Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rutgers on Line 1 | by Jay

It didn't take long for Zach Frazer to start shopping around. In the wake of not being named one of the three finalists for the quarterback job, Frazer, according to his father in an interview with the Cumberland Sentinel, is already working the phones, looking for a new home.

"At this point he's a little disappointed," said David Frazer [Zach's father]. "He's worked very hard in the last year and a half and he's been extremely loyal to Notre Dame. He loves the university."

Frazer's name has been tossed around as a possible transfer since the Irish recruited Jones and Clausen. For the upcoming season, the Irish landed four-star prospect Dayne Crist from Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Frazer, who did not see time a season ago, has four years of eligibility remaining. Should he transfer to another Division I school, he would be required to sit out a season, but would still have three years left. A transfer before the fall, to a Division II or III school, means he could play all four years.

"If he could fulfill his desire to be a starting quarterback at a Division I university, he might look at that," David Frazer said.
To his credit, David Frazer was magnaminous towards the program that relegated his son to the scout team, calling Charlie Weis a "phenomenal coach" and Notre Dame a place that Zach "really loves".

the Fifth Horseman | by Jay

Last week, the Irish lost one of their all-time greats, receiver Pete Demmerle, who died at the age of 53. Demmerle lost his battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Last spring, the Notre Dame preview magazine "Here Come the Irish" profiled Demmerle in a heartfelt and poignant article. The piece was reprinted by the article's author here. It's really a great read; if you have a few minutes, please check it out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Old School | by Jay

Anybody going to the reunion this weekend? I'll be there. In fact, I took the liberty of signing myself up to host a seminar:

Blogging With the Blue-Gray Sky
A fun and freewheeling discussion on sports, new media, and the future of fandom.
Topics may include: ND football, blogs, sportswriters, flame wars, quarterback controversies, Charlie Weis, the BCS, graduation rates, recruiting, stats, scheduling, and anything else you want to talk about.

They slotted me at 10:15am on Saturday, in room 118 of DeBartolo. If you're not too hungover from the beer tent the night before, stop on by and say hello.

And then there were...three? | by Pat

The following is a release from Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis (c/o

"After concluding spring ball evaluations, Evan Sharpley, Demetrius Jones and Jimmy Clausen remain as the main contenders. Each of these three young men brought something unique to the QB competition. Evan ran the operation the best, Jimmy threw the ball the best, and Demetrius made the most plays. For these reasons, they will compete for playing time.

"In additional news, the team grade point average for the spring semester was 3.04, exceeding the 3.0 mark for the fourth consecutive semester. Gary Gray had shoulder surgery after exams, which is likely to exclude him from the upcoming season depending on recovery time. Training Camp will be held on our regular practice fields, not the fields by the bookstore. Finally, we will be using officiating crews from the Big East this season rather than Big Ten officials."
Holy cow. I don't think anyone saw this bombshell coming...a 3.04 GPA?

We'll chime in on the impact of this, and other minor and inconsequential things like, oh, the QB race going down to three instead of two (with Frazer left out in the cold), and replacing Big 10 refs with the Big East. Minor stuff, really.

Hello Newman | by Pat

Defensive recruiting got another much needed boost when Kentucky defensive lineman Brandon Newman publically committed to Notre Dame on Friday and became the 13th member of the Class of 2008.

"When it boiled down to it, I looked at my options, and when it comes to academics and athletics Notre Dame was at the top of the list," Newman said. "If any other school would have come in and offered, Notre Dame would have still been at the top."
Newman had been favoring Notre Dame for awhile, but decided to make it official during a trip to campus this past weekend. At 6'1", 305 pounds, Newman will play nose tackle when ND is in a 3-4 defense. It's one of the least glamorous positions as he'll have to constantly fight off double teams, but Newman seems happy that ND is talking about switching to the 3-4.
"It played a huge factor," Newman said of the switch. "That's exactly what I'm doing in high school."
Newman picked ND over offers from Stanford (thanks to his 3.8 GPA), Louisville, Kentucky, and Ole Miss. Reports had Tennessee and Alabama after Newman, but both wanted to see him in summer camp before offering. Neither recruiting site has ranked him yet star-wise, but has him listed as the #19 prospect in the Midwest. On, he's a member of the Top 150 recruits list. As a junior, Newman was named 2nd team All-State and added to the "Tremendous 26" which is Kentucky's High School Coaches Association All-Star team.

While Newman doesn't have the lofty offers or shiny recruit stars that other members of the current recruiting class have, he does fill a very important need for ND. Between ND's current starting nose tackle being listed at a relatively slim 272 pounds and the fact that ND has had to switch players in the last two recruiting classes from tight end and the offensive line into defensive tackles, defensive tackle was priority #1 for this year's recruiting class. Newman at 6'1", 305 pounds combines with recruiting classmate Hafis Williams (6'3", 295 pounds) and last year's Ian Williams (6'2", 295 pounds) to finally give ND a semblance of young depth at the defensive tackle/nose guard position. More importantly, depth with the requisite heft needed. And with a coach-reported 365-pound bench press and 600-pound squat, Newman shouldn't require too much prep time in the weight room before being able to see the field.

Another benefit of Newman's commitment is that, assuming that ND sticks with the 3-4 defense and its solitary nose tackle, the addition of Newman to the depth chart means that guys like Andrew Nuss, Emeka Nwankwo, and possibly even Chris Stewart could return to the offensive line, which will only serve to improve depth at that position as well. While the rebuilding of the OL depth chart has been going better than that at defensive tackle, it doesn't hurt to move guys back to the positions for which they were originally recruited.

Monday, May 28, 2007

True Grit | by Jay

I know Memorial Day is about honoring our fallen soldiers and sailors, but I'd like to take the opportunity mention a living veteran who was the recipient of a recent award. (It's also a great excuse to reprint one of my favorite ND football photos of all time, at right).

Former Notre Dame stalwart Rocky Bleier, who received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in Vietnam, was honored as the National Football Foundation's "Distinguished American" this month. This award is presented only on special occasions when an outstanding individual distinguishes himself.

Bleier starred as a halfback on the '66 National Championship team. He graduated in '68, and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL draft, and played one year before Uncle Sam selected him for active duty in Vietnam.

On August 20, 1969, while on patrol, Bleier's platoon was ambushed and he was wounded in the left leg. A grenade then exploded and he was wounded in the right leg by shrapnel. He returned to the U.S., and while the Steelers kept him on the roster, he had trouble walking and played sparingly over the next three seasons. He persevered, and in 1974 he earned a starting spot, and would go on to help the Steelers win four Super Bowls. Today, Bleier is an author and motivational speaker, and resides in Pittsburgh.

For more on Bleier, check out Tom Pagna's stirring profile for Blue & Gold.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Father Ted | by Jay

Today is Father Hesburgh's 90th birthday. ND Magazine had a nice commemoration in the current issue, and this morning the Chicago Trib followed up with some more well-wishing:

Happy birthday to a visionary following his faith
By Eugene Cullen Kennedy

May 25, 2007

At this time when many observers bewail the lack of great leaders, a truly great one marks a milestone. Father Theodore Hesburgh celebrates his 90th birthday Friday. Hesburgh, who led the University of Notre Dame for 35 years and is now president emeritus, could still take on the papacy or the presidency and lead the Catholic Church or the United States with great distinction.

He has built his service on the foundation of his faith. "Most of the things I have been a part of," he once told me, "I have not only been the only priest, but the only Catholic present. And my value ... came from trying to bring some deeper dimension of faith. These people did not expect me to express belief in the Trinity, I don't mean that. But they did expect that I would reveal the human values that the Gospel illumines for us."

He recalled what a fellow commissioner said to him when he served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was working on voter registration in the white-hot South in the 1960s, Hesburgh said, and the commissioner suggested: " 'Padre, give them a little Christianity,' and that was right. These people in the South remember their Bible and they would say to me, 'I know you're right but I just can't change my feelings.' "

It may have been that forthright commitment in faith to civil rights that led President Richard Nixon, immediately after his landslide defeat of George McGovern in 1972, to fire Hesburgh from the commission.

Hesburgh smiled a little ruefully as he reflected on that treatment by Nixon, who later resigned in disgrace from the presidency. "Thoreau once said that the best place for a man when the government is unjust is in jail," Hesburgh recalled. "Being cut off like this is a way of saying to me, 'You're not so bad.' "

Hesburgh has had 16 presidential appointments, giving him active roles in the battle for civil rights, immigration, Third World development, and peaceful uses of atomic energy. He was the first priest to serve on the board of overseers at Harvard University.

As president of Notre Dame, Hesburgh worked in his office well after midnight. The door was always open, however, to the many students who knew that they could come and talk to him at any hour about their troubles or dreams. Notre Dame theologian Richard McBrien has said, on behalf of all who know him, that "Father Hesburgh is as great a man close up as he is from a Mt. Rushmore distance."

Hesburgh remains vitally involved in bringing the light of his faith to bear on the great causes of our day. You never notice, when you are with him, that this man who sees so deeply into things has suffered the loss of most of his sight. He never complains about this.

Happy 90th birthday, Father Hesburgh. Let's blow out the candles for a great priest who may have lost some of his sight but none of his vision.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DJ Arrested | by Jay

WSBT reports:

Notre Dame Quarterback Arrested

Demetrius Jones was picked up in LaPorte County May 17th on a marijuana possession charge. He bonded out of jail that night.

The LaPorte County prosecutor's office says he has been charged with a misdemeanor possession charge. A university spokesman says Jones remain enrolled, and to his knowledge, is currently in good standing.
So Jones remains enrolled and in good standing for the time being. We'll have more when the full report comes out. But if the allegations are true, I think we can probably put away the idea that he will remain "in good standing" for long; following the Kyle MacAlarney precedent, DJ may be looking at a semester's suspension from the University.

Update, 12:26 PM: Charges were apparently dropped, per the SBT:
Marijuana charge dismissed against ND quarterback

A misdemeanor marijuana possession charge against University of Notre Dame quarterback Demetrius Jones was dismissed Wednesday after testimony from another person indicated that the marijuana did not belong to Jones.

According to court documents in LaPorte Superior Court III, the registered owner of the vehicle Jones was driving on May 17, when Jones was arrested during a traffic stop on the Indiana Toll Road by Indiana State Police, testified that he allowed Jones to borrow his vehicle to drive from Chicago to South Bend.

To the best of the car owner’s knowledge, court documents said, Jones did not know there was marijuana in the ashtray.
I'm not sure why this wasn't included in the WSBT report, as it seems to be part of the official record.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

You know how I know you're Michigan? | by Pat

Quoth Michigan athletic director Bill Martin last week at a Michigan golf charity event about the Notre Dame-Michigan series:

"It's the highest-rated television preseason game in college football," Martin said. "Those are the two winningest programs in college football history. It's the game that all of our fans want and all of the Notre Dame fans want. It's hard to drop that series. They don't want to drop it, I don't want to drop it; I want to simply fine-tune it a little bit. We've been talking about taking off an odd number of years so we can accomplish that (schedule maneuvering), but then that doesn't do what they want,"
This could be like the first conversation of three conversations that leads to Michigan dropping Notre Dame.

Like...there's this statement, and then in a year it's like, "Oh you know, I kinda wanna, ya know, get that contract extension worked out, but I think I might want to try playing other teams". And then there's the big, "Oh, yeah, we're dropping ND now."

So Michigan wants to change the schedule with the Irish so they don't play both ND and Ohio State at home in the same season. But ND doesn't want to switch because that means playing both Michigan and Southern Cal at home in the same season (and probably more importantly, both on the road in the same season). The current ND-UM series contract runs out in 2011. It will be interesting to see who flinches first in the game of scheduling chicken.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lowering the White Flag? | by Jay

Matt Hayes of the Sporting News dropped this morsel into his column a few weeks ago:

Look for Notre Dame A.D. Kevin White to renegotiate the Irish's deal when the BCS and FOX open contract talks--possibly as early as this summer. As it is now, Notre Dame gets $4.5 million in years it goes to a BCS bowl (compared with $17 million for each BCS conference champion) and $1.3 million when it doesn't. That deal was made during the Ty Willingham era and probably cost the Irish about $12 million last year.
We've talked about our poorly-negotiated BCS deal many times, but most notably when the new structure was originally announced.

Amazing how putting a good team on the field changes the dynamics of these things. Amazing.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blogging in the Big Leagues | by Pat

Set to battle Ruth Riley for bragging rights of ND's top pro athlete/blogger, Jeff Samardzija has been jotting some notes about life in the minors on his new official webpage. Most of the updates are just quick notes on his life, music, and how pitching for the Daytona Cubs is going. There are a few mentions of ND football though, and I thought these two excerpts about Travis Thomas and Tommy Zbikowski were pretty interesting...

A little story about Travis, I remember when our class was new to the block back in 2003. At that point the starting RB was Julius Jones who was sharing time with Ryan Grant. When Travis came in, he honestly looked just as good JJ. When we would scrimmage the starters, Travis would run wild. No joke, so look for him to have a big year if he stays full time at RB. ...

Over the weekend there were a lot of questions regarding Tommy and how this 07' ND team will be. First things first, Tommy is on a mission this year. No distractions, he's living by himself, and making himself the best possible football player is his number one priority. To be honest he's going to scare a ton of WR's this year. He's cut a little back on his weight, been in speed camp all offseason so you know he can flat out fly, and he's as strong as ever. Might see some helmets flying off if there's any crossing routes infront of him this season. Bottom line is Tommy is back and he's looking to prove something.
It's not a surprise that Jeff would speak highly of his old classmates, but a breakout Travis Thomas and rejuvenated Zibby would be two giant first steps for an inexperienced 2007 team that faces a gauntlet of tough teams right out of the gate.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What ever happened to that "Charles" guy? | by Pat

Spot the familiar face in this clip of the 1987 Notre Dame-Miami game, courtesy of star Video Vault contributor tjnd88.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Travels With Charlie, '07 | by Jay

(Warning: recruiting-heavy post. Feel free to skip if you don't follow recruiting.)

Right now we're in the middle of the spring evaluation period for recruiting, a month-long window where college coaches can visit high schools and start calling recruits directly for the first time. At this very moment, coaches and assistants from all the big programs are criss-crossing the country, burning up their frequent flier miles in search of the next great recruit. Alamo is out of rental cars. Wallets are overflowing with Denny's receipts. Days Inn stock is soaring.

If you subscribe to the Scout or Rivals recruiting services, you can get a pretty good handle on who the Irish coaches have visited on any given day. Usually there's a daily mention of Charlie chatting up a high school coach, or a recruit talking about the coaches that came to see him that day. Put it all together, and you've got a snapshot of a recruiting whirlwind that would daunt even the hardiest of business travelers.

This year, instead of trying to piece everything together after the fact, we decided to plug in a handy new tool called Google: My Maps and try to follow things as they unfold. For every Charlie visit we hear about, we'll put a pushpin on the map, along with a link to that recruit's profile. It's starting to shape up:

Note that this is a record of visits to-date; as Charlie keeps moving, this map will keep filling up. If you read about another recruiting visit, feel free to drop us a note and we'll add another pushpin.

Friday, May 11, 2007

May Day! | by Jay

Reader Gabe points out a crucial bit of info from one of the previously linked articles:

As for the current crop of Fighting Irish quarterbacks, Weis does not expect to let them know where they stand until May 30, nine days after he returns from recruiting.
We all knew the race was going to be cut to two sometime in the near future, but I believe this is the first time I've seen a hard deadline applied to the quarterback scramble. Place your bets.

BGS bits | by Jay

There were a slate of good articles coming out this morning following an appearnce by Charlie in Wilkes-Barre, PA, for a Volunteers of America dinner. The most interesting read is this piece from Jerry Kellar of the Times Leader.

WILKES-BARRE – With Brady Quinn off to the NFL and Notre Dame’s returning crop of quarterbacks young and untested, head coach Charlie Weis knew it was going to take someone unique to guide the most important position on the team.

So he offered the job to Ron Powlus.

“This has been a very good situation for me, especially going into this year with a bunch of inexperienced quarterbacks,” said Weis, the principal speaker at Thursday’s fourth annual Volunteers of America Celebrity Benefit Dinner at Genetti Hotel & Conference Center.

“To have a guy that had been working as my director of player personnel for the last two years, that I got to watch how he works … and being able to have a guy like that who basically started at Notre Dame for four years and was under the pressure of being a Notre Dame quarterback, it’s really been a very smooth transition for both he and I.”

A former Berwick High School All-American, Powlus set a whopping 20 passing records during his time in South Bend (1993-1996). Although most of those marks were erased by Quinn, a recent first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, Powlus still holds plenty of cache at his collegiate alma mater.

He’ll be working with a group of talented athletes, including highly regarded California signal-caller Jimmy Clausen, the nation’s top recruit last year.

“Not one of them has played a meaningful down,” Weis said of his QBs. “(Ron) can answer questions that I can’t answer. I was not a player; he was a player. So he can answer questions that I do not have the background to answer.”

Despite being at Notre Dame for just two seasons, Weis, who won three Super Bowl championships as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, has been rumored to be heading back to the NFL, this time as a head coach.

Not so, he said Thursday.

“The first year at Notre Dame, there were several inquiries,” Weis admitted. “You know, it’s funny. You’re an offensive coordinator and you’re trying to get a head coaching job, all of sudden you get a head coaching job and now everyone offers you jobs.”

With the intention of keeping their man, Notre Dame officials ripped up their original six-year contract with Weis and gave him an 11-year deal.

Combine that with the quick firing of former coach Ty Willingham, who preceded Weis, and many of the school’s former players were left angered at the Notre Dame administration.

One of the disgruntled alumni, former All-America defensive tackle Chris Zorich, said during a recent speaking engagement in Wilkes-Barre that Weis reached out to him upon learning of the player’s feelings.

“It was a one-sided conversation, but that’s OK,” Weis said. “I think I had to do some – I wouldn’t say smoothing over – but I think a lot of people did not have all the information on the coaching change. I think the fact that I went to Notre Dame made it a lot easier with people like Chris … when I can pick up the phone say, ‘Look it, here’s what really happened.’”

Though Weis didn’t say if his new deal includes an escape clause, he pointed out that the terms of the contract are written in such a manner “so that there’s too many tie-ins both ways where I couldn’t leave and they couldn’t get rid of me.

“And when you go on the road in a recruiting setting and a parent asks you that question, when you give that answer that suffices because that’s the truth.”

Weis revealed that his passion for the university started when he was a young sports fan growing up in New Jersey. Fighting Irish football highlights were a staple of his Sunday mornings. After that, he was hooked. Not long thereafter, he became a Notre Dame student.

“I think that that’s probably one of the biggest advantages I had over the last couple of coaches is that I walked that walk. … I lived that experience,” he said of his time at the school. “So for me, I was part of that passion.”
Interesting stuff there about the damage control Charlie had to do following his contract extension.

• Speaking of Zorro, did you hear he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame? For my money, he was the best defensive lineman going back to when I was in school, and that includes Bryant Young (a terrific player in his own right). Zorich, slicing through the line in his half-jersey and destroying ball carriers, was really the fulcrum of that '88 defense, and everyone else keyed off of his intensity and relentlessness. To see what I'm talking about, check out this Zorich Video Tribute put together by (IE required). Zorro was the best.

• As noted by our intrepid commenters, a Darius Walker contract with the Houston Texans is imminent, thus bringing to an end Darius' twisting travels since declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dirty Dozen | by Pat

Recruiting hit the dozen mark when Maryland offensive lineman Lane Clelland decided to announce for Notre Dame last week. Schools were hot on the trail of the 6-5, 265-pound tackle, but after narrowing his list down to a handful, Clelland made the call and narrowed it down to one.

"All of the other programs did an awesome job recruiting me and they were awesome schools, and they've made it tough on me to make a decision. ... But I thought Notre Dame was a great program with phenomenal coaches, and the place where I thought I could do my best athletically and academically."
Clelland had offers from a list of schools with strong OL traditions including Florida, Michigan, Florida State, Nebraska, Virginia, and Boston College. He cut his list to ND and Michigan before deciding to choose ND.

The Irish are pegging him as a future left tackle. The recruiting sites have pretty high praise for Clelland: Scout lists him as a 4-star lineman, and ESPN has him on their Top 150 list. Rivals doesn't have any stars listed yet, but they do have some free highlight footage of Clelland here.

At 265 pounds, Clelland does sound a little light, especially in the era of 300+ pound high school lineman, but as a wrestler and baseball player Clelland likely has to keep his weight down to a certain degree. His brother, who was a four year starter at Northwestern on the offensive line, was similar in stature, but he finished college at 315 pounds. Then again, it appears that ND likes have "smaller", quicker lineman at left tackle. Ryan Harris is the obvious example, but given the opportunity this spring, Weis and Latina kept massive Sam Young at right tackle and groomed Paul Duncan -- still big, but not as big as Young -- at left tackle. Given the speed of pass rushers these days, quick feet and solid technique matter just as much if not more than bulk and pure strength. I like the fact that Clelland is a wrestler, as that can only help his balance and footwork.

Clelland gives ND a much-needed tackle to join guard-center prospects Mike Golic, Jr. and Braxston Cave in this class. It also means that there are only about 10 or 11 slots left. It's too early to try and nail down a specific checklist of which remaining positions need to be filled; sometimes you just have to take the best possible players even if it leaves you a spot short at one position. But I think it's safe to say that ND is still working hard on getting defensive backs, a wide receiver or two, a running back, plus a few more bodies for the offensive and defensive line. As the summer rolls on and some of the top prospects start to narrow their lists, what exactly ND will do with the remaining handful of open class slots will become clearer.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the Running Man | by Pat

Recruiting fans might remember that incoming freshman Mike Ragone injured his knee a year ago and sat out his entire senior year rehabilitating it. Well, it appears that he's fully healthy now as he's running track for his high school team. Good news to be sure.

The better news is that, among other events, the 6'5" 230 pound tight end is running the 100 meter dash for his high school team....and taking first place in local meets with times of 11.4 seconds.

For a guy his size, those are some serious wheels.

Monday, May 07, 2007

And if you keep building it... | by Jay

As if on cue: the SBT has another article on the Eddy Commons, highlighting the expanding footprint of the project. Not one, but two hotels -- and more.

The project has grown in density. The original plans, released last year, proposed a 150-room hotel. A second hotel is now planned.

A 248-unit full-service hotel will be built just south of Edison Road, in north-south alignment with Notre Dame Stadium, according to officials with Kite Realty Group of Indianapolis. Kite was selected by Notre Dame to develop the college town project.

The hotel will be six stories, with an 8,000-square-foot ballroom and 4,000 square feet of meeting rooms. And it could grow even taller: The hotel may be topped with an additional three stories of condominiums.

The full-service hotel "will be the signature building in the development," said David Compton, Kite's vice president for development and land acquisition.

Just east of that hotel will be a smaller 123-room limited-service hotel.

Compton said both hotels will be commercially operated by a well-known operator, but would not reveal a name.

Other elements of the project planned for 25 acres of Notre Dame-owned land south of campus:

* 82,600 square feet of shops and restaurants along both sides of Eddy Street. The retail area would feature four-story buildings.

* A parking garage with space for 1,043 vehicles. The garage will have four floors, including one underground.

* 268 rental apartments above the retail storefronts, mixed with 75,000 square feet of rental office space.

* 49 four-story townhouses wrapping around the east and south sides of the parking garage. There will be a one-car garage on the ground level of each townhouse.

* 52 condominiums

* 63 three-story townhouses, with two-car garages on the ground level

* 22 2 1/2-story "courtyard" town homes, each with an attached two-car rear garage and a small outdoor courtyard.

A version of the plan released by Notre Dame last fall showed one hotel, 100 rental apartments and a parking garage for 270 to 400 vehicles, in addition to townhouses and condominiums.

Marketing research completed since then supports a greater density to the project, with demand evident, Compton said.

He stressed that the current plan is still in the proposal stage and will need zoning approval from the South Bend Common Council. Kite has filed a request with the city to rezone the entire parcel as a planned unit development. The request could come before the Area Plan Commission on June 19.

The Common Council will make a final decision. If approved, construction could begin in the fall.
The new layout (posted above) updates the one in the previous post (which was released last year). Both hotels will face Edison, just east of the retail strip on Eddy, with the four-story parking garage behind them to the south. By the way, as Dylan pointed out, how much of this expansion and increase in "demand" since last year, according to the market researchers, is directly attributable to the resurgence of football under Charlie Weis? But I digress.

Key sentence (from later in the article):
Under its contract with Kite, Notre Dame retains the right of final approval over tenants and types of businesses that may locate in the retail area.
Keep an eye on what kinds of businesses are allowed to start signing leases.

A final thought. All the hullabaloo in the latest plan seems to be about the hotels, the condos, and the townhouses. To me, the "college town" commercial district is the crux of the project; it's the straw that stirs the drink. Without it, the area would be just another run-of-the-mill housing development.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

If you build it... | by Jay

Two bits this week on campus (and off-campus) development.

"ND thinks big with future plans", SBT. Lots of details on various construction projects, both short-term and long.

"Kite Realty Submits Eddy Proposal"
, the Observer. An update on the development of the "Eddy Street Commons", a mixed-use area extending along Eddy, from Edison south. It will combine retail shops, a 150-room hotel, office space, a parking garage, and a mix of condominiums, townhouses and apartments. Selected highlights:

...The land for the proposed development now consists of a mostly wooded area, a few gravel lots and some boarded-up homes along Eddy Street.

But Kite Vice President David Compton sees something much different.

"As you walk down Eddy, you're going to have four-story buildings on both sides of you, with old-style shops with painted signs," he said...

...Hakanen also pointed out the University is planning to landscape the area south of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center into a "town commons" that will be available to students, shoppers, and residents...

...retail will stretch along the block of Eddy between Edison and Napoleon Boulevard. Assistant Project Manager Ashley Ottesen said "anchor" institutions like grocery stores and bookstores will take up large chunks of the 80,000 square feet of retail and smaller shops will fill in the rest.

"You need one larger tenant to anchor the center, and then you need smaller tenants," she said. "We're looking for a mix."

Compton said he envisions a coffee shop in the neighborhood and said that, while nothing has been finalized, the South Bend Chocolate Company has expressed interest in a location in Eddy Commons.

"You'd like to have that shop, whether it be a bookstore or a market, that would be your main reason to be there, but you also need a coffee shop or a small restaurant where you could grab a sandwich or some ice cream," he said...

...Hakanen said the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore has also expressed interest in a location in the area, but that for the most part, the University's role has been mainly limited to what Notre Dame would not like to see along Eddy Street.

"As part of our agreement with Kite, we identified some of what we called 'noxious' uses that we felt were inappropriate to the neighborhood and the mission of a Catholic university," Hakanen said, adding that businesses counterproductive to a retail district would also be excluded.

Hakanen said funeral homes and second hand stores were on the list, among other things. He also said that while there will be restaurants that serve alcohol, there will be no bars in the new development...
A little more background on the Eddy Street development from a SBT article last summer.

So, will this development be more like a Charlottesville, or a strip mall? Judging from Kite's portfolio -- Macaroni Grills and Bed, Bath, and Beyonds, as far as the eye can see -- I'm not exactly sanguine.

I think this development has the potential, if executed correctly, to redefine life at ND in a profound way. In fact, I think it could be the most significant construction spearheaded by ND in any of our lifetimes, in terms of both the utility and diversion it would offer to everyone associated with Notre Dame (students, faculty, staff) and all the surrounding residents of South Bend.

I look around the country at other colleges, even ones as small as ND, and I'm envious of their college communities. The very best ones incorporate a beautiful, pastoral campus with a social & commerical district. ND has always had the former, but never the latter. One of the biggest downsides about ND has always been the lack of walkable options for eating, drinking, socializing, shopping. This has the possibility of creating a vibrant, vital complement to campus that has been lacking ever since, well, since the inception of the university.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Better than Expected | by Jay

Never fear...Pythagoras is here. From a piece on Expected Wins, as applied to the 2006 season...

G * PF² / (PF² + PA²) = Expected Wins
G=Total Games; PF=Points For; PA=Points Against
For the 2006 season:
13 * 403² / (403² + 310² ) = 8.17 Expected Wins
Actual Wins: 10. The blowouts skew things, but according to the Greek, we actually overperformed a little bit.

I'm sure you were all on pins and needles for months waiting for that one.

Still Walking? | by Jay

Darius Walker has not signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears yet -- or with any team, for that matter. Strange; the Bears' signing was previously reported by many sources, including the athletic department itself. A deal that was in place has apparently fallen apart, according to today's SBT.

A sidelight to the story was a quote from Jimmy Walker, Darius' dad, that was printed on Tuesday. Jeff Carroll of the SBT had interviewed Jimmy, who expressed surprise and disappointment at the fact that Darius wasn't drafted. In the article, Carroll raised the question of why Charlie hadn't appeared at Darius' pro announcement presser, and whether Charlie's prepared statement expressing "disappointment" meant anything more than simply that ND was sad to see him go. When asked whether he thought Charlie Weis had backed Darius enough in the draft process, Jimmy Walker replied, "I have no comment on it." This seemed, to me, a loaded answer (and a loaded question, for that matter), and it suggested that the Walkers (or Jimmy, at least) thought Charlie had something to do with Darius' draft day denouement.

In today's follow-up, Darius clarified his own sentiments:

Walker said that he believes ND coach Charlie Weis, though disappointed in his decision to exit early, supported him in discussions with NFL contacts. And he believes Rosenhaus, his agent, has been doing his best to represent his current interests.
I know disappointment is running pretty high in the Walker house right now, but there are, unfortunately, some legitimate football knocks against Darius that explain why he doesn't have a home in the NFL yet.

By the way, since he wasn't drafted, could Darius return to play another year at Notre Dame? According to the NCAA, players can declare for the draft and maintain eligibility under certain conditions:
Division I-A and I-AA football student-athletes are permitted to enter the NFL draft one time without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his intention to resume intercollegiate football participation within 72 hours after the NFL draft declaration date. Further, the 72-hour period begins at 12:01 a.m., after the NFL draft declaration deadline. This date is traditionally in mid-January.

In the above circumstance, the individual may not have an oral or written agreement with an agent or not received any benefits from an agent in order to return to or enroll in an NCAA institution.
So, by signing with an agent, Darius closed himself off from that option. Given his pre-draft assessments, I'm sure he didn't think he'd have to fall back on it, though.

Filling Up the Middle | by Jay

Another brick in the defensive wall: New Jersey player Hafis Williams, a 6-3, 275-pound defensive tackle, committed to the Irish this week. The SBT has the scoop:

Williams, who visited unofficially for the April 21 Blue-Gold Game, registered 106 tackles and six sacks as a junior, according to recruiting Web site Williams is ranked as one of the top 100 players nationally by CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, and Lemming ranks him as a five-star recruit, his highest ranking.

"He's got a motor that's always going," said Lemming, who ranks Williams as the best defensive lineman in New Jersey. "I like him because Notre Dame is desperate for defensive line-types."

[His high school coach] Parlavecchio believes that Williams could beef up to 300 pounds and that he'll play inside in ND's revamped 3-4 defense. Lemming also believes that Williams will end up inside, although he can't rule out defensive end.
Williams was recruited by Corwin Brown and seems a great fit for the style of defense the new coordinator is putting together. From a piece last month on Williams in Irish Eyes:
Williams has tried to get Parlavecchio to switch his defense from a 4-3 formation to a 3-4. He played it in middle school, but coach isn’t budging.

“I love the 3-4, I think it’s my favorite defense,” Williams said.
He's also a pretty good wrestler, and Corwin Brown has mentioned in the past how he likes defensive linemen who have a background in wrestling, because they know how to play with leverage -- even if outweighed.

Williams nailed down an offer from Charlie Weis back at the beginning of April, and travelled to Notre Dame for the Blue-Gold game two weekends ago. The visit all but sealed the deal, and he nearly committed that weekend. From the Irish Illustrated release:
While the Weis visit helped seal the deal for the Irish, the biggest move Notre Dame made in landing the New Jersey stand out was getting him in town for the spring game. A fan of the program's traditions, Williams felt himself clicking with the Irish from the second he set foot on campus. He said Weis could see it happening.

"When I went out there, he saw my eyes light up like light bulbs," Williams said. "He was ecstatic when I told him. He said let's get this train moving right here. He said Jersey guys stick with Jersey guys."
Williams plays for Elizabeth High School in North Jersey, and last year they went 11-1 and won the state championship for their division. He had over 100 tackles as a junior despite near constant double-teams, with an eye-popping 65 tackles for a loss (and six sacks, for good measure). “I would have had more tackles, but we had three great linebackers and I just had to try and get my fair share,” Williams said. Williams is expected to be one of the top two or three senior defensive linemen in the state his senior year.

Irish Eyes had a radio interview with Williams back on April 3, which you can listen to here. He seems like an excellent fit for Notre Dame, both on and off the field.
“My grandmother, she is like my motivator,” Williams said. He has a 3.3 GPA. “My freshman year coming into high school, she said the only way you can succeed is with good grades in the classroom. She always knew if I got any type of interest for football, first I’d have to do it in the classroom. I always worked hard at school for her, but my freshman year I started doing it for myself. It became part of my character, do things for myself.

“She was right, and the more I did for myself, it started to take over on the field,” Williams continued. “I’ve got better every year since my freshman year because she put me in that environment. I started my freshman year and did what I had to do, and I have started ever since.”

“When you live in like a bad neighborhood, you always dream of playing at Notre Dame but you don’t think it can happen,” Williams said. “Now I see it can really happen, my dream is coming true."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Under the Lights | by Jay

Quick scheduling note: times for two of our road games have been released:

  • 9/8 at Penn State, 6pm ET (ESPN)
  • 10/6 at UCLA, 8pm ET (ABC)
Still waiting on Michigan, Purdue and Stanford. If we go by previous years, I'm willing to bet Purdue and Stanford will be evening games as well, with Michigan a midday start.