Feb. 4, 2009
More than a little mix of anxiousness and excitement in the conference room, as Manti Te’o made his announcement live on ESPNU. “If the answer was yes, we were going to be hootin’ and hollerin’ and high-fiving,” said Weis earlier. There had been lots of tough-to-interpret phone calls and other bits of intelligence late into Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, given the time difference from Hawaii. The Irish coaches operated under the assumption that there would be no advance notice – that the first they would know of Te’o’s decision would be through watching live on ESPNU. As Weis suggested, “It’s like a bunch of expectant fathers in here.” The volume on the flat-screen television was turned up about 11:55 a.m. It became very quiet in the conference room as ESPNU showed video and talked about Te’o. The end result? A huge scream from the conference room and handshakes all around, once Te’o donned the green ND hat. “Now that fired me up,” said Weis.
It’s a hectic day for Notre Dame’s head coach, who will meet with the media at 1:00 p.m. to talk about the Irish signees. Later in the afternoon, Weis and his staff play host to reception at the Gug for all those involved in the recruiting process. Then, Weis is slated to do phone interviews with recruiting shows on ESPNU (6:15 p.m. EST) and CBS College Sports (6:25 p.m.). And then the never-ending process continues in earnest for 2010.
Brian Polian’s cell rings again – and it’s Shaquelle Evans on the other end. Polian smiles, chats and hands the phone to Weis. “We’re delighted to have you, and I’m reading your name right now along the crawl on television. You’ll help us score some more points. We’re proud of you,” says Weis. On the letter of intent was the hand-written notation “Go Irish.”
It’s past 7:00 a.m. on the West Coast, and the FAX machine hums again with documents sent in by Cierre Wood. Says Weis to Wood on the speakerphone, “I’m doing great now that I’ve got you on the phone.” Tony Alford adds, “We can’t wait to get started with you.” Wood signed at his high school, and his obviously-thrilled principal jumped on the phone line to talk about how excited the school is to have Wood coming to Notre Dame.
The Irish coaches reconvene in the conference room, with 14 names (including the three currently enrolled) already above the line in the confirmed section on the big board.
Carlo Calabrese visits with Weis, Tenuta, Ianello and Verducci on the phone. Another Jersey guy is added to the list. No surprises this morning from the Eastern and Central time zones. The Irish coaches relax for a few moments before the process continues. 8:18 a.m.
Chris Watt is next to call into the conference room. “It’s a great day for you and a great day for Notre Dame,” says Weis. “You’re a big part of what we’re doing here. Congratulate your folks,” adds Ianello.
Nick Tausch calls into the speakerphone. Says Weis, “Congrats. We’re excited about having you come in here and compete.”
Tatum returns with Alex Bullard’s FAXed documents. “It’s a great day for you,” says Weis. Verducci adds his own comments, and Bullard’s name moves to the top of the board.
Kinnon Tatum heads into the conference room with letters of intent from St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) standouts Ben Turk and Jordan Cowart – and those two names moved to the “confirmed” area on the bard. A minute later both are on the phone, as Weis, Polian and Parmalee pass the cell phones around. “We’re pretty fired up about having you join us,” says Weis. Those two join former high school mates Sam Young and Dan Wenger on the Irish roster for ’09.
Jake Golic’s letter rolls off the FAX – and that one easily qualifies as the most public so far, mainly because Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg a few minutes after six started their “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show on ESPN Radio with a reference to what was to occur an hour later (prospects cannot sign their letters of intent until 7:00 a.m. local time). The conference room became quiet, as the Irish coaches watched the monitor as Jake Golic signed his letter of intent on ESPN2 as part of the “Mike & Mike” show. Golic’s call into the conference room reaches Irish assistant Ron Powlus, Weis, then tight end coach Bernie Parmalee. Says the Irish head coach, “It’s a good way to start the day.”
Dan Fox’s letter-of-intent confirmation goes up on the board, and a few minutes later his call reaches the Irish staff. “Tell your family we all say congratulations,” says Weis. Jon Tenuta, Rob Ianello and Brian Polian all jump into the conversation.
Zach Martin calls into the conference room. Weis again stresses academics and Bernie Parmalee and Frank Verducci offer their congratulations. Martin signed his letter at home and them planned a recreation later at Bishop Chatard High School.
Rob Ianello’s cell goes off, and it’s Theo Riddick on the other end. The phone makes the rounds in the conference room. Says Weis, “I’m fired up to talk to one of my guys from Central Jersey.” The Irish head coach mentions that Riddick’s high school is 10 minutes from where he grew up.
Tyler Eifert visits with the Irish staff via the speakerphone in the conference room. The Notre Dame coaches offer their congratulations, tell him to concentrate on his academics and let him know he’ll soon receive a strength and conditioning plan. With Eifert not far away from the Notre Dame campus in Fort Wayne, Ind., he’s one of a handful of newcomers who will have a chance to come by to view spring workouts.
Bagels arrive just as the rest of the Irish staff heads into the conference room. Everyone has a list of names to check off – and when there are moments to spare there are notes to pen to juniors. Irish senior associate athletics director Bill Scholl, who works day to day with the football program, grabs a seat in the conference room. It’s just a few offices away to the FAX machine where the Irish signees will send their letters of intent and grant-in-aid forms.
It’s quiet and still dark on the Notre Dame campus. But the lights are already blazing inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, home to the Irish football offices. Dave Peloquin (director of football development) and Kevin Green (director of head football coach relations) are early arrivals, as is special teams coordinator Brian Polian.
Media attention for college football recruiting has probably never been at a higher level, so it’s hardly a surprise that even a few minutes after six on the opening of “Mike & Mike in the Morning” on ESPN Radio, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic are talking about that subject.
Though this is the ceremonial day for recruiting, it’s actually a three-week extension since cornerback E.J. Banks, defensive lineman Tyler Stockton and linebacker Zeke Motta enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester (they don’t actually sign letters of intent).
It isn’t long before Charlie Weis is in his chair in the second-floor conference room, with ESPN humming quietly in the background on a corner monitor. Like any other year, the Irish coaches share the latest late-night developments on the handful of undecided prospects with whom Notre Dame is involved.