Wednesday, August 06, 2008

SkyWriting: Almost there edition | by Pat

Here are a number of stories from the past week or so as we all count down until Friday's kickoff to the 2008 season.

• Sad news to start with the passing of Notre Dame player and legendary assistant coach Joe Yonto.

An Orrville, Ohio, native, Yonto served as the Irish defensive line coach starting in Parseghian's first season at Notre Dame in 1964 and held that role throughout Parseghian's 11 seasons, as well as six more (1975-80) under Devine, the last four as defensive coordinator.

During that period, he was a part of three Notre Dame national championship staffs (1966, 1973 and 1977) and he coached a dozen All-America defensive linemen. That list included Alan Page, Kevin Hardy, Mike McCoy, Walt Patulski, Mike Kadish, Mike Fanning, Steve Niehaus and Ross Browner - all of whom went on to be selected in the first round of the National Football League draft. Browner won the Lombardi, Outland and Maxwell Awards, and Patulski also won the Lombardi.

On 12 occasions, Yonto's defensive line ranked among the top 10 teams in the country in terms of rushing defense. Eight of those Irish teams gave up less than 100 rushing yards per game, and the '74 Notre Dame ranked first nationally in both rushing defense and total defense (195.2 yards per game).
Even more impressive than his legacy of pro players and statistical rankings is how he is regarded by those that worked with him.
“Joe didn’t know the coaching realm at the collegiate level,” said former fellow Parseghian staff assistant Tom Pagna, “but he learned it and was intense and had a great sense of humor. And never, on or off the field, do you ever hear one swear word from him. He was a very religious man and a family man. He just had a love affair with Notre Dame. I think everybody who knew the guy loved him because he was the epitome of what being a good man really means.”
Rest in peace, Joe.

• ND has added another opponent to the 2010 schedule.
Besides playing at Michigan this season (Aug. 30), Utah will play at Notre Dame for the first time in history on Nov. 13, 2010, in South Bend, Ind. The deal was finalized on Monday, a couple of months after word first leaked out about about a possible Ute-Fighting Irish game.
We've been a bit quiet with our criticism of ND's lackluster scheduling philosophy as of late, including the fact that many of ND's most recently named opponents (Washington State and Baylor for example) feature lower level BCS teams who happen to be run by former co-workers and friends of Kevin White. The Utah game doesn't seem to be any different.
The game came to fruition because of [Utah athletic director Chris] Hill's friendship with former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who recently left for Duke. Ute and Irish officials went back and forth before completing the deal Monday. Utah will receive a guarantee of $950,000 for the game.
Still, with new Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick just moving into his office, perhaps it's best to consider many of our complaints about White water under the bridge and see what Swarbrick does with the few available open slots left in the coming years. If I may be so forward, Jack, call Miami.

• The Post-Tribune has a nice interview with long time Notre Dame announcing legend Tony O'Hara. If you're wondering just who this O'Hara guy is, it's probably because you, like me, had no idea that Tony Roberts wasn't always known as Tony Roberts.

• Not a big surprise here, but Notre Dame comes out near the top of programs when it comes to spending money on recruiting. Given the national reach of ND recruiting, and this list includes all sports, just getting to the home of the recruit is probably a big source of the expenditure. Flying out to visit Manti Teo isn't cheap.

• Finally, we might as well address the whole "ND players might have been around beer" issue that popped up on Monday because someone is going to ask about it during Media Day on Friday. I'm probably giving the situation more attention than it really deserves, but here goes.

My first reaction to reading Brian Hamilton and Michael Rothstein's journo-blog reports on the photos that popped up on The Big Lead was surprise. I figured ND beat writers would have been able to identify Armando Allen as the fourth player in the pictures. As for actually writing about it in the first place, their decision to run the pictures highlights the uncharted waters of the rapidly emerging newspaper-affiliated journalist blog. More and more papers are giving their writers an extra bit of internet real estate to stretch their legs and be more independent. But with that comes the decision of how to fill them up with content. From my reading, the various college football beat writer blogs range from the truly excellent to the truly trashy.

So when the photos popped up on The Big Lead, I can't say that I was surprised that both Hamilton and Rothstein linked the pics. After all, it's still technically the slow news off-season and, if we're being fair, Clausen is one of the most recognizable players in the country and he does have a previous incident with alcohol under his belt, no matter how archaic that particular Indiana blue law.

But at the same time, I do think Hamilton was a bit alarmist and sensationalistic, especially given his jokey manner in other posts and the glorified "no comment" Notre Dame gave him when he called for a response to the pictures. Rothstein did a much better job of dismissing the controversy and punishment angle and using the pictures to talk about the perils of being a high profile athlete in the current stalkarazzi web culture. That's about all the response the pictures warranted.

I generally like the trend of letting beat writers provide even more info and insight for the hardcore fan. I particularly like the effort that Rothstein and Ben Ford put into their blogs. However, I think those reporters writing the blog need to make the decision of if they are going to stick closer to the professional journalist side of the ledger or stray into the gossipy world of "check out this photo!" found on many sports blogs. Common sense would dictate that this particular incident isn't a story worth much effort unless Notre Dame decides to take action against the players or Jimmy starts to tassle his jersey in a similar manner to his Beer Olympics shirt.

As for ND, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt and hoping they'll realize just how silly it would be to do anything to the players. ResLife's overly strict reputation is well-earned, but I have to think even they have the common sense to treat all the attention given the issue the same way Clarence Beeks treats someone who wants to use the pay phone. In the meantime, I'm just glad that cell phone cameras weren't around when Gipp and Paul Hornung were students.

I'm also glad that it's only a another day and change until we can talk actual football.