Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Skywriting | by Pat

Catching up on a few recent topics of interest...

• Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Mike Haywood is out of contention for the University of Houston job as the Cougars hired Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator Kevin Sumlin. Too bad for Houston native Haywood. Even though he hasn't been calling plays for ND I think he's ready for his own head coaching gig and will be a solid hire for some smaller program someday.

• An interesting story out of the New Jersey yesterday provided a small update to our ongoing discussion of future ND schedules and the Big East scheduling agreement. Writer Harvey Yavener included this tidbit about the rumored yearly matchup between Notre Dame and Rutgers.

That's what Notre Dame was ready to do. The deal was in place, Bob Mulcahy lining up the Irish for an annual series. Seven years at the start, but open-ended and ready to become the best intersectional rivalry in the country. And then Schiano balked. Notre Dame expected, likely was assured, the New Jersey games of the home-and- home would be played in the maximum exposure of the Meadowlands. Schiano said no, the Irish had to come to The Banks. Deal off.
If this is true, I wonder if ND will still try to stick with the pledge to play three Big East teams per year. The initial article about the Big East agreement two years ago noted the following:
Notre Dame will play one of the three Big East teams on a yearly basis -- expected to be Rutgers or Connecticut -- at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, reportedly for recruiting and alumni purposes.
I can't see UConn wanting to make the trip to New Jersey every other year (then again, what do I know) so it will be interesting to see the fallout if Schiano is indeed nixing the Meadowlands plan. When you throw in the recent decision by the Big Ten to extend their conference schedule past Thanksgiving, which potentially could open the possibility of later-in-the-season games with traditional Big Ten foes like Purdue and Michigan State, ND has a chance to add a bit more flexibility to the schedule. We'll have to see what happens.

• Working to fix the issue of the ND Stadium turf coming up in chunks every time a player made a sharp cut, the stadium field was replaced right after the Duke game. The new sod was rolled in and ND enrolled the help of George Toma, the so-called Sodfather who has prepared the fields for every Super Bowl. The above link includes a few pictures of the new sod being laid down. I know....exciting stuff.

• In other field-related news, ND made plans to modify the practice field setup and broke ground in late November on three new practice fields.

The three fields, two of them artificial turf, comprise a $2.5 million project that is based on the benefaction of John R. "Rees" LaBar, a 1953 Notre Dame graduate, and his wife, Carolyn, who reside in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Long Boat Key, Fla. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Oct. 20, the morning of the Notre Dame-USC football game, to signify the start of the project.

The turf practice fields will be available for use primarily by the football squad, but also for lacrosse, soccer and RecSports use. The fields will be located side by side at the far north end of the current Cartier Field configuration. They will help meet the year-round demand for high-quality practice fields and also will reduce demand for the Loftus Center indoor field. Each field will be lighted and secured by an eight-foot fence, with an adjacent maintenance building to provide storage.

The re-design is part of a grand reshaping of the athletic fields north and east of the JACC. The fields will also be closer to the Gug, meaning the head coach will be able to oversee the new practice fields from his second floor office balcony. I imagine that will be a stop on future recruiting tours. Good news about the artificial turf fields too. That means ND will be able to spend more practice time outside and not worry about tearing up the pitch in less than ideal weather.

• Finally, hundreds of students and fans lined up in the early morning hours to get a chance to get Charlie Weis's autograph. Charlie signed all manners of ND paraphernalia for about five hours last Friday , spending time with each person in line. The SBT was there and as a photo gallery up on their website. I guess when you don't need to worry about bowl game prep you can fill your schedule with events like these. Seriously though, it is nice to see Charlie working to earn some goodwill with the ND community after a rough season shook many people's faith in him. It's also nice to see the ND community showing some faith in Charlie after a rough season by braving the cold to wait in line so long. Those signed footballs probably will make a better keepsake than the autographed picture of Bob Davie I got my younger brother for Christmas one year.