Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This and that | by Pat

News has been sparse the past week, but there are still a few noteworthy nuggets as the team ramps up for the annual Blue-Gold game. The official rosters for the spring game will be released later today, but until then, here is a sampler platter of the past week to catch you up to speed.

O Captain, My Captain

At his most recent press conference, Coach Weis announced the results of the team election for team captains. To the surprise of very few, Brady Quinn was selected as the captain of the offense and Tom Zbikowski was the choice for defensive captain. In a change from last year's rotating special teams captains, Weis decided to go with a permanent special teams captain and the team choice was Travis Thomas. From the scapegoat of the BYU game and permanent member of Ty's doghouse (dawghouse?) in 2004, it's great to see Thomas coming into his own and earning a leadership role on the team.

Weis also mentioned that also unlike last year, he's going to hold off on announcing the team's position specific leadership committee. Weis wants to see which players set up to the role during the player-supervised summer workouts.

Both Quinn and Zibby were named AP 3rd Team All-America players after last season. When is the last time ND returned All-Americans as offensive and defensive captains?

Stary Notre Dame będzie wygrywać nad całym

I have no idea if that translates properly, but it's probably closer to the actual lyrics than Pete Duranko ever gets.

If you've ever heard the Notre Dame Victory March sung in Polish - you've met Pete Duranko. The problem is, Pete doesn't know Polish - he makes up the words! He's a great guy and a joker, with a tremendous sense of humor. Even more important he has given so much to ALS with his attitude and his strength in the face of the most difficult opponent of his life. We want to rally behind him and give him something to smile about.
The above is an excerpt from the press release for the "For the Love of Pete" tribute dinner being held after the Blue and Gold game this coming Saturday. For those not aware, Pete Duranko, the former Notre Dame All-America defensive lineman and NFL All-Pro, is currently battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or as it is better known Lou Gehrig's Disease. To help support Pete, many members of the 1966 National Championship team have organized together to host a banquet dinner in Pete's honor.

The list of former players coming back reads like a who's who of Irish legends including Johnny Lattner, Jim Lynch, Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Seymour, Kevin Hardy, Larry Conjar, George Goeddeke, and many others.

Coach Weis has already named Duranko an honorary captain for the Blue and Gold game and with the dinner coming after the game (and on the 40th anniversary of the 1966 National Championship), I highly recommend that people give serious thought to attending.

The dinner details are included on the above linked press release but for reservations, dinner tickets, and to make contributions, or for more information, contact Julie at the Notre Dame Monogram Club, 574-631-5450, or Email:

The Man Who

Good news for estranged football player Travis Leitko as he was officially re-admitted to the University for the coming summer term. After missing the entire 2005 school year caring for his ailing parents while on academic suspension from the University, the first step in Leitko's quest to re-join the football team has been accomplished.

The best news out of all of this is that Leitko's parents both are on the road to recovery from cancer and hopefully will be able to sit in ND Stadium and watch their son run out of the tunnel once again this coming fall. But for now Travis still has to be fully re-admitted to the University for the fall semester and then earn his way back onto the team.
"I am about to send in my application for the fall, and that shouldn't be a problem -- but you never know," Leitko said Tuesday via cell phone from The Woodlands. "I've also talked to coach (Charlie) Weis, but nothing is in concrete. We've worked some things out, and if everything goes well, it'll give me an opportunity to play for the team next year."
Assuming he makes it back on to the team, it might be tough to see much playing time as Chris Frome, Ronald Talley, and Justin Brown all earned valuable experience last year and a year away from the program can't have helped Travis' development. Still, Leitko was a great special teams player as an underclassman and even if he only contributes there, it will be great to see him out there on the field again running around and smacking heads.
"These last few months have been so hard and have been such a blessing all at the same time," he said. "Part of you wishes it had never happened. Part of you knows you're much stronger for it having happened. It's one of those things you take it as it is.

"We'll see how this year turns out and how everything works. I appreciate the time I've had with my parents, and I love then both dearly. But it's time for me to get back and finish what I started, get everything back to the way it should be and finish everything up right."
Send in the Clowns

Internet rumors (and they're never wrong) claim that Kirk Herbstriet announced on his radio show that ESPN Gameday is already scheduled to be down in Atlanta for the Notre Dame/Georgia Tech season opener. If true, this will be the second straight year that the Irish open the season on the road with the Gameday crew on location. And like the Pitt game, the game against the Yellow Jackets will likely be an evening prime time game. Unlike the Pitt game, I don't think there will be any 0-5 predictions for the 2006 Irish.

Not So Fast My Friends

It seems some of our future schedule talk may have been a bit premature.
"The five places we've had the most conversations about and also had people from those sites wanting to talk to us have been Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Dallas and New Orleans." Heisler said. "I think when (athletic director) Kevin White has been talking about sites and years, he was talking philosophically. There are no deals in place yet. We've got some work to do."
Oh well, it was still fun to take guesses on how the Irish will play and I still hope ND is working on lining up some quality competition. Notice that Heisler mentioned Tampa as well. Assuming that Heisler wasn't speaking philosophically as well, a game at Raymond James Stadium would be fun. Of course, the likelhood of ND playing there some time in the future is already very high as Raymond James is the home field of the Big East member South Florida Bulls.

While I'm at It

The SBT article with the Heisler quote also mentions the uncertain future of the location of Blue/Gold game.
Work being done to the facility's infrastructure during the offseason over the next three years might necessitate some creative thinking when it comes to where to hold the annual spring game.

"It's going to be a year-to-year thing," ND senior associate athletic director John Heisler said. "It's certainly not going to be anything that jeopardizes games in the fall, but some of the questions are: where and when the work is going to be done and what's our ability to accommodate fans in the spring?"

During the stadium expansion in the 1990s, the spring games were played at Cartier Field, behind the Joyce Center. That's an option, but satisfying the demand for tickets would be a problem.

"There still may be some way that this can be timed and structured where we could still play at home," Heisler said. "But I guess at this point there's no guarantee. I think one consideration would be if there was work going on at one side of the stadium, would there be a way to seat people on the other side? I'm not sure we have any answers yet."
If a workaround in the stadium isn't feasible, I say go big. Rather than squeeze into Cartier Field again, pack up the team and head to Soldier Field. At least for 2007. It will be the first Blue-Gold game in five years where the starting QB job is up for grabs. Not to mention the other twelve starting spots that will be opened up by graduation. That alone should make it worthy of a trip to Chicago. Practical? Of course not. Worth looking into? Absolutely.