August 9, 2009

1. Check out CBS College Sports at 9:00 p.m. EDT Monday. You can watch Notre Dame’s 19-3 victory over the Japan National Team from July 25 in Tokyo. Former Irish All-America lineman Aaron Taylor will be handling the color analysis. Notre Dame staff members brought back original tapes of the live television broadcast in Japan – and CBS did its own voiceover of the game last Tuesday in New York. The players and coaches who took part in the Japan Bowl will hold a reunion at the Sept. 5 season opener against Nevada.

2. Former Notre Dame football player Tom “Rock” Roggeman, now an assistant football coach at East Carolina under Skip Holtz, is being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Roggeman was diagnosed in June and began treatment, including chemotherapy, in July. He is expected to continue coaching for the ’09 season. Roggeman is an ’85 Notre Dame graduate who played nose tackle for the Irish, winning a monogram in 1984. He served as a graduate assistant coach in ’85 and ’86 under Gerry Faust and Lou Holtz. He also has coached at Murray State, UNLV, Louisville, Eastern Michigan, Alabama A&M (those last two under former Irish assistant Ron Cooper) and Alabama State. Roggeman’s father Tom Sr. is a former high school and college coach, including at South Bend Washington High School.

3. Yesterday was media day for Notre Dame football, and 14 players visited with the assembled media members at 11:45 a.m. in the Gug auditorium. Jimmy Clausen drew the expected crowd, but there was plenty of traffic for the other players: Sam Young, Eric Olsen, Ian Williams, Kyle Rudolph, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Armando Allen, Brian Smith, Harrison Smith, Kyle McCarthy, Darrin Walls, Scott Smith, and Kerry Neal.

4. Notre Dame’s first football workout happened Saturday in shorts and helmets in warm, windy and humid conditions on the artificial turf fields of the LaBar Practice Complex. New wrinkles at practice included two permanent filming towers for Tim Collins and his staff – along with new adidas practice jerseys with three stripes down each side. Meanwhile, it was the warmest weekend of the summer in South Bend, with temps reaching 93 today. Saturday through Wednesday are what the NCAA calls acclimatization days, with only one workout per day allowed.

5. What did Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley do with his summer? After signing with the Seattle Mariners, he played first base for the Mariners’ Arizona Rookie League team and in 37 games hit .333, leading the team with 44 hits, 29 RBI, 12 doubles and seven home runs. The Mariners won the AZL West first half and now stand 24-14.

6. If you’re headed to campus for the ’09 home football season, here’s what you can expect to be open at the new Eddy Street Commons, according to the South Bend Tribune: by early September–Outpost Sports and Hot Box Pizza; by mid-September–Chipotle and Follett’s; by late September–Anytime Fitness; by late fall–Old National Bank; to be determined–Kildare’s Pub and Doc Magronon’s Oyster House. There will be two hours free parking in the parking garage. Look for construction to begin soon on a 119-room Fairfield Inn & Suites (replacing the previously-announced Springhill Suites). Other retailers listed on some site plans (but unconfirmed) are Urban Outfitters, Five Guys and Uptown Deli.

7. The Irish volleyball team reported to campus today and conducts its first official workout on Monday.

8. The Notre Dame men’s soccer team begins practice Aug. 15.

9. The Irish women’s soccer squad already has been practicing for a week in advance of a game Tuesday night in Indianapolis against the Ireland National Team. Then, on Friday afternoon, in Traverse City, Mich., the Irish meet Virginia in a preseason tilt. Notre Dame opens the regular season Aug. 21 versus Wisconsin.

10. The Irish women’s golf team is in Ireland for a week of play (Monday through Friday) at five courses around the country.

11. Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey plays host to his annual Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament Monday at Blackthorn in South Bend.

12. Former Irish quarterback Joe Montana comes to town Wednesday to speak at Century Center as part of the Keybank Gridiron Luncheon Legend Series that supports the College Football Hall of Fame.

August 7, 2009

1. The Dish returns to active duty today with the official start of football activities.

Media day – at least half of it – transpired today with head coach Charlie Weis and his assistants available. With players finishing summer school exams today, they will gather later tonight for meetings, then meet the media on Saturday during the noon hour.

Media attendance today seemed a bit upsized – including national types such as Gene Wojciechowski from espn.con, Kelly Whiteside from USA Today, Brian Bennett from espn.com (out of Louisville, he’ll be blogging about Notre Dame this year among his other schools), Dave Curtis from Sporting News, and Nancy Armour from the Chicago Associated Press bureau. Then, there was former South Bend Tribune sports editor Joe Doyle who was here for his 61st media day.

The theme in general, according to a relaxed and affable Weis, suggests it’s time for the Irish to prove things on the football field rather than simply talk about it. And he must have restated that point 10 different times and ways in the course of 45 minutes with the media. He stuck around another 15 minutes surrounded by a dozen or so reporters after the formal portion of the event ended.

Here are some of Weis’ thoughts at the noon media session:

On the offensive line: “When you look at numbers, our fourth- and fifth-year offensive linemen are 50 percent stronger than when they started here.”

On the freshmen: “They all fit it.”

On offensive linemen expectations: “I let Ruben (Mendoza, Irish strength coordinator) worry about weights. I want `em ready to play football. And play better than last year.”

On captains: “We’ll probably have the players select them around August 18 or 19 and they would meet with the media probably August 20.”

On giving up the offensive play-calling again? — “Probably not any time soon,” also noting the confidence he has in the defensive staff to handle business “with minimal interference from the head coach. The bulk of my energies and efforts will be on offense.”

On making a statement about his team: “I’d rather not say it. I’d rather get it done on the field.”

On the #23 USA Today ranking announced today: “After the first 10 teams there’s a lot of subjectivity. Teams 1-2-3-4 have earned their stripes to be there. For everyone else, you’ve got to get through September before everything starts to settle.”

On where his program is right now: “It’s time for us to back it up on the field. Don’t tell me how good we’re gonna be, show me. We all want the same thing.”

On Jimmy Clausen’s expected improvement: “I would hope it would be in the TD-to-INT ratio. I’m confident that will drastically change.”

On whether Golden Tate and Michael Floyd can be the best combo in the country: “They’re two different body types, but they’re pretty good now.” Weis noted that Clausen brought Tate, Floyd and tight end Kyle Rudolph to California for a week in the offseason and they spent eight hours a day throwing and catching.

On Clausen’s early experiences: “Sometimes we have to remember these guys are coming in here as teenagers, not as Tommy Brady or Peyton Manning.”

On four years of experiences: “All that matters is the here and now. Until we show we can back it up, it’s hot air.”

On the idea of depending on a strong passing game: “If you can’t run the ball effectively and they shut down your passing game, you’re pigeon-holed.”

On DL Kapron Lewis-Moore: “He’s gone from 220 to 265 — so he’s a lot more ready for prime time even though he’s never played a down.”

On DL Ethan Johnson: “Even though he played a lot as a freshman, he wasn’t 285 like he is now.”

On the running back rotation: “They’re all gunning for Armando. You’re gonna have to take it away from him.”

On the media: “I’m tired of telling you guys all the things we intend to do. I’d like to sit down in January and have a discussion about what we did get done.”

On the one thing that’s better about this team: “Experience.”

On Notre Dame: “We’re proud to be at the University of Notre Dame. Now it’s time for the product to back that up. Everyone in the program believes that.”

2. Changing subjects, here’s an update on a handful of athletic construction projects, thanks to the facilities engineering staff:

Soccer — Work is continuing to prepare the new Alumni Soccer Stadium for hosting the first games scheduled for Sept. 1 (men vs. Michigan) and Sept. 4 (women vs. North Carolina), 2009 (August games will be played at the old Alumni Field). As planned, the stadium building will not be completely finished at the time of the first game in the new facility — however, public access and seating will be open to watch these games from the new multi-colored grandstands. The natural grass field has been installed and has been growing nicely over the past two months to establish a strong, deep root zone. Following these initial games, work will continue to complete the public bathrooms, concession stand, interior team spaces and exterior landscaping.

Lacrosse — Work is continuing at the new Arlotta Lacrosse Stadium. The field lighting has been installed and the new synthetic FieldTurf field will be installed shortly. The grass berm along the east side of the lacrosse playing field has been constructed and hydro-seeding will occur shortly. The installation of the multicolored bleacher system will begin in the next couple of weeks. Interior finishes will continue to be installed in the team areas and the press box. Completion is scheduled for October.

Track — The new nine-lane, state-of-the-art Mondo track has been installed. The track striping was completed Aug. 6. The painting of a large 30′-x-30′ interlocking ND in the “D” zone and the text NOTRE DAME will occur over the next week or so. The track perimeter fencing is complete and the grass infield is done. The track team will begin to practice on its new track starting next month.

3. Pep rallies and luncheons will go on as in past football seasons, though rally venues are different due to the construction at the Joyce Center. Here’s where the rallies will be held (6:30 p.m. starts relative to football speakers).
Nevada – in front of Dillon Hall on the south quad of campus (the normal Thursday night Dillon rally is moving to Friday).
Michigan – a students-only rally is set for Thursday before the game at Stepan Center.
USC – the site is to be determined, possibly Notre Dame Stadium.
Connecticut – Purcell Pavilion.
Michigan State, Washington, Boston College and Navy – at the new hospitality village at the Irish Green (south of DeBartolo Performing Arts Center), to be known as the “Rally on the Green.”

Friday Football Luncheons will continue in the Joyce Center fieldhouse (north dome).