” for McAlarney. The season highlights featured Springsteen number “Working On A Dream.” Brey challenged the returnees, mentioning that the record four-year win total for a Notre Dame graduating class is 92, and the current juniors are at 70 (this year’s seniors finished with 84).

5. It’s a busy week for the Irish teams in golf and tennis, with BIG EAST Championships on the line for men’s and women’s teams in both sports this weekend.

April 14, 2009

1. Check out the area on the second-floor wall next to the stairway to Gate 1 of the Joyce Center. Installed today was a six-panel display entitled, “History of Black Student-Athletes . . . A Legacy of Excellence.” It’s a decade-by-decade look at the achievements of African-American Notre Dame athletes over the years, compared with other cultural events in the life of our country and the campus. It’s up in time for this weekend’s celebration of the Success of Black Student-Athletes at Notre Dame.

2. Want some exercise Saturday morning before the Blue-Gold game? Take part in “Finish on the 50,” a 5K run and one-mile fun walk in support of Hannah & Friends and sponsored by Notre Dame’s RecSports Department. All participants receive a t-shirt, and there are awards in each category. Cost is $15 in advance, $20 on Saturday. You can register at recsports.nd.edu — or call 574-631-6100 with questions. The race begins at 8:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on the north side of Note Dame Stadium, with check-in beginning at 7:00 a.m. The finish line is through the tunnel and inside Notre Dame Stadium.

3. Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey helped raised $250,263 in 2007-08 for the American Cancer Society, based on his Coaches vs. Cancer gala, golf event and other activities. That amount ranked among the top five totals for schools or groups of schools working actively in the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

4. At 9:00 a.m. Saturday in Stepan Center a group of 70 Notre Dame senior mechanical engineering students working under the direction of Prof. Michael Stanisic will be competing in the first “Fighting iBots” robotic football competition. Funded by Notre Dame alums Bill Hederman, Skip Horvath, and Vince Cushing, these students have designed, built, and will operate robots in a competitive football game. This event is serving as the students’ capstone project. The event is named the “Brian Hederman Memorial Tournament” after Bill Hederman’s late son, also a former Notre Dame student.

5. The Blue-Gold football format on Saturday will feature the offense against the defense – with a scoring system that provides a variety of scoring opportunities for both sides. There will be two 30-minute halves with a running clock – except for the final two minutes of each half, which will feature normal timing rules.

6. The fourth-ranked Irish women’s tennis team will be the No. 1 seed at the BIG EAST Tournament, hosted by the University of South Florida beginning Thursday in Tampa, Fla. This is the 13th time in the past 14 years that Notre Dame has earned the top seed. With the top four seeds earning first-round byes, the Irish will take the courts Friday at 9 a.m. against the winner of the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh match. The Irish are 3-0 against BIG EAST teams this season, notching 5-2 victories over South Florida and DePaul and a 7-0 win over Marquette. Notre Dame has been very successful in the BIG EAST Tournament since joining the conference in 1996. The Irish have advanced to all 13 title matches, bringing home eight conference championships during that span. Notre Dame won last year’s tournament with a 4-1 victory over host team South Florida in the final match.

7. Notre Dame athletic administrators are headed to Plymouth, Ind., tomorrow to spend a half-day with Purdue administrators, sharing ideas and philosophies.

April 13, 2009

1. The only unbeaten Division I men’s lacrosse team in the country? It just happens to be #3 Notre Dame, now 10-0 after a 10-8 win Saturday at Denver. That, combined with #1 Virginia’s first loss of the season (15-10 Saturday at #8 Duke), left the Irish as the only team left on the list of unblemished records. The Irish obviously also now own the longest winning streak in the nation, and Notre Dame’s 24-game home win streak also is the longest in the nation. Notre Dame’s current 10-game overall win streak is the longest in Notre Dame history (one better than nine game strings in ’92 and ’01). The victory at Denver guaranteed the fourth straight year the Irish have won at least 10 games.

With three regular-season games remaining, two potential games in the Great Western Lacrosse League postseason tournament – and potential NCAA play, the Irish have a chance to threaten the all-time Notre Dame record for wins in a season (14-2 in ’01 and 14-3 in ’08). Notre Dame’s final home game of the season is at 3:00 p.m. Sunday against St. John’s at Alumni Field. The Irish, who play at Quinnipiac on Saturday, are playing on back-to-back days for the first time since 1998 (wins on consecutive days vs. Denver and Air Force that year).

Maybe no one has been more impressive for the Irish this spring than first-year goaltender Scottie Rodgers. Elected an Irish captain despite never having started a game before, the senior’s statistics are remarkably similar to those compiled a year ago when Joey Kemp was on his way to earning first-team All-America honors. Kemp a year ago ranked third nationally in save percentage at .635 and fourth in goals-against average at 6.69. Meanwhile, Rodgers currently stands second in save percentage at .649 and fourth in goals-against average at 6.79. Rodgers spent his first three seasons as Kemp’s backup and did not play in any games a year ago in ’08.

2. Notre Dame stands 21st in the latest winter sports updates of the NACDA Cup all-sports standings. The final winter numbers (due April 23) will add Notre Dame’s NCAA hockey appearance to its total.

3. The Irish women’s tennis team finished its regular season at 21-4 (heading into BIG EAST Championships this weekend in Tampa). That’s already four straight 20-win seasons for Jay Louderback, after 27-2 in ’06, 28-4 in ’07 and 22-9 in ’08. That matches one other previous run of four straight 20-win campaigns for Louderback and the Irish – 20-10 in ’98, 23-7 in ’99 and again in ’00, and 25-5 in ’01.

Two of the four losses have been at the hands of #1 Northwestern – and the other two losses were against #4 Baylor (the Irish also beat Baylor earlier in the season) and #7 Georgia Tech. Two of the losses (Georgia Tech and Apr. 4 vs. Northwestern) were by 4-3 scores. Meanwhile, of the 21 victories, eight came against top 25 teams – with wins over #14 Arkansas, #18 Michigan, #5 Stanford, #4 Baylor, #13 North Carolina, #23 Wake Forest, #3 Duke and #12 Tennessee.

The Irish have been led by the doubles pairing of Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft who are 31-3.

4. Notre Dame senior goaltender Jordan Pearce signed a two-year NHL entry-level contract with the Detroit Red Wings Friday, with the deal beginning with the 2009-10 season. Pearce is currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League (AHL) on an amateur tryout. He made his first pro start Saturday in the Griffins’ regular-season finale in Peoria, Ill., making 33 saves in a 5-2 loss to the Peoria Rivermen. Two of the goals he surrendered were to former Notre Dame player Yan Stastny who is a member of the St. Louis Blues organization.

Meanwhile, two members of the Notre Dame hockey team were honored Friday at the NCAA Frozen Four as the American Hockey Coaches Association and Reebok announced college hockey’s All-America teams. Selected to the West All-American first team was sophomore defenseman Ian Cole, while teammate, Erik Condra was a second-team selection. Cole becomes the first Notre Dame player selected first-team All-America since David Brown in 2006-07. Cole and Condra being selected marks the third time in the program’s 41-year history the Irish have had two players selected All-American. The duo join Eddie Bumbacco and Bill Nyrop who were selected following the 1972-73 season — and Jack Brownschidle and Brian Walsh who were selected following the 1976-77 season.

How much parity is there in college hockey? Consider that the Miami team that played for the NCAA title on Saturday (and held a two-goal lead with a minute to play, only to lose in OT) didn’t even make it to Detroit for the four-team CCHA Championships (Miami lost a second-round home series to Northern Michigan). Miami handed Notre Dame two of its five-regular season losses in 2008-09, defeating the Irish two straight nights at the Joyce Center by scores of 2-0 and 3-2 way back on Oct. 24-25 (Notre Dame’s only other home loss was a 2-1 contest Jan. 30 vs. Michigan).

Notre Dame finished fourth in the final USA Today poll that came out today following the NCAA Championships. The Irish were second in the final USCHO poll that came out after the CCHA Championships.

5. There’s no shortage of Notre Dame athletic banquets and dinners this week:

  • Tomorrow: Irish women’s basketball banquet at the Joyce Center
  • Wednesday: Irish men’s basketball banquet at the Joyce Center
  • Thursday: Notre Dame Monogram Club annual dinner at the Joyce Center
  • Friday: Barbeque dinner hosted by the Irish football program for all former Notre Dame players and their families, joining the current Irish squad
  • Saturday: Dinner highlighting Success of Black Student-Athletes at Notre Dame celebration at the Joyce Center
  • Sunday: Brunch for Black-Student-Athlete celebration in the Main Building rotunda

6. Check out former Irish all-star football lineman (and current New York Giant star) Justin Tuck in latest SoBe Life Water commercial (he’s joined by the lizards, along with fellow NFLers Matt Light and Ray Lewis).

7. Look in the April 13 issue of Sports Illustrated for a feature on Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer. Moyer’s not officially a Notre Damer – it just seems that way since wife Karen is an `87 Notre Dame grad and Jamie’s father-in-law is former longtime Irish basketball coach Digger Phelps. The Moyers lived in Granger for a number of years and then later moved to the south part of South Bend to a home they called “Southpaw Farms.”

8. Don’t forget the Notre Dame-Northwestern baseball game Wednesday at the home of the Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. First pitch is at 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 p.m. CDT in Chicago). The game will be streamed live on www.und.com.

9. Former Irish fencing coach Mike DeCicco will be honored Friday night at the South Dining Hall as part of a Notre Dame fencing reunion.

10. Irish basketball guard Kyle McAlarney participated over the weekend at the Portsmouth Invitational in Portsmouth, Va.. The P.I.T. invites 64 college seniors from across the nation to participate in a four-day, 12-game tournament in front of representatives from every NBA team. McAlarney’s team (Sales System Ltd.) lost in the championship game 72-69 and finished 2-1. McAlarney’s best game came in the second contest of the tournament when he played 31 minutes, scored 15 points (6-15 from the field, 3-8 from three-point range), dished off four assists and made two steals.

11. Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas, who died this afternoon, was a fixture on the Notre Dame athletic scene in the early 1980s. The longtime voice of the Philadelphia Phillies, Kalas did play by play on delayed telecasts of Notre Dame football games from 1981-84 for Metrosports – and also did live play by play on a selection of syndicated Irish men’s basketball games during that same period for Metrosports. Kalas also did the voiceover work on Notre Dame football highlight videos for many years, most recently for Notre Dame football banquet videos in 2005 and ’06. Born in Naperville, Ill., and an Iowa graduate, Kalas was 73.

12. Notre Dame women’s swimming coach Brian Barnes and his wife Alyssa yesterday welcomed a new baby girl, Caroline Jane Barnes, into their family.

April 9, 2009

The Dish is already thinking about its end-of-the-year Irish athletic awards – and you should be, too. In the very near future, the Dish will begin presenting its nominations for 2008-09 Notre Dame Team of the Year, Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Game of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

The fall and winter seasons are already concluded -and it’ll be a few more weeks before we can provide appropriately full resumes for the Irish spring sport programs. In the meantime, consider some of the options that might make the list:

Team of the Year – Start with NCAA runners-up squads in fencing (10 All-Americans) and women’s soccer. How about the recording-setting hockey season? Men’s lacrosse is off to its best start ever and women’s tennis isn’t far behind.

Player of the Year – There surely are plenty of worthy candidates, but it may be tough to top the exploits of Kerri Hanks, the Irish women’s soccer player who won every award there was to win, from national player of the year (the Hermann Trophy) on down.

Coach of the Year – We’re all being spoiled by Randy Waldrum (women’s soccer), Jeff Jackson (hockey) and Janusz Bednarski (fencing). They’ve already proven in their Irish tenures the ability to consistently compete for national titles. Jackson hasn’t won one yet (at Notre Dame anyway, after two at Lake Superior State), but his last three hockey seasons combined are unprecedented. Stay tuned to see how Kevin Corrigan (men’s lacrosse) and Jay Louderback (women’s tennis) finish up – they’ve both got a chance for special years.

Game of the Year – Does it get any more dramatic than the down-to-the final relay BIG EAST Championship win in men’s swimming? Maybe you prefer the 33-point men’s basketball win over Rick Pitino and the Louisville team that a month later became the #1 overall seed in the NCAA bracket? Or do you vote for the dominating Hawai’i Bowl football win that broke all kinds of Irish postseason records and ended a 15-year bowl victory draught?

Rookie of the Year – Maybe freshman Gerek Meinhardt, an individual NCAA fencing runner-up. Could include the football duo of wide receiver Michael Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph. How about men’s soccer defender Aaron Maund or tennis player Casey Watt?

So, start putting together your own lists to compare. The Dish will be in the process of compiling and presenting the official nominations and we’ll keep you posted as the voting progresses. If any of your favorites aren’t mentioned above, don’t worry. There’s research yet to be done . . . . And the winners are? The Dish promises you all the details in due time.

Enjoy the Easter weekend – and we’ll be back with more on Monday.

April 8, 2009

1. In the 4-1 Toronto Maple Leaf victory over the New Jersey Devils last night, Notre Dame’s Christian Hanson scored his first NHL goal (against all-star goalie Martin Brodeur). The Hanson goal last night was part of a three-goal first period for Toronto. The goal came at 15:56 of the first period and gave Toronto a 3-0 lead. Hanson was named the third star of the game. As a kid growing up in Glens Falls, N.Y., he was a goalie and Brodeur was his favorite player (Brodeur also is the all-time winningest goaltender in NHL history). Former Irish baseball player Matt Nussbaum (Notre Dame 2000/2004 JD), now associate general counsel of the NHLPA and living in Toronto, earlier this week had dinner with Hanson along with NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly.

Check out the video on Hanson’s goal and look to the video options on the right for a Hanson postgame interview from last night:

Hanson finishes his two-week ’09 NHL stint with Maple Leaf home games tonight vs. Buffalo and Saturday vs. Ottawa before returning to campus.

2. Former Notre Dame men’s basketball assistant coach and current Siena head coach Fran McCaffery, whose Saints have won two straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships, has signed a new eight-year contract. McCaffery had two years left on his previous contract. The Saints defeated Ohio State in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament in a #8 seed-#9 seed game before losing to Louisville in the second round. As a #13 seed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, McCaffery’s Siena squad upset Vanderbilt in the first round.

3. Notre Dame’s Faculty Board on Athletics has approved five football players for 2009 eligibility – CB Mike Anello, SAF Kyle McCarthy, SAF Ray Herring, LB Scott Smith and OT Paul Duncan.

4. The USA Bid Committee mailed letters last week to public officials and stadium operators in metropolitan markets across the United States in an initial and important step toward preparing a formal bid to play host to the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022. Notre Dame Stadium is among the 70 stadiums in more than 50 metropolitan markets that are in consideration, ranging in market size from New York City, where the new Meadowlands Stadium will open in 2010 in nearby East Rutherford, N.J., to college town markets such as Lincoln, Neb., Fayetteville, Ark., and Notre Dame.

5. Irish senior cornerback Mike Anello (Orland Park, Ill.) is one of 42 of the nation’s top collegiate defensive players named Tuesday to the 2009 Lott Trophy Watch List. Named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, the Lott Trophy is awarded to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. Now in its sixth year, the Lott Trophy is the only college football award to equally recognize athletic performance and the personal character attributes of the player. Sponsored by the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, the award is given to a player who exhibits the same characteristics Lott embodied during his distinguished career: integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

6. Notre Dame’s second varsity eight crew of coxswain Kelsey Otero (Mequon, Wis.), Megan Keegan (Marietta, Ohio), Mallory Glass (Fernandina Beach, Fla.), Carol Ann Michel (Princeton, N.J.), Erin McConnell (Simsbury, Conn.), Genevive Malone (Dayton, Ohio), Morgan Kelley (Windermere, Fla.), Elli Greybar (Western Springs, Ill.) and Erica Copeland (Marietta, Ga.) was named BIG EAST Crew of the Week after finishing fifth with a time of 7:09.47 in the Grand Final of the JV Collegiate Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy race Sunday at the San Diego Crew Classic. Notre Dame’s appearance in the Grand Final marked the highest finish ever for an Irish second varsity eight crew in that race.

7. Seniors Katie Potts and Kelcy Tefft will be recognized before Saturday’s final Irish home women’s tennis match against Texas A&M. Together, Potts and Tefft form the most successful senior class in Irish women’s tennis history. During their four years here, the Irish are 97-19 with 30 wins over top-25 opponents and an .836 winning percentage. All three marks lead all other Irish senior classes. Potts and Tefft have helped the Irish record a 44-3 mark at home and post three straight top-20 finishes. Notre Dame has also won two BIG EAST Conference Championships and made three consecutive NCAA Championships appearances during that span.

8. Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler will be honored in Indianapolis Saturday by the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association with the Bob Williams Helping Hand Award. Given occasionally by the ISSA, the Helping Hand Award is given to someone who is not a sportswriter or sportscaster, but whose contributions are invaluable to the state’s sports media. It is named for Bob Williams, who was the sports information director of the Indiana High School Athletic Association after a long career in print journalism (he was the long-time high school writer for the Indianapolis Star).

9. The Irish baseball team headed to Cincinnati this afternoon, but Golden Tate and Eric Maust stuck around for the Notre Dame football practice that included a scrimmage session to end the workout. Tate and Maust head to Cincinnati first thing tomorrow morning for the three-game BIG EAST baseball series that begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

10. Does another team in America have a more imposing tight end duo than Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph at 6-6 and 6-7 Joseph Fauria (both with three years of eligibility remaining)?

11. The Irish women’s basketball squad barely missed the final ESPN/USA Today top 25 – finishing 26th in terms of votes (#25 Xavier had 70 points to Notre Dame’s 65). UConn led the final poll, Louisville was second, Pittsburgh #15 and Rutgers #21.

April 7, 2009

1. Two former Notre Dame student-athletes are part of the prestigious NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee that presided over that ’09 event in Detroit. They are Gene Smith, who played football at Notre Dame from 1973-76 and also was an assistant coach from 1977-81 (he’s now AD and associate VP at Ohio State), and former baseball pitcher Mike Bobinski (he played for the Irish in 1976-97 and he’s now AD and associate VP at Xavier). Current Notre Dame SID Bernie Cafarelli is part of the NCAA Final Four Media Relations Committee that handles all activities at the Final Four (she had to skip Detroit with Notre Dame advancing to the NIT semifinals in New York), while Notre Dame assistant SID for women’s basketball Chris Masters remains in St. Louis working at the women’s Final Four.

2. The Irish women’s lacrosse team has moved up to eighth in the IWLCA coaches’ poll and is tied for eighth in the Inside Lacrosse poll with Syracuse. Notre Dame travels to Syracuse this weekend to face the Orange (ninth in the IWLCA poll) in a battle for second in the BIG EAST. The game is at noon EDT and will be broadcast by CBS College Sports.

3. Notre Dame women’s lacrosse’s junior defensive standout Rachel Guerrera has been selected as the BIG EAST Conference defensive player of the week for her play in Notre Dame’s league wins at Cincinnati (16-5) and Louisville (20-8) last weekend. Guerrera and the Irish defense limited the opposition to just 13 goals on the weekend as Notre Dame improved to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in BIG EAST play with the victories. A two-year starter on defense for the Irish, Guerrera picked up nine ground balls in the two games, had two draw controls and caused six turnovers in the two games.

4. Irish women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw received the Carol Eckman Award today in St. Louis from the WBCA (Eckman organized the first women’s basketball championship in 1969). McGraw also was interviewed live on ESPN News at 5:30 p.m. to discuss tonight’s NCAA national championship game between Notre Dame’s fellow BIG EAST members, Connecticut and Louisville. The Irish played both teams very tough this season, losing 76-66 at UConn on Feb. 22 (the closest margin of victory for the Huskies this year, and the only time they have trailed in the second half this season) and 71-66 at home to Louisville on Feb. 11 (a game that was still in doubt inside the final 30 seconds).

5. For the Blue-Gold football game next week, Notre Dame Stadium sections 1-8 and 30-36 will be closed due to construction. There will be no seating in the upper bowl.

6. The University of Notre Dame was selected Friday as the winner of the inaugural Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Pink Zone Challenge. Irish head coach Muffet McGraw accepted the Pink Zone Challenge trophy on behalf of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program during the announcement, which was made as part of the annual WBCA Convention, which is being held in conjunction with the 2009 NCAA Women’s Final Four. Through a variety of activities, as well as the specifically designated “WBCA Pink Zone Game” on Feb. 8 (a 62-59 win over No. 25 DePaul), Notre Dame collected more than $45,000 as part of the Pink Zone initiative during the 2008-09 season. Those funds will be donated nationally to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and locally to the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center Women’s Task Force, which includes the Secret Sisters Society and Young Survivors group. Among the activities the Fighting Irish developed to help raise funds for the Pink Zone Challenge were:
— Collections at each home game during the 2008-09 season
— A basketball clinic in Stevensville, Michigan
— A silent auction at Notre Dame’s designated Pink Zone game vs. DePaul on February 8
— Sales of special pink t-shirts and other merchandise at the Hammes Bookstore and other locations on campus
— Sales of “in memory/honor of” cards through Notre Dame’s Varsity Shop
— Irish 3-Point Challenge (specific donations for every three-pointer the Irish made (total of 120) this year)
— Head coach Muffet McGraw’s donation for every rebound the Irish grabbed during the Feb. 8 Pink Zone game ($430)
— At the Feb. 8 game, each Irish women’s basketball player and student manager donated $15 to the cause ($225)
— Donations from Notre Dame alumnae

7. More than 6,500 tickets already have been sold for the April 18 Blue-Gold game – and area Meijer stores have about 10,000 discounted tickets available. More than 1,100 fans are expected for the Saturday morning brunch/autograph session with the Irish players. Around 50 former players are expected for the 11:30 a.m. flag football game – and another group of former players who are headed to Japan in July to play in the Japan Bowl will have a Saturday morning practice as well. Look for an announcement next week on the exact format for the Blue-Gold contest – based mostly on how current injuries affect personnel. WSBT Radio in South Bend will broadcast the Blue-Gold game.

8. It will be a quiet Easter weekend on the Notre Dame campus in terms of Irish sports. After home softball doubleheaders Wednesday (DePaul) and Thursday (Valparaiso), the lone home weekend event is a women’s tennis match at 10:00 a.m. Saturday against Texas A&M. With no University classes Friday and Monday, all other Irish squads are competing away from home. (Speaking of softball, Notre Dame is 10-2 at home and has won 13 of its last 15 games overall).

April 6, 2009

1. Notre Dame’s track and field teams have two of the top individuals in the country competing as the outdoor season gets into full swing. Mary Saxer currently is ranked #1 in the country in the women’s pole vault, while Patrick Smyth stands #2 in the men’s 10,000 meters.

2. What does it take to handle the logistics of NCAA basketball games? When Notre Dame played host to the women’s first and second rounds over four days a few weeks back, there were 46 people who worked the administrative end of the event beyond the individuals who normally work an Irish women’s basketball game. In this case, the Joyce Center Monogram Room for four days became a combination media interview room, work room and dining/hospitality area.

3. Next week is a hectic one in terms of Notre Dame events. Tuesday (April 14) is the Irish women’s basketball banquet. Wednesday is the men’s basketball banquet. Thursday is the Notre Dame Monogram Club annual dinner at which former Irish fencing coach Mike DeCicco will be honored with the Moose Krause Award. Friday is the barbeque dinner hosted by the Irish football program for all former Notre Dame players and their families. Saturday is the Blue-Gold final spring football game. In addition to the usual Blue-Gold festivities, the Celebration of 60 Years of Success of Black Student-Athletes at Notre Dame will take place that weekend – including a town hall meeting Saturday morning, a dinner Saturday night at the Joyce Center, and a brunch Sunday morning in the Main Building rotunda. In addition, in terms of Notre Dame sports, women’s lacrosse plays host to Connecticut at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, men’s lacrosse plays host to St. John’s at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, baseball plays host to West Virginia at 6:05 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday, and women’s soccer will square off with Iowa at 1:00 p.m. Saturday in a spring exhibition on the soccer practice field located directly south of Alumni Field (behind the right-field wall at Frank Eck Stadium).

4. A plaque honoring the contributions of Easter Heathman will be dedicated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, April 17, at Gate D of Notre Dame Stadium. Heathman was the longtime caretaker of the Knute Rockne plane-crash site in Bazaar, Kan., before his death last year.

5. Former Irish basketball player Tom Timmermans, now Notre Dame’s coordinator of compliance information, kicked off the ’09 Bookstore Basketball event by winning a game of “horse” against former University president (and Irish varsity basketballer) Rev. Edward “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., and finance professor Carl Ackermann.

6. Check out the February/March issue of Faith & Fitness magazine. Notre Dame football/baseball standout Evan Sharpley is featured as one of “2009 Top Bods on Campus.” The magazine suggests Sharpley is the “first Irish player to ever throw multiple touchdown passes and hit multiple home runs in the same academic year.”

April 5, 2009

1. In addition to Luke Harangody’s mention on the Dick Vitale All-America squad on Saturday, here are Harangody’s other All-America honors for 2009 — Associated Press second team, USBWA second team, Sporting News third team, FoxSports.com fourth team, and the 11-member John R. Wooden squad.

2. Notre Dame remains one of only two unbeatens in Division I men’s lacrosse. The other, Virginia, has won three straight one-goal games – 16-15 at Johns Hopkins, 10-9 vs. Maryland in OT and 11-10 vs. North Carolina on Saturday.

3. More good news for the future of women’s basketball at Notre Dame. Incoming freshman Skylar Diggins scored a game-high 24 points (and was named the MVP for the White team) Saturday night in the WBCA All-America Game in St. Louis.

4. With the Chicago Cubs opening their season tomorrow at Houston, they made their final roster moves today, sending former Notre Dame pitching star Jeff Samardzija to Triple-A Iowa. The ’09 Cub roster does, however, include a reliever from Notre Dame in Aaron Heilman. Other Notre Dame products active in the Major Leagues in ’09 are Milwaukee Brewer infielder Craig Counsell (at age 38 the oldest player on the roster) and relief star Brad Lidge with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Minnesota Twins sent infielder Matt Macri to Triple-A Rochester.

5. Notre Dame women’s lacrosse won today at Louisville, 20-8, giving the Irish a sweep of the two newest members of the BIG EAST (the Irish beat Cincinnati, 16-5 on Friday). The Irish are now 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference. The two wins this weekend give the women’s lacrosse team its fourth consecutive double-digit win season for the first time in the program’s history. Since the start of 2006, Tracy Coyne’s teams are 49-19 for a .721 winning percentage.

Jillian Byers, a candidate for the Tewaaraton Trophy (the Heisman of lacrosse) had 10 goals and three assists in the two wins. Her five goals today give her 50 goals in 13 games this season. She is the only player in Notre Dame history to score 50 or more goals in all four seasons playing for the Irish.

6. The Notre Dame hockey program announced its individual awards for the 2008-09 season at its annual awards program this afternoon at the Mendoza College of Business Atrium and Auditorium. . . . For the second consecutive year, goaltender Jordan Pearce was chosen as the Notre Dame Monogram Club’s team Most Valuable Player and the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley’s Rockne Scholar-Athlete Award winner. . . . The Notre Dame Rookie of the Year Award was presented to freshman right wing Billy Maday who was chosen in voting done by his teammates. . . . Junior defenseman Kyle Lawson was selected as the winner of the William Donald Nyrop Defensive Player of the Year award — named after former Irish All-American defenseman Bill Nyrop, who played for the Irish from 1970-74. . . . Senior center Justin White was selected by the coaching staff as the winner of the Charles “Lefty” Smith Coaches Award, an award presented to the unsung hero of the hockey program, a player who is unheralded, has overcome adversity and shows loyalty and commitment to his teammates, Notre Dame hockey and the University of Notre Dame. . . . Notre Dame’s Offensive Player of the Year Award went to senior right wing Erik Condra who led the Irish in scoring for the fourth consecutive season with 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points. . . . The winner of the team’s Most Improved Player Award went to sophomore left wing Calle Ridderwall. . . . The Irish also honored former standout goaltender Bob McNamara and current associate coach Andy Slaggert with their Distinguished Alumni Awards. McNamara was a four-year starter in goal for the Irish between 1979-83. Slaggert has been associated with the Notre Dame hockey program since 1986 when he started as a player with the Irish. . . . Two Honorary Alumni Awards were presented this season with one going to Irish radio voice Mike Lockert and the other to equipment specialist Dave Gilbert. . . . Also, the six members of the hockey class of 2009 — Erik Condra, Christian Hanson, Luke Lucyk, Jordan Pearce, Garrett Regan and Justin White — were honored, with Condra, Pearce and White speaking to the crowd of over 300 in attendance. Hanson (Toronto), Lucyk (Charlotte in the ECHL) and Regan (Las Vegas in the ECHL) are currently playing professionally.

7. The BIG EAST Conference had a chance to go four for four this weekend in advancing teams into national championship games at the men’s and women’s NCAA Final Fours. The men missed both opportunities, with UConn and Villanova both falling. But both BIG EAST reps moved on in St. Louis – so UConn and Louisville will play for the women’s title on Tuesday night (that’s the same venue where the Irish won their title in ’01).

April 4, 2009

1. Irish junior Luke Harangody was one of seven players named to the 2009 Dick Vitale All-America Team. The announcement was made Saturday in an hour-long special televised on ABC. Joining Harangody on the seven-member squad were Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), James Harden (Arizona State), Stephen Curry (Davidson), Jerel McNeal (Marquette), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) and Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut).

2. Friday night in Detroit at the NCAA Final Four provided sightings of a plethora of former Irish assistant basketball coaches – including Danny Nee (now on Rutgers staff), Pete Gillen (former head coach at Xavier, Providence and Virginia), Scott Thompson former head coach at Rice, Wichita State and Cornell, and now senior director of development at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson), Fran McCaffery (now at Siena) and his wife Margaret (a former Irish basketball standout under her maiden name of Nowlin) and Jimmy Baron (head coach at Rhode Island) who was there with his two sons, one (Jimmy) a current senior standout on the URI squad.

3. Two members of the Irish men’s squad will watch their brothers play for the NCAA title on Monday – as Luke Zeller will be in Detroit to watch his freshman brother Tyler and Ben Hansbrough will be cheering on his senior brother Tyler, both of whom play for #1 seed North Carolina.

4. Another Notre Damer with connections in Detroit was Irish director of basketball operations Martin Ingelsby. Martin’s dad Tom, who played for Villanova (senior in 1975-76), drove from Philly with some of his former `Nova teammates to see the current Wildcats play Saturday in the semifinals.

5. Notre Dame men’s lacrosse? Now 9-0 after a 10-4 home win Saturday over Air Force. Best start in history of the program.

6. The Villanova men’s hoops team had a tough time Saturday night with North Carolina – and the Irish baseball team made life just as difficult for `Nova on the diamond on Saturday. The Irish swept a doubleheader 9-3 and 4-0 (the shutout a three-hitter by Brian Dupra, with no walks and six strikeouts) to finish a three-game sweep of the Wildcats.

April 3, 2009

1. Notre Dame’s eight-game softball win streak is the longest since the 2008 season – and the streak comes at a familiar point in the season, as the Irish rattled off eight consecutive wins from March 30-April 9 last year — the last 9+ win streak came during the 2007 campaign when the team posted 10 victories between March 22-April 1.

2. One long-standing Notre Dame softball record may be broken by the end of the 2009 season – the Irish hit 54 home runs in 61 games in 2002 — Notre Dame now has 30 home runs through 29 games this season — of the 2009 total, 25 have come in the last 15 games — Notre Dame has hit home runs in the last 11 contests — seven games have been marked by multiple home runs, with a season-high four coming against Northern Illinois (April 1).

3. Bradley will play host to Notre Dame in men’s soccer in the inaugural Danny Dahlquist (http://www.bradleybraves.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=25970&SPID=1513&DB_OEM_ID=3400&ATCLID=520416) Memorial Game tomorrow. The game is a benefit for Dahlquist, a former Bradley player who died in 2007.

4. Irish women’s basketball associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis is one of 20 semifinalists for the inaugural BasketballScoop Coach of the Year awards, which are being presented to five of the rising stars in the women’s basketball coaching profession. Fan voting will determine the 10 finalists, with the five winners then being chosen by a panel of coaches designated by BasketballScoop. Fans can vote for Tsipis through April 15 by going on-line to www.BasketballScoop.com/wcoy.

5. Notre Dame is one of four finalists for the inaugural Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Pink Zone Challenge trophy, which will be awarded tonight at 9:30 p.m. CDT at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront in St. Louis. The Irish, who are joined by Penn State, Purdue and Tennessee in the award’s “Final Four,” raised more than $45,000 for breast cancer awareness and research as part of the WBCA’s Pink Zone initiative in 2008-09.

6. The first full weekend of play in the inaugural season of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) gets underway tomorrow and Notre Dame will be represented in all three games. On Saturday night (8 p.m. EDT), Saint Louis Athletica (with former Irish greats Kerri Hanks, Amanda Cinalli, Melissa Tancredi and Elise Weber) will play host to the Chicago Red Stars at Ralph Korte Stadium in Edwardsville, Ill. (and word has it spies from The Dish will be on hand for that one). On Sunday, Sky Blue FC (with former Notre Dame standouts Jen Buczkowski, Christie Shaner and Kelly Lindsey, who is now an assistant coach) welcoming the Los Angeles Sol (and former Irish midfielders Shannon Boxx and Brittany Bock) for a 4 p.m. EDT match at TD Bank Park in Bridgewater, N.J. Later that day, FC Gold Pride (and former Irish defender Carrie Dew) will play host to the Boston Breakers (with former Irish All-American Candace Chapman) at 6 p.m. EDT at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — that game will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.

7. The current version of the Notre Dame women’s soccer team will head to Fort Wayne tomorrow to take part in the fourth annual University of Saint Francis Spring Fling tournament at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. The Irish will meet Michigan State at 5 p.m. (EDT) in the final game of the day’s tripleheader, providing a rematch of last year’s NCAA second-round contest at Alumni Field (won by Notre Dame, 1-0, on Rose Augustin’s second-half goal). All proceeds go to Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do, a one-week residential camp for children surviving cancer. The event was originally created by former Saint Francis head coach and current Notre Dame assistant coach Ken Nuber, who came to South Bend last fall after 13 years guiding the Cougars’ program.

8. Former Irish associate athletics director Roger Valdiserri is being inducted into the Mid Mon Valley All Sports Hall of Fame (MMVASHOF) in the Pittsburgh area on June 19.

9. Entering the 2009 season, Irish senior lacrosse goalie Scott Rodgers had only appeared in seven career games while backing up three-time All-American Joey Kemp — after not playing at all last season, Rodgers made his first collegiate start in the 10-9 win over Loyola on Feb. 14 — Rodgers came up with two huge saves in the final minute to preserve the win for the Fighting Irish and collect the first victory of his career — the senior followed that performance up with a career-high 20 saves in a 13-8 win over Penn State on Feb. 22 — that effort earned him a spot on the Inside Lacrosse team of the week — the Long Island native came up big in the 9-7 triumph over #3 North Carolina as he made 16 saves and was named the Great Western Lacrosse League player of the week for his effort — another solid effort was needed in a 9-7 win over Villanova as he made two key saves down the stretch, including one in the final 30 seconds, to keep the Irish perfect on the season — he currently ranks second among all NCAA Division I goalies with a .629 save percentage — he also boasts a 7.14 goals-against average, which ranks sixth nationally.

10. Once again, the Fighting Irish men’s lacrosse defense ranks in the top 10 nationally — Notre Dame currently ranks seventh with a 7.12 goals-against average — the Fighting Irish have held opponents to seven goals or fewer in six straight games — the Irish boasted the nation’s fifth-best scoring defense in 2008 by allowing 7.04 goals per game — in 2007, Notre Dame ranked fourth nationally by surrendering a program-record 6.66 goals per game.

11. Check out these two upcoming Notre Dame specialty baseball games with the Silverhawks and Northwestern (that one at U.S. Cellular Field).

In Battle Of The Bend II, Notre Dame and the South Bend Silverhawks will face off in the annual Silver vs. Gold exhibition game at the Cove on Tuesday. First pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m. The Silver Hawks defeated the Irish last year in the inaugural battle by the score of 5-3. This year’s exhibition game will be a fundraiser with a portion of the proceeds going to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to fight Niemann-Pick Type C.

Tickets to the Notre Dame vs. Northwestern baseball game, hosted by the White Sox and Illinois Sports Facility Authority (ISFA), are $10 lower level reserved seating and are available at whitesox.com and at the U.S. Cellular Field box office. Complimentary parking will be provided in Lot B of U.S. Cellular Field and this year’s game will benefit Chicago White Sox Charities. Chicago White Sox Charities provides annual financial, in-kind and emotional support to hundreds of Chicago-based organizations, including those leading the fight against cancer or dedicated to improving the lives of Chicago’s youth through education and athletics. That event is Wednesday, April 15, at 7:05 p.m. CDT.

12. The Dish, in Detroit for the NCAA Men’s Final Four, spied former Irish linebacker (and Detroit native) Scott Kowalkowski on the street. Kowalkowski (his mother worked for the Lions and his dad Bob played for the Lions) ended up with a 10-year NFL career – mostly as a special-teams standout for the Lions. He now lives and works in the Detroit area. The Dish comes to you today live from Nemo’s, a Detroit institution a few blocks from the old Tiger Stadium that still stands.

13. Once the Dish arrived in Detroit, one of the first thing observed on the side of the highway was a massive billboard promoting the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four (in hockey) at Ford Field in Detroit. An in-the-neighborhood opportunity for the Notre Dame hockey program a year from now.

April 2, 2009

1. Notre Dame men’s basketball star Luke Harangody briefly addressed his basketball future from the formal Madison Square Garden interview room on Tuesday night after the Penn State game – and he and his family and Mike Brey expect to spend the next week or two examining potential NBA options. In the interim, expect Brey to be the spokesman – you’ll hear from Harangody again once a decision has been made.

2. A sneak peak at future schedules – put Friday, Sept. 4, on your calendar. At 7:30 p.m. defending NCAA women’s soccer champion North Carolina will be in South Bend to play ’08 NCAA runner-up Notre Dame as part of the Inn at Saint Mary’s Soccer Classic that weekend. The hope is that the game will be played in the new Irish soccer facility, Alumni Stadium (which is continuing its rapid evolution, as seen in this photo gallery).

3. Check out Notre Dame’s rowing team at the San Diego Crew Classic this weekend at http://www.crewclassic.org/. There is live video streaming of each race online from San Diego. On Saturday the Irish race the varsity 8+ races in Race 9-Jessup Whittier Cup at 8:50 a.m. PDT/11:50 a.m. EDT and the 2nd Varsity 8+ races in Race 15-Jackie Ann Stitt Hungness Trophy at 9:50 a.m. PDT /12:50 p.m. EDT. The Notre Dame boats are white, blades are gold and uniforms are navy blue. Then at 4:00 p.m. EDT Sunday there’s a wrap-up show on ESPNU.

4. In a definite sign that winter sports (basketball and hockey) are over, the Joyce Center arena tonight is playing host to “An Evening With Dr. David Jeremiah” (he’s founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries) – then on Sunday in the fieldhouse (north dome) there’s an all-day auto parts super swap.

5. The Notre Dame basketball coaching staffs, both men’s and women’s, are headed on the road this weekend to their respective Final Fours. The men are in Detroit, the women in St. Louis.

6. Another Notre Dame football update on the Sports Illustrated web site: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/andy_staples/04/01/notre-dame/index.html?eref=T1.

April 1, 2009

1. A delegation of Notre Dame officials, including some athletics representation, traveled to San Antonio yesterday to work on finalizing details for the Notre Dame-Washington State football game there in October. Most of the University staff were concentrating on the weekend events outside of the football game itself.

2. A sidelight to the Christian Hanson story: Since the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t make the NHL playoffs, Hanson’s stint (for now) in Toronto will last about 10 days. He is expected to be in uniform for games Friday at Philadelphia, Saturday in Toronto vs. Montreal, Tuesday at New Jersey, then home games Wednesday (Apr. 8) vs. Buffalo and Saturday (Apr. 11) vs. Ottawa. Then he’ll return to campus and graduate in May with a degree in finance. Since Hanson was never drafted, he essentially was a free agent – and he says he had offers from eight different teams.

3. Check out this Irish football update: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/columns/story?columnist=maisel_ivan&id=4032629

4. Notre Dame’s men’s lacrosse team on Saturday plays host to a 3-5 Air Force team at Alumni Field – and a victory would move the Irish to 9-0 and give them the best start in the history of Notre Dame lacrosse. Kevin Corrigan’s team currently is the only other unbeaten Division I team beyond 11-0 and top-rated Virginia.

5. Good sign for Irish women’s hoops — incoming freshman Skylar Diggins was named the co-Most Valuable Player at tonight’s McDonald’s High School All-America Game in Miami after scoring a game-high 18 points and grabbing five rebounds for the East squad (which lost to the West, 69-68). Diggins almost singlehandedly led the East to a late-game comeback win, scoring six consecutive points in the final 1:15 (on a three-pointer and an old-fashioned three-point play, the latter coming off her own steal). The McDonald’s girls’ game will be replayed from 3:00-5:00 p.m. EDT Friday on ESPN2.

It’s now on to St. Louis for Diggins, who heads to the site of this year’s NCAA Women’s Final Four to play in the WBCA High School All-America Game on Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. CDT) at Washington University’s athletics complex. That game will be shown on a delayed basis at 5:00 p.m. EDT Sunday on ESPNU.