Friday, July 16, 2010

1. Mik Aoki (pronounced A-O-key), the only head baseball coach to lead Boston College to an NCAA Regional since 1967, has been named the 20th head baseball coach in University of Notre Dame program history. Aoki arrives in South Bend after a four-year stint in as the Eagle head coach in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He brought the Boston College baseball program into the national forefront after leading the Eagles to the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament each of the past two seasons (the only two ACC Tournament appearances in school history) and their first NCAA Regional appearance in 42 years (2009). Aoki has coached 28 Major League Baseball draft picks and four free agent signees since his arrival at Boston College in 2004. Three of those draft picks have been first-round selections in Mike Belfiore, Chris Lambert and Tony Sanchez. In addition, 16 of those 28 picks have been pitchers and two (Lambert, Joe Martinez) have reached the Major League level. Aoki mentored six all-ACC performers in his four seasons as head coach, including the program’s only two first-team nominees in Sanchez (2009) and Mickey Wiswall (2010). Four Eagles earned all-conference honors in 2009, the most since joining the ACC. Aoki’s teams also produced eight all-New England selections, five all-ACC Academic Team members and two All-Americans (Belfiore and Sanchez). Prior to being named Boston College head coach, Aoki, a Plymouth, Mass. native, spent three seasons (2004-06) as pitching coach for the Eagles. In 2004, he oversaw a staff that had five pitchers sign professional contracts at season’s end. Prior to his arrival in Chestnut Hill, Aoki spent five years (1999-2003) as Columbia head coach, leading the Lions to an 87-140 mark during that span. His teams won 20 or more games in each of his last three seasons. Before the Aoki era, the Lions had not posted a 20-win season since 1987. Before assuming his duties at Columbia, Aoki spent four years (1995-98) as assistant coach at Dartmouth. In that position, he focused his efforts on the team’s infielders and hitters, while also serving as the program’s recruiting coordinator. He began his coaching career in 1992 as head coach at Manchester (Conn.) Community College, then served two seasons (1993-94) as an assistant coach at Ohio University.

2. Two of Notre Dame’s 22 sports that compete in the BIG EAST Conference were honored with the 2009-10 BIG EAST Academic Team Excellence Awards recognizing the highest collective grade-point averages in each conference sport. The Fighting Irish baseball and men’s lacrosse teams were each recipients of the third annual awards. Eleven BIG EAST schools had at least one team represented on the list with Providence pacing all schools with a conference-best five teams honored. DePaul and Syracuse each finished with four selections, while the Irish were joined by Cincinnati, Louisville and St. John’s with two. West Virginia, Rutgers, Georgetown and USF each saw one team named to the list. The Irish men’s lacrosse team not only led the conference in the classroom but also represented the BIG EAST in the NCAA National Championship in ’09-10 for the first time in program history. The squad earned victories over No. 6 Princeton, No. 3 Maryland and No. 7 Cornell en route to the championship game, before dropping an overtime decision to fifth-ranked Duke, 6-5. It marks the first time that either of the Irish teams has been presented with the award since its inception in ’07-08. The Irish baseball team concluded the year with a 3.117 grade-point average (GPA), while the men’s lacrosse team finished with a 3.065. In total, 20 of Notre Dame’s 22 teams that compete in the BIG EAST conference earned better than a 3.00 GPA during the recently completed academic year, with the women’s tennis team pacing all Irish teams for the second straight year with a 3.494 mark.

3. The Oct. 10 BIG EAST Conference volleyball matchup between Notre Dame and Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The game, originally slated to begin at 2:00 p.m. (ET), will now start Sunday evening at 5:00. The Irish won last season’s meeting with Cincinnati en route to a 14-0 regular season BIG EAST record to earn the league crown. But the Bearcats won the last showdown in Cincinnati in 2008, which was also televised on ESPNU. Notre Dame begins the 2010 season by hosting the Shamrock Invitational at the Joyce Center at Purcell Pavilion. The first serve of the campaign will be tossed against Marshall on Aug. 27.

4. The Notre Dame Athletics Department and Monogram Club played host to a reception last night to honor College Football Hall of Fame enshrinee Tim Brown – and among those present included a handful of individuals who coached Brown at some point while he was at Notre Dame – head coach Gerry Faust, along with assistants Mal Moore, Terry Forbes, Brian Boulac and Tony Yelovich.

5. Notre Dame hockey coach Jeff Jackson has announced the 2010-11 Notre Dame hockey schedule. The 37-game schedule opens Sunday, Oct. 3, with a preseason tilt versus the University of Guelph at the Joyce Center Ice Rink. The regular season starts on Fri., Oct. 8, in St. Louis, Mo., versus Holy Cross in the Ice Breaker Tournament at the Scottrade Center. The Irish open the final home regular-season schedule at the Joyce Center Ice Rink on Thur., Oct. 14. with the start of a CCHA weekend series versus the Lake Superior State Lakers with game two set for Fri., Oct. 15. The schedule features teams from five conferences – Holy Cross and Canisius (Atlantic Hockey), Boston College and Boston University (Hockey East), Brown (ECAC), Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota State (WCHA) along with 28 CCHA regular-season games. Included in the 2010-11 schedule are two in-season tournament appearances – the 2010 Ice Breaker Tournament that will be held in St. Louis, Mo., at the Scottrade Center, home of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues. The tournament will open on Friday, Oct. 8, with the Irish playing Holy Cross and Boston University playing Wisconsin in the two semifinal games. After a day off, the third-place and championship games will be played on Sunday, Oct. 10. For the third consecutive year, the Irish will host the Shillelagh Tournament at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., this season on Jan. 1 and 2. Notre Dame will face Minnesota State on Jan. 1 at 6:05 p.m. (CT) with Boston University and Brown playing in the opener at 3:05 p.m. (CT). Game times on Sunday, Jan. 2 are 2:05 p.m. (CT) and 5:05 p.m. (CT) with the Irish playing in the 5:05 p.m. contest. Including the preseason opener with the University of Guelph on Oct. 3, Notre Dame will play 17 home games in the final season for the Joyce Center Rink. The Irish will have non-conference home games versus Boston College (Oct. 23) and Canisius College (Dec. 29) with the remainder of the home schedule made up of CCHA conference games. Lake Superior, Western Michigan (two home-and-home weekends), Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Alaska, Miami and Bowling Green will each visit the Joyce Center for two games each during the regular season. The Irish will play two non-conference games at WCHA power North Dakota on Nov. 26 and 27 and 14 road games versus CCHA opponents to round out the regular season. A pair of home-and-home series with Western Michigan plus two games at Bowling Green, Michigan, Miami, Northern Michigan, Ohio State and Ferris State gives Notre Dame 16 road tests for the year. With 11 teams in the CCHA this year, the Irish will play Bowling Green, Northern Michigan, Western Michigan and Miami four times each with two games apiece versus the remaining six teams.

6. Check out the attached PDF for a full listing of events in New York City in November in conjunction with Notre Dame’s football game against Army at Yankee Stadium.

Monday, July 12, 2010

1. Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw, the 2001 consensus national coach of the year and winner of more than 600 games in her illustrious career, Saturday was named to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. McGraw was one of six people — and the lone coach — named to the 2011 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class, as announced in Uncasville, Conn., during the “WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun Game” that was televised live nationally on ESPN from Mohegan Sun Arena. The others in McGraw’s Hall of Fame class include former Olympic gold medalists Ruthie Bolton (Auburn) and Vicky Bullett (Maryland), as well as Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president (1996-2005) and first female president of USA Basketball (2005-08), and a pair of three-time All-America players from the pre-NCAA era, Pearl Moore (Frances Marion) and Lometa Odom (Wayland Baptist). The ’11 class will be officially introduced at the 2010 State Farm Tip-Off Classic in November, and then will be enshrined during the Hall’s 13th annual Induction Weekend in June 2011 at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn. Dates for both the State Farm Tip-Off Classic and WBHOF Induction Weekend, as well as the location and participants in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic, will be announced at a later date. McGraw becomes the first Notre Dame selection for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The Fighting Irish skipper also becomes the third BIG EAST Conference coach chosen for the honor, joining Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer (2001) and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma (2006) in that elite company. Newly-chosen Seton Hall head coach Anne Donovan also was a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1999, going in primarily for her accomplishments as a player at Old Dominion. McGraw also will be the ninth active college head coach to enter the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on the basis of her success on the sidelines. Besides Stringer and Auriemma, the others on this notable list are: Pat Summitt (1999 – Tennessee), Van Chancellor (2001 – LSU), Tara VanDerveer (2002 – Stanford), Sylvia Hatchell (2004 – North Carolina), Andy Landers (2007 – Georgia) and Debbie Ryan (2008 – Virginia).

2. In one of the closest races of the day, former Notre Dame rower Amanda Polk (Pittsburgh, Pa.) helped the United States women’s eight boat claim the top spot on the podium and her second international gold medal on Sunday at the 2010 International Rowing Federation (FISA) Rowing World Cup III in Lucerne, Switzerland. Her U.S. team crossed the line in 6:12.19, only two-10ths of a second ahead of the Canadians. The current world champions in the event, the U.S., came out of the gates slowly and found themselves in third behind both Canada and Great Britain after the first split with a time of 1:32.44. Through the next 500 meters the Americans stayed steady posting a time of 1:34.29, holding them in the third position before they started to chase down the leaders over the last half of the race. After cutting the lead down to just over a second going into the final 500 meters the U.S. turned it on and rowed a scorching 1:30.83 final split to cross the line in first just ahead of the Canadians. With the help of the women’s eight boat victory, the U.S. rowing squad was able to secure a fifth-place showing in the third and final World Cup event. The overall 2010 FISA Rowing World Cup standings look very similar with the U.S. also taking home fifth with 64 points behind Great Britain (231), Germany (109), New Zealand (85) and China (82), who sit in first through fourth, respectively.

3. Former Notre Dame offensive backfield coach Tom Pagna was laid to rest on Saturday at a funeral Mass in South Bend attended by a host of current and former Irish players, coaches and officials. Honorary pallbearers included Hall of Fame Notre Dame head coach coach Ara Parseghian and longtime Irish fencing coach and academic advisor Mike DeCicco. Pallbearers also included former Irish players Tom Longo and Bob Gladieux. Fathers Paul Doyle and Greg Green from Notre Dame assisted with the Mass. Among the former players in attendance were Mike Creaney, Frank Pomarico, Ed Sullivan, Frank Criniti, Dan Harshman, Jim Humbert, Tom Rhodes, Bob Neidert, John Dampeer and Denny Allan. Others present included longtime South Bend Tribune sports editor Joe Doyle, current athletics director Jack Swarbrick, Pagna Westwood One broadcast partner Tony Roberts, former assistant coaches Wally Moore, Brian Boulac and Tony Yelovich, Dick Nussbaum (representing the Notre Dame Monogram Club), current associate athletics director Mike Danch (he helped Pagna and Parseghian with their book “Parseghian and Notre Dame Football”) and Jack Butler, a student manager who worked with Pagna back in the ÃÆ’Ã € ‘ ¯ ¿ ½60s. Parseghian spoke after the service and noted that his relationship with Pagna spanned 60 years – back to when Ara was Woody Hayes’ Miami freshman coach in 1950 and Parseghian recruited Pagna from their mutual hometown of Akron. “He was like a brother to me,” said Parseghian, who described Pagna as a combination of (Rocky) Marciano, (Leonardo) DaVinci and the Godfather (mostly because of Pagna’s ability to imitate Marlon Brando). Ara noted that a “scholarship” at Miami back then amounted to $45 a semester for tuition. Late in Pagna’s freshman year he became homesick and was hitchhiking back home, and Parseghian remembered driving out and picking him up on the edge of Oxford, Ohio, bringing him back to campus and convincing him to stay. Parseghian paid tribute to their relationship at Notre Dame – “Every game Tom and I were right next to each other on the sideline.” Parseghian also noted that he’s actually nine years older than Pagna, saying, “I figured he would be the one giving me the send-off.” Over the last two years, about once a week, Pagna, Parseghian, DeCicco and longtime Notre Dame sports information director Roger Valdiserri had met for lunch. You can only imagine the world problems solved at those events!

The Dish recalls dozens of pregame press box conversations with Pagna, many involving Xs and Os and football strategy. Pagna had an absolute and passionate love of the game of football, in particular the nuances of setting up an offense and calling plays. Long after he had retired from the sideline, Pagna retained a keen interest in Notre Dame football and the way in which the Irish offenses operated. You sensed in talking to him that on many of those Saturdays when he was describing the action on radio, he still wished he were down in the trenches, trying to outwit an opposing defense. After his retirement, Parseghian had recommended Pagna to replace him as Irish head coach, and Parseghian again on Saturday noted his and Pagna’s disappointment that that never came to fruition.

Friday, July 9, 2010

1. If you’ve seen Tom Penn on ESPN lately commenting on NBA salary cap issues, you should know he’s a former Notre Dame swimmer (two-time letter-winner in freestyle events from 1987-90). Originally from Peoria Heights, Ill., Penn formerly was the assistant general manager of both the NBA Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. He’s a University of Illinois law school grad. He was named Notre Dame’s most improved swimmer in 1989 and in ’90 won the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Rockne Student-Athlete award.

2. Nicole Zhang, an incoming freshman for the Irish women’s golf team, sat at +7 after carding an opening-round score of 78 Thursday at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open from Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. The Calgary, Alberta, native started play on the back nine in her opening round, posting four pars and five bogeys to make the turn with a 40 (+5). She would recover on the front nine with more consistent golf, notching three pars and scoring her first birdie of the tournament at the par-4 fifth hole. She would conclude her opening 18 with a birdie on the par-5 ninth to finish the front side in 38 (+2). Zhang was able to take advantage off of the tee in her opening round, tying for 19th among the field in driving distance (262.50) while sharing a place at 33rd in fairways hit (9/14, 64%) on day one. Zhang begin her second round of play at 8:28 a.m. (ET) today on the first hole looking to qualify for weekend action – and she shot a second straight 78 for a 156 total. The field will be cut to the low 60 scores and ties, plus anyone within 10 strokes of the leader.

3. Notre Dame sophomores J.P. Malette (Windsor, Ontario) and Jeremy Rae (Fort Erie, Ontario) will both represent their native Canada in the 1500-meter race in the 2010 Junior World Track & Field Championships from July 19-25, in Moncton, Canada. This will mark the 13th annual Junior World Track & Field Championships. The New Moncton Stadium located in Moncton, New Brunswick, will host 170 nations and 1,450 athletes competing who will be competing in 44 different events. As a freshman at Notre Dame, Malette competed in many events for the Irish including the 800m, 1000m, 1500m, the mile and 3000m races. In his best collegiate time to date, he clocked a 3:49.17 in the 1500m taking 10th place at the Border Battle in Louisville (Ky.) April 10. Malette is no stranger to the big stage as he clocked his personal best in the 1500m at the 2009 Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) championships in 3:45.85, bested only by Notre Dame teammate and fellow Junior World Track & Field Championship competitor Rae. At the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays Rae posted a personal collegiate best 1500m time in 3:45.73 while finishing three-10ths of a second off first place. In addition to competing in his specialty, the 1500m, he also competed in the 800m, 1000m and the mile during his freshman season at Notre Dame. On the international level, Rae has accumulated an impressive resume on the track as he represented Canada at the 2009 Pan Am Junior Games in Trinidad. In addition, he stopped the clock at 3:42.86 to set a personal-best time in the 1500m at the Runners Choice Distance Series event in London, Ontario, June 25, missing out on the top spot by a mere five-100ths of a second. The two will run their preliminary heats July 20, with the 1500m final taking place July 22.

4. Notre Dame men’s lacrosse operations director Kevin Dugan and former Irish football tight end Oscar McBride (a ’94 Notre Dame graduate) are combining with Notre Dame faculty member Clark Power (he runs the “Play Like A Champion” youth sports ministry) on a spinoff of Dugan’s “Field of Growth” program in Africa. Dugan and McBride are headed to Uganda for the first two weeks of August to work at a Catholic parish in Masaka called Our Lady of the Assumption (the parish is in the same village where Dugan’s “Fields of Growth” lacrosse work has been taking place). They will be launching a human development initiative that intersects athletics, children, and the church. They’ll be starting a flag football program — “Our Lady’s League” — for boys in the village, instituting Notre Dame’s “Play Like A Champion” youth sports materials that were put together by Power at the Center for Ethical Education and ACE on the Notre Dame campus. McBride has been sharing the concept with some of his former Irish football teammates and hopes to eventually involve some of them in the program. The Kellogg Institute, Center for Social Concerns and Holy Cross Mission Center are all doing work in Uganda right now – and while Dugan and McBride are in Uganda they will be arranging a visit to the Holy Cross parish in Bugembe, Jinja, where the CSC sends many Notre Dame students each year.

5. The funeral for former Notre Dame assistant football coach Tom Pagna will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Christ the King Church in South Bend.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1. Two Notre Dame men’s lacrosse recruits competed at last weekend’s Under Armour All-America game. Midfielders Jimmy Marlatt (Clarksville, Md.) and Liam O’Connor (Haverford, Pa.) played for the south squad. Under Armour ®, Inc. and Corrigan Sports Enterprises, Inc. announced the selections of the nation’s top boys and girls high school seniors to the prestigious All-America lacrosse rosters. The fifth annual Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic took place Saturday at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md.

2. Three members of the Notre Dame women’s soccer team will trade their Fighting Irish gold and blue uniforms for the red, white and blue kits of Team USA, as the trio competes with the United States Under-23 National Team during the next week at the Four Nations Tournament in Leicester, England. Senior All-America defender Lauren Fowlkes (Lee’s Summit, Mo.), along with a pair of all-region juniors in forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas) and Jessica Schuveiller (Plano, Texas) will suit up for the Stars & Stripes in matches against England (today), Norway (Friday) and Sweden (July 12). Notre Dame is one of only two schools — along with Portland — to have three players selected for the U.S. Under-23 team roster, with Fowlkes and Schuveiller making up half of the four defenders who were named to the squad.

3. Notre Dame women’s golfer Nicole Zhang is the first Irish player to compete in the U.S. Women’s Open beginning today (1:58 p.m. tee time) at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pa. She played her practice round Tuesday with Michelle Wie. Irish head coach Susan Holt and assistant Kyle Veltri are there watching.

4. Gregory P. Crawford, dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame, and his wife, Renate, will embark on a 2,200-mile bicycle ride this summer to mark the newly-strengthened partnership between Notre Dame and the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. “Desert to Dome: Riding for the Lives of Children” will begin July 24 in Tucson, Ariz., the home of the Parseghian Foundation, and will culminate in the Crawfords’ arrival on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind., in August. Notre Dame and the Parseghian Foundation last month announced an enhanced relationship formed in order to support and advance research initiatives to find treatment and cure options for Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), a rare and deadly neurodegenerative disease that primarily strikes children before or during adolescence. A grass roots, non-profit organization dedicated to funding medical research projects to find a treatment for NPC and related neurodegenerative disorders, the Parseghian Foundation was founded in 1994 and is named in honor of Notre Dame’s former head football coach Ara Parseghian, who lost three grandchildren to NPC. Through a generous gift to Notre Dame, the Parseghian Foundation recently established the Michael, Marcia and Christa Parseghian Endowment for Excellence to support NPC research and discovery and to build on the Foundation’s commitment to collaborate with young researchers at other institutions. Funds also have been dedicated in support of an annual scientific conference on NPC research that will be held at Notre Dame beginning in 2011, bringing together researchers from around the world to share discoveries and progress on fighting the disease. The Crawfords will ride for 29 days across seven states, stopping along the route to visit Notre Dame alumni clubs and cycling groups. They will chronicle their trip online at http://deserttodome.nd.edu/. Dean of the Notre Dame College of Science since 2008, Crawford is a world-renowned physicist who holds eight U.S. patents, has over 300 research and education publications and is the editor of four books. His cutting-edge research on liquid crystals and polymers, nanoscience and photonic materials spans the fields of condensed matter physics, physical chemistry, applied mathematics and biomedical engineering.

5. Three members of the Notre Dame women’s golf team have been selected as National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) All-American Scholar team members for NCAA Division I. Senior Kristin Wetzel (Middletown, N.Y.) along with juniors Katie Conway (Wading River, N.Y.) and So-Hyun Park (Seoul, South Korea) all brought home the honor for the third time in their Irish careers. To be honored by the NGCA as an All-American Scholar you must follow a list of very strict criteria; you must hold a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 and student-athletes must have competed in at least 50% (Division I) or 66% (Division II & III) of the college’s regularly scheduled competitive rounds during the year.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Former longtime University of Notre Dame football offensive backfield coach Tom Pagna died late Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Ind. He was 78.

Pagna played a major role in coordinating the Irish offense during all 11 seasons of the Ara Parseghian era at Notre Dame from 1964 through 1974. During that period, those Irish teams won 95 combined games, captured consensus national championships in 1966 and 1973 and won the MacArthur Bowl from the National Football Foundation in 1964.

Pagna helped the Irish to postseason bowl games in five of his last six seasons in South Bend – including victories after the ’70 season over top-rated and unbeaten Texas in the Cotton Bowl, after the ’73 season over number-one-ranked and unbeaten Alabama and after the ’74 campaign over second-rated Alabama in Parseghian’s final game as Notre Dame head coach. Highly-regarded as a play-caller, Pagna coached a long list of Irish greats, including ’64 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, as well as all-stars Nick Eddy, Bill Wolski, Larry Conjar, Terry Hanratty, Bob Gladieux, Rocky Bleier, Joe Theismann and Tom Clements. He played a major role in Irish offenses that ranked seventh nationally or better in nine of his 11 seasons in South Bend – including second in ’64, ’68 and ’70 (a record 510.5 yards per game). With Pagna on the sidelines, Notre Dame led the nation in scoring in ’66 (36.2 points per game) and three other times ranked fourth or higher. Among Pagna’s pupils, Eddy, Conjar and Hanratty all became second-round NFL draft selections.

Before coming to Notre Dame in ’64 with Parseghian, Pagna served five seasons on Parseghian’s Northwestern staff from 1959 through ’63 (freshman coach from ’59 to ’61 and backfield coach in ’62 and ’63) – with the Wildcats putting together a 27-18 combined record in those years (including four straight wins over Notre Dame from ’59 through ’62). Pagna coached at Akron (Ohio) North High School in ’57 and ’58. After leaving Notre Dame he spent two seasons as the offensive backfield coach for the NFL Kansas City Chiefs in 1978-79 under head coach Marv Levy.

A spectacular halfback as a player at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, under Parseghian, Pagna twice won Little All-America and all-Ohio honors, as well as three straight all-conference certificates. He was the first player in Miami history to gain more than 1,000 yards rushing in a single nine-game season (1,044 in ’52) and also set the Miami scoring record (78 points in ’52). In 1950 Pagna played on Parseghian’s first freshman team at Miami. He was selected team MVP and most outstanding senior in 1953 — and finished his Miami career with 2,078 rushing yards (averaging 6.4 yards per carry on a career basis) and 151 points scored.

Pagna was a standout in football, basketball and baseball at Springfield Township High School in Akron, Ohio. He also spent three years in the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of captain. A 1954 Miami graduate, Pagna later earned a master’s degree in education from Northwestern in 1961. He played briefly with the NFL Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns before injuries cut short his professional career.

After concluding his coaching career, Pagna served as color commentator (working with Tony Roberts) on the Notre Dame Football Radio Network for the Mutual Broadcasting System and Westwood One from 1985-2000 – and also hosted his own radio talk show in 1996 (Michiana Talk) on which he always said, “Never despair, always have hope. . . . God writes straight with crooked lines.” He had been a longtime editorial contributor to Blue & Gold Illustrated. He served one year as executive director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association (named to that slot in 1975), worked with Ara Parseghian Enterprises, headed up the South Bend-Mishawaka Metropolitan YMCA in South Bend in the early 1980s, worked as vice president with Trans-Aire Sports, Inc. in Elkhart, Ind., and also served as senior vice president for marketing at the Varsity Club of America.

In 2008 he received the Creighton Miller Outstanding Running Back Award from the All-American Football Foundation. That same year he was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame via the St. Joseph Valley chapter. In 1990 he received the Jack Quinlan Excellence in Sports Broadcasting Award from the Notre Dame Club of Chicago. In 1983 the Moose Krause Chapter of the National Football Foundation named him its Distinguished American. He is a member of the Summit County Athletic Hall of Fame in Akron, and the Miami University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Known as a superb speaker, Pagna also is author of several books – “Parseghian and Notre Dame Football” in 1970, “Notre Dame’s Era of Ara” in 1976 with Bob Best, “The Phantom Letters: Motivation at Notre Dame in the Parseghian Years” in 2005 and “Petals From a Rose” in 1998.

Born Jan. 28, 1932 in Cleveland and raised in Akron, Pagna is survived by his wife Shirley, daughters Sandy Major (Mike) and Susan Staszewski (Bob), and grandsons Adam and Christopher Staszewski.

Funeral arrangements are pending through Welsheimer North Funeral Home, 17033 Cleveland Road, South Bend, Ind. 46635 (574-968-0058).

2. Former Notre Dame All-American Luke Harangody scored 23 points yesterday in his professional debut with the Boston Celtics’ Orlando Pro Summer League team in Maitland, Fla. Harangody hit four of six three-point attempts in his squad’s 87-82 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harangody added 14 points and 12 rebounds tonight in the Celtics’ 86-69 loss to Philadelphia.

3. There’s a new wrought iron fence around the Notre Dame outdoor track, along with a ceremonial arch and entrance at the northwest corner of the track.

4. A new sound system will be installed in Purcell Pavilion during the first two weeks in August. Then, during the first two weeks of September, Purcell Pavilion will be closed during installation of a center-hung, four-sided HD scoreboard (made by Dactronics). In addition, the traditional scoreboards above the four vomitories will be replaced by new LED boards, and there will be a new scorer’s table installed, also with LED capabilities. The first event with the new scoreboard will be a Sept. 17 Irish volleyball game against Delaware in the Notre Dame/adidas Invitational.

5. Former Notre Dame coaches Lou Holtz and Digger Phelps along with former Irish football standouts Jerome Bettis and Joe Theismann will participate in the American Century Championship July 13-18, at Lake Tahoe, Nev. ESPN will air the Friday round, while NBC Sports will televise live both Saturday and Sunday (3-6 p.m. EDT both days). Current Irish football coach Brian Kelly originally was slated to play but became a late scratch for the celebrity golf event.

6. Check out the college football front page of espn.con where Notre Dame is the lead story and QB Dayne Crist is shown to promote the Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook preview of Irish fortunes for 2010. Here’s what Blue Ribbon offers in the final analysis department: “Notre Dame’s golden dome has lost some of its shine over the last decade, but the Fighting Irish still have some of the best talent in the FBS. The question is whether that talent will mesh with first-year coach Brian Kelly’s new systems. The biggest adjustment will be on offense, where Notre Dame will run the spread under first-year starting quarterback Dayne Crist. If Crist grasps the spread, the offense will be successful. Defensively, the Fighting Irish are better suited to run Kelly’s 3-4. Most of Notre Dame’s tougher games are in September and October. If this team can make it to November disaster-free, it should have no trouble winning eight games. The BCS, however, might be a year or two away.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

1. Notre Dame film/television/theatre associate professional specialist Ted Mandell traveled to Tokyo last summer with the Notre Dame alumni football squad that won the Japan Bowl — and the documentary he created from the trip, “Inside the Legends”, has been selected to screen at the All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival in Hollywood (3: p.m., July 11, Raleigh Studios, Melrose Avenue, Hollywood). Tickets are available @ https://all-sports-los-angeles-film-festival.ticketleap.com/inside-the-legends-2009-notre-dame-japan-bowl-07-11-2010-15-5. You can also become a fan of the “Inside The Legends” Facebook Page and trailer @ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Inside-The-Legends/128503810515621?ref=ts. Learn more about All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival @ http://www.allsportslafilmfest.com/

2. Here’s what Beaverton Valley Times sportswriter Miles Vance had to say yesterday about former Irish fencing standout Mariel Zagunis in her hometown weekly newspaper under the headline “Golden girl Zagunis keeping it real” — “Zagunis, as most of you already know, is a Beaverton native, a Valley Catholic graduate and – most famously – a two-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s sabre fencing. Her continuing accomplishments in fencing are probably worth a feature story a month. She’s won more World Cup events than you can shake a sabre at. In addition to her Olympic golds in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, she’s won World Championships, NCAA championships and just about any other kind of championship associated with fencing you can imagine. She’s been lauded on TV from coast to coast and across the world’s six inhabited continents. She’s graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, the New York Times and just about any other famous publication you can name. Despite all that, when I called Zagunis 10 days ago, there was not even a hint of pretense in her. I caught up with her by phone in South Bend, Ind., just a day after her latest World Cup victory in New York City. Zagunis, back at Notre Dame where she’s continuing work on an anthropology degree, picked up her phone on two rings and, despite having no prior notice that I would be calling, immediately agreed to answer my questions for the ensuing 30+ minutes. She was as real, as friendly, as accommodating and genuine as humanly possible, especially for someone who has had more media demands forced upon her over the past five years than almost anyone in her sport. Part of her willingness to talk with me undoubtedly came because of our familiarity. I had probably written eight or 10 stories on Zagunis through her years of winning Junior World Cup events and Junior World Championships. She was always forthcoming and sweet, and in some of those early days, probably just grateful that I was willing to publish stories about fencing. Indeed, during her youth career, sabre fencing wasn’t even an Olympic sport – it only became so for the 2004 Athens Games where Zagunis first burst onto the American national consciousness. Zagunis, I will always remember, also took time out of the busiest days of her life – during the whirlwind of interviews, parties, awards ceremonies and events following her two gold-medal wins – to talk with me again. She took my phone call in Athens on the night of her first gold-medal victory. I’m guessing she probably didn’t sleep for two days after that one. And she took a call from me again in Beijing on the second day after securing her second Olympic championship. . . . What I think is that Mariel Zagunis, all of 25 years old, may just be the real deal. A champion in all the best senses of the word. A champion not just on the fencing strip but in her personal life, in her family life, in how she treats the people she meets in her life. The cool thing about Zagunis is that, despite all the awards and championships and fame, you get a very real sense that underneath it all, she’s still just a nice girl from Beaverton. Not a bad thing to have on your resume.”

3. Results from the University of Notre Dame football ticket lottery will be available on-line beginning Wednesday (July 7) – and, despite continuing high demand, the University’s alumni, friends and fans ended up with better chances of winning tickets in 2010 than they did in the most recent record-setting seasons. Alumni who followed the University’s advice to apply for tickets to as many games as possible (three or more) of this year’s seven home games, for the most part, will win tickets to one or more home games this season. The inventory from a seventh home game helped bolster this year’s win rates. Senior alumni requests for their designated game, Stanford on Sept. 25, remained high this year. However, a lottery was not necessary for the senior alumni allocation. Alumni ticket requests in the past few years have been high and continue to be for 2010, based on these examples:

– Approximately $1 million will be refunded this year to unsuccessful lottery participants. The ticket office will begin to mail those refunds the week of July 12.
– In excess of 55,000 total tickets were sold through the lottery process for games in the New York City area (Yankee Stadium vs. Army on Nov. 20 — and New Meadowlands Stadium vs. Navy on Oct. 23).

Notre Dame alumni, Monogram Club members and benefactors who make an annual minimum contribution to the University are eligible to participate in an individual game ticket lottery for both home and away contests. In excess of 30,000 tickets per game are available for each home contest for contributing alumni. Away game ticket inventory varies by site. When the quantity of tickets requested exceeds the supply, a random number driven lottery is conducted. The Notre Dame ticket office currently is finalizing the 2010 lottery and preparing refund checks. Lottery results will be available beginning July 7 on-line at www.und.com/tickets or by calling 574-631-7356 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

1. Six Notre Dame student-athletes received ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors during the 2009-10 academic year, helping the Irish stay among the leaders in the nation in honorees. The selection process for Academic All-Americans is conducted annually by the Collegiate Sports Information Directors of American. Teams are named in baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, softball, men’s track/cross country, women’s track/cross country and women’s volleyball, with men’s and women’s at-large teams named for other sports. Notre Dame now stands second all-time with 216 Academic All-Americans, trailing only Nebraska’s 277, but well ahead of third-place Penn State’s 167 honorees. Since 2000, Notre Dame and Nebraska have led the way with 90 selections each. In addition, Notre Dame ranks in the top 10 in several sports for number of honorees. The Irish have had more Academic All-Americans than any other school in baseball and women’s soccer, while also cracking the top 10 in men’s at-large (third), men’s basketball (10th), football (third), softball (sixth), and men’s track/cross country (sixth). Notre Dame had six honorees in 2009-10: Tim Abromaitis (men’s basketball), Mike Anello (football), Cosmina Ciobanu (women’s tennis), Lauren Fowlkes (women’s soccer), Christine Lux (softball) and Michael Thomas (men’s soccer). This marked the second consecutive year Anello earned Academic All-American recognition. To be eligible, a student-athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve, maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.30 on a scale of 4.00, have received sophomore athletic and academic standing at his/her current institution and be nominated by his/her sports information director.

2. There will be two individuals with Notre Dame connections receiving 2010 NHL Stanley Cup champion rings. Chicago Blackhawk general manager Stan Bowman is a 1995 Notre Dame graduate (degrees in finance and computer applications), while Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich spent two seasons handling Notre Dame’s hockey operations and video in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

3. Tony Rolinski, a member of the Notre Dame strength and conditioning staff since 1998, and most recently the program’s interim director for Olympic Sports, has been named Director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports. In his new position, Rolinski will be responsible for the development and implementation of the strength and conditioning programming for 25 Irish sports while continuing to have day-to-day oversight for the men’s basketball and hockey teams. Rolinski’s promotion is part of Notre Dame’s Sports Performance Program, an initiative that began at the start of the 2009-10 school year. The Sports Performance Program focuses on the areas of strength and conditioning, athletic training/rehabilitation, sports medicine, sports nutrition, sports psychology and equipment with the goal of assisting all athletic teams to achieve maximum athletic success. Rolinski had served as the associate director prior to his promotion for the past four years. Previous to that, he spent five years as the program’s strength and conditioning coordinator and three years as an assistant strength coach. He will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Joyce Center weight facilities and the supervision of the Olympic sport’s strength and conditioning staff. Further, he will work with Mike Karwoski, Associate Athletic Director for Sports Performance, on new programming for the Sports Performance Program. He joined the Irish strength and conditioning staff following a one-year stint as the head strength and conditioning coach at Duquesne University during the 1997-98 school year, where he implemented and oversaw programs for 20 varsity sports. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Rolinski received his bachelor’s degree in health education with a minor in exercise science from Penn State in 1991. From 1994-96, while earning his master’s degree in exercise physiology at the University of Pittsburgh, he served as an intern on the Panther football staff where he assisted with all aspects of the strength and conditioning program. Following his stint at Pittsburgh, Rolinski was the head strength and conditioning coach at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh (1996-97). Rolinski also has earned certifications from the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (SCCC) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (CSCS). Born December 10, 1968, Rolinski and his wife, the former Julie Connolly, have two daughters, Alexis and Jaclyn, and two sons, Jake and Jared.

4. Remember Ross Smith? He was Notre Dame’s women’s golf coach from 1993-2001 and also served as the pro at South Bend Country Club. He’s now the director of golf at The Golf Club of Harbor Shores (a Jack Nicklaus Signature course) in Benton Harbor, Mich. (he spent the previous three years at the Sagamore Club in Noblesville, Ind.). On Aug. 10, Nicklaus will join Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller in celebrating the grand opening of the new course by participating in an 18-hole scramble skins format with rotating two-man teams.

5. Check out the latest issue of Sporting News (July 5) where Notre Dame is rated #29 on a preseason team basis and you’ll find (on page 40) a full-page color shot of Irish TE Kyle Rudolph who is rated the top candidate in 2010 for the Mackey Award as the best tight end in the country. There are quotes from Rudolph, offensive coordinator Charlie Molnar and Irish QB Dayne Crist with the piece. Ironically, the player listed second among candidates is Brian Kelly’s tight end from Cincinnati, Ben Guidugli. In the listings for the Biletnikoff Award for top wide receiver (Golden Tate won this one in 2009), Michael Floyd is rated the #3 pick.

6. A survey this week on the sports web site FanHouse.com (and based on figures from the United States Department of Education Equity in Athletics reports from the past year) ranks Notre Dame seventh in terms of net football revenue ($38.18 million) and 20th in terms of football spending ($18.74 million). In terms of overall gross athletics revenue, Notre Dame stood 13th at $81.08 million. The survey complimented new Irish coach Brian Kelly as it noted Cincinnati won the last two league titles despite having the second lowest football budget in the BIG EAST.