Saturday, December 31, 2011

Notre Dame Hockey New Year's Eve Extravaganza

Fans of Notre Dame Hockey rejoice! Today marks the beginning of what will certainly be a lucrative opportunity for Notre Dame Hockey as they begin their partnership with Versus (soon to be NBC Sports Network come Monday, January 2, 2012).

First up for the Fighting Irish is a matchup against Boston University at 7:05p EST from the beautiful new Compton Family Ice Arena. It will mark the first college hockey game to be televised by the fledgling sports network.

Notre Dame beats Rensselaer 5-2 in innaugural game at Compton Family Ice Arena

Both teams are nationally ranked in both the USA Today/America Hockey Magazine and polls. Respectively, Notre Dame (11-6-3) is #6/#5 while Boston (10-5-1) is #9/#9.

After the game, Fighting Irish fans should stay tuned to Versus for a one hour documentary called 'Onward to Victory: Notre Dame Hockey.' The documentary followed the Fighting Irish as they prepared to play rival Boston College on November 18, 2011.

Preview of 'Onward to Victory: Notre Dame Hockey'

It was a pivotal game for the Irish as it served as an early measuring stick for the 2011-12 hockey season and was the official dedication game of their new hockey home. In a thrilling game that lived up to the pre game hype, the Irish emerged victorious thanks to a goal from Bryan Rust with 1.1 seconds left in overtime.

Notre Dame beats Boston College 3-2 in OT

Compton Family Ice Arena dedication video

Notre Dame Second Most Valued College Football Team

Forbes recently released its annual list of most valued college football teams (2011) and the Fighting Irish again found themselves in the second spot. Texas earned the top honor again just like last year.

A number of factors contribute to the rankings, including TV rights, game revenue, sponsorships, revenue sharing and more. Notre Dame, of course, lacks one major contributor for most other schools due to its independent status: revenue sharing.

Nevertheless, the Irish netted a current value of $112 million, $17 million behind the first-ranked Longhorns ($129 million).

An interesting tidbit from the rankings, Notre Dame was the only school this season to generate more than $10 million per home game.

While the Champs Sports Bowl left Irish fans with a pitting feeling in their stomachs, they can take solace that regardless of the team's record the Notre Dame name still caries more (economic) clout than nearly every other college football program.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Frank Beamer May Give Army Veteran Shot to Play for Hokies

Daniel Rodriguez has been to Iraq and Afghanistan, now he wants to go to Blacksburg.

The 23-year-old Stafford, VA native joined the Army instead of going directly to college and served a 12-month tour in each country.

In October of 2009, his unit was overrun by hundreds of Taliban soldiers in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. Outnumbered roughly 5 to 1, The Americans killed 150 Taliban soliders while losing eight of their own.

Rodriguez received the Bronze Star for valor for his acts during the battle, the most harrowing being a reported 300 meter run under heavy fire to replace a fallen soldier holding down the perimeter.

Rodriguez took shrapnel in his legs and neck, as well as a bullet fragment in his shoulder.

He was treated in country and fulfilled his tour of duty. Now healthy and home, he hopes to fulfill his dream to play college football and just might get that shot at his dream school; Virginia Tech.

After publishing his piece on the Washingtonian's website, author Brett Haber forwarded the story to Tech's athletic department and asked them to give it to coach Beamer, fully expecting them to ignore it. He later received this note:

“Brett, I watched the video on Daniel—very impressive! I plan to contact Daniel after our bowl game in January. I hope this story can work out for everyone. Best Wishes! Frank Beamer.”

Here's the really great video below. And here's to hoping Daniel's story comes to a happy conclusion in orange and maroon or some other colors. He'll certainly wear them well.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ESPN Analyst Craig James to Run for U.S. Senate

James trying hard to look Texan.

Say what you will about Craig James—and I'm about to—he's become a polarizing figure amongst college football fans to be sure.

James will seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in his home state of Texas.

James is in many ways tailor-made for politics.

During his college days at Southern Methodist University in Texas where James was a star running back, the football team was embroiled in scandal stemming from payment of players. The scandal resulted in the NCAA handing out the "death penalty" to the school canceling the entire 1987 season among other restrictions.

James has denied any direct involvement, though he did say in his book, "Gameday,":

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I never received a nickel during my playing days. But I can say with certainty that no benefits were ever extended to me from anyone associated with the SMU administration."

The implication being that he may have gotten paid, but dadgummit it was from a booster the good old fashioned way.

"Money, money, money, mo-ney!"

Speaking of boosters, James has had a cozy relationship with Sherwood Blount, one of the key boosters in the SMU scandal. James made him his agent and Blount represented him throughout his pro football career.

Not weird at all *wink*.

More recently of course, James and his concussed son Adam got Texas Tech head football coach and Pirate enthusiast Mike Leach fired.

The James' claimed that Leach placed Adam in an electrical "closet" during football practice when he exhibited post-concussion symptoms.

James hired a public relations firm prior to making the accusations public, then used his position at ESPN to get loads of prime pulpit time to get his message out.

A lawsuit filed by Leach against the university alleges that Adam James, "voluntarily placed himself into the electrical closet and apparently took pictures with his phone camera."

Leach has since filed a lawsuit against James relating to public defamation from the incident.

James' personality has always rubbed me the wrong way. He appears to be overly confident and sure of himself, qualities that no doubt served him well as a running back, but don't endear you to television viewers.


The Craig James School of Broadcasting (No seriously, he founded a broadcasting school with that title. How cocky is that?) tells you to be full of yourself and to assume no one knows of your past accomplishments, so you must remind them.

So, James has controversy in his past, has dealings with shady money and knows how to use a PR firm to shape his message. His son appears to have a sense of entitlement, and he owns at least one cowboy hat.

In other words, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone more suited to be a politician in my life.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to introduce the next Senator from Texas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Il Dead at 69

North Korean state TV is reporting Kim Jong Il died of "overwork", which quickly changed from a report of "fatigue" being the culprit. Ah semantics.

This will always be what I think of when the little man comes to mind.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Random Thursday Links

I've decided that since I spend an excessive amount of time finding random things on the Internet, it would only be right to share them on here. No blog post would be complete without an injection of opinion and observation, so there's that too.

Former Pitt Coach Todd Graham Is A Jerk

For the second time in his career, Todd Graham is leaving a school after one mediocre season for pastures perceived to be greener. After alienating his players to the tune of a 6-6 mark this season, Graham is the new head man at Arizona State. The linked ESPN blogger paints a pretty bleak picture of Graham.

Somewhat related, fellow mothership employee Ivan Maisel had a funny Frank Beamer anecdote contrasting one of the classiest coaches with the slime that is Graham:

"Graham presented the me-first side of college coaching. They don’t all act that way. Gary Cavalli, who runs the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, told me this story about Frank and Cheryl Beamer. A few days after Virginia Tech played in Cavalli’s San Francisco bowl, Cavalli got a letter from Cheryl. The Beamers hadn’t had time to fill their courtesy car with gas before dropping it off at the airport. The letter included $20 for the gas. After Cavalli closed his dropped jaw, he returned the money."

Jerk Store Called...

Former QB Todd Marinovich Can Really Paint

ESPN's latest 30 for 30 documentary, "The Marinovich Project" is absolutely outstanding. It details the life of a young man trained by his father from a young age to be the perfect quarterback. He had all the skills and that led him to USC, but drugs were his undoing and he was never able to fulfill his potential (He actually once cut his hand on a crack pipe at half time of a CFL game).

Marinovich has been sober for three years now and has a family with two young kids. He was an art student at USC, and he now uses those skills to produce some really cool art with lots of sports themes. Always great to see someone come back from the brink.

Todd's Online Gallery

The Hobbit Is Being Filmed

Man I really miss that Rudy movie set

I'm not a big Lord of The Rings fan, though I did read some of the books and thought they were almost palatable. I liked The Hobbit the best and thought J. R. R. Tolkein could have saved everyone a lot of time had he just stopped after that first book.

But he didn't and we're left with tomes of epic journey's, elves, dwarves, Elijah Wood, that guy who played Rudy and too much Orlando Bloom.

The Hobbit looks like another major production and this behind the scenes look shows just how bearded and giddy director Peter Jackson is.

Of Hobbits and Craft Services

Monday, December 5, 2011

BCS Gets It "Right"; Hokies Go To Sugar Bowl!!!

I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for the BCS system.

I’m not talking about the massively flawed computer metric that spits out the top two teams and then leaves everyone guessing about the method.

I’m referring to the system that rewards a team fresh off an embarrassing loss but with excellent fans to back into my favorite bowl game, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, LA.

Fresh off a vomit-inducing 38-10 thumping at the hands of Clemson in the ACC Championship game, the 11-2 Hokies find themselves with an unbelievable date January 3 with No. 13 Michigan in the Superdome.

Plenty of folks are saying the Hokies don’t deserve this, perhaps not, but it does make up for past injustices. I can now almost forgive the 2001 Fiesta Bowl for stupidly picking No. 11 Notre Dame over a No. 5 one-loss Hokie squad led by Michael Vick.

This must be what it feels like to be ND actually, getting favorable bowl bids based purely on past reputation. Virginia Tech has clearly arrived as a program.

ESPN can suck it!

It’s comical to watch Kirk Herbstreit pontificating about how mad he is that the Sugar Bowl chose teams simply to put meat in the seats and make money. That’s what it’s all about Kirk!

The entire BCS is a wild money grab run by greedheads and fools. It’s designed only to pick the top two teams (it can barely accomplish that) after that the rankings barely matter.

This is the system we’re always told works best, so I don’t need to hear the talking heads at ESPN cry foul when the BCS selections upset them.

The Hokies defeated six teams selected to bowl games this season and another eligible team not going to the postseason, Miami.

Assuming that bowls represent some level of accomplishment as we’ve been told they do—despite the fact that there are 35 bowl games this season featuring 70 teams—the Hokies must have been pretty good to knock off all those capable squads.

There are many illustrious bowl games such as the Gator Bowl, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl or the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, but there’s no question that for a Hokie the Sugar Bowl is as good as it gets.

Tech’s best moments have come in New Orleans. In 1995 an upstart Hokie team rebounded from an 0-2 start to stun Texas 28-10 in the Sugar Bowl. The Hokies finished in the top ten for the first time with a 10-2 record and loads of excitement.

Tech returned with much more at stake for the 2000 BCS national championship game against Florida State. Redshirt freshman Michael Vick dazzled the nation and elevated the program to a new level despite losing 46-29.

Michael Vick had the Hokies on top 29-28 at the start of the 4th quarter

In 2005 the Hokies won the ACC in their first season and earned a match up with an undefeated Auburn team left out of the BCS national championship game. Tech mounted a furious comeback behind ACC player of the year Bryan Randall, but lost 16-13.

This season, the stakes are high again. This is a de facto “must win” for Tech. If the Hokies falter, the national perception of not being a big game program will continue to fester and frankly, there will be plenty of truth to it.

If Tech wins, idiot brain morons like Herbstreit and Pat Forde will continue to say the Hokies didn’t belong while simultaneously saying the BCS got it right with a national championship rematch no one wants to see.

But I just don’t care. Right or wrong the Hokies are in the Sugar Bowl and few things could be better.

So as Frank Beamer once eloquently stated, “I want to know how many of you are coming to New Orleans?!”

Saturday, December 3, 2011

2011 Notre Dame Football Perspective and 2012 Implications

Last week, the regular season came to as disheartening a close as the opening performance from the 2011 edition of Notre Dame Football.
2011 Season Recap 
In its entirey, the 2011 Fighting Irish season was a roller coaster ride with more lows than highs despite an 8-4 record. The tone was quickly set after back-to-back defeats against South Florida and Michigan. Turnovers were the undoing in both events as the Irish would have emerged victorious in both save for the 5 turnovers committed in each contest.
One week after the crippling meltdown against the Wolverines the Irish played inspired football and defeated Michigan State, serving as the most quality win of the year for the Irish. Three additional victories over Purdue, Pittsburgh and Air Force set the stage for a measuring stick matchup against Southern Cal.
Seemingly over its turnover troubles, Notre Dame returned to early-season form against the Trojans and giftwrapped what would go on to be a runaway win for Lane Kiffen's squad.
Recovery mode took over once again as the Irish rattled off another four-game winning streak before heading into the season's ultimate test in primetime at Stanford. There were slight concerns along the way, including a narrow escape at Wake Forest and an even closer call against Boston College. For the most part, though, the Irish seemed to take care of business and make progress along the way.
In fact, they even added to the growing strength in the offensive backfield with breakthrough performances from Jonas Gray. Sadly and tragically for the IRish, Gray's season came to an abrupt stop against Boston College thanks to a torn ACL. Before the injury, he was on pace to eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark alongside fellow backster Cierre Wood, who vastly improved his vision and blocking abilities from a year ago.
Enter the Stanford Cardinal and Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck, and it felt like deja vu as another team from California thumped the Irish in prime time. From the very first possession, it was clear the Irish would bein for a long night against a tough Stanford Cardinal team. For as much credit as Luck receives, he actually did not play all that well against the Irish. Sure, he threw for 4 touchdowns, but he failed to capitalize on several golden opportunities handed to him by the Irish secondary.
So as the dust settles on the year, Notre Dame earned eight wins and deserved four losses (if not more).
State of the Program
There are signs that head coach Brian Kelly has the Irish headed in a positive direction. For one thing, the defensive line is as strong as it has been since Lou Holtz's teams of the early 90s. More encouraging is that most of the strength was built from underclassmen such as Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch that Kelly managed to pluck away from elite competition.
Additionally, Notre Dame has a running game worth talking about again. Before Gray's season-ending injury the Irish were on pace to have two 1,000 running backs, a feat that will at most be accomplished by three other schools this year (Michigan, USC and Texas A&M). Credit a ferocious and veteran offensive line for the growth in running the football, too. Lou Holtz is smiling somewhere.
Linebacking play has been outstanding this year, led by all-world player Manti Te'o. If you are reading this, Manti, please take this as an open invitation to return for your final year of eligibility next season.
Quarterback, on the other hand, has been a position marred by controversy all season. Despite closing out 2010 with four consecutive victories for the Irish, Tommy Rees was not named the starter for the season opener against South Florida. Instead, senior Dayne Crist was given the reins back to an offense he was forced to watch from the sidelines during Rees' winning streak due to a torn ACL.
But after a miserable and ineffective first half against the Bulls, Crist was pulled in favor of Rees. Notre Dame was able to claw its way back from the huge first half deficit but could not fully overcome the five total turnovers from the game (some of which were attributed to Rees).
Throughout the year, Rees did not wow anyone with his stats, as his propensity to through interceptions clouded his inate ability to win football games. Winning seems to solve all problems, so despite his inability to run a true spread offense and avoid turnovers he remained in charge of the Irish offense.
Against Stanford, however, he took a shot to the ribs on his very first snap and played the remainder of the first half gunshy and out of sync with his receivers. That opened the door for Kelly to reinsert Dayne Crist. After all, he has one season of eligibility remaining.
But Kelly opted instead for seldom-used Andrew Hendrix, a mobile quarterback who more closely fits the mold of a typical spread signalcaller than Rees or Crist ever have or ever will.
Down 21-0 at the half, Hendrix helped guide the Irish to two touchdowns and ran what looked like the most complete version of Kelly's spread the Irish have seen in his short two year tenure thus far.
Despite the positive momentum Hendrix's presence created, the comeback fell short and deceptively made the 28-14 final score appear closer than the contest really was. Coming into the matchup, Notre Dame's offensive line had allowed only five sacks on the year, but quickly doubled that yearly total as they were overmatched and outschemed by a very disciplined Cardinal team.
So instead of closing out the season with a signature win like 2010, questions abound for the future of the program. Namely, who will be Notre Dame's quarterback in 2012? One might also add, can the Irish avoid turnovers and beat the opponents they are supposed to beat (like the South Florida's of the world)?
Quarterback of the Future 
Kelly may tip his hand toward 2012 when he decides who will start in the upcoming to-be-announced bowl game. Options include Rees, Hendrix and even Crist.
All signs point to Crist's Irish career coming to a close with an ensuing transfer. The NCAA recently instituted a rule that allows players who have graduated to enroll at a different university's graduate program and avoid having to sit out a season to play. Crist will almost certainly dress as a member of the Fighting Irish in the bowl game.
That leaves Rees and Hendrix as the logical candidates vying for the starting nod. My guess is the opponent will dictate who the strating quarterback is in this contest. Reason being that he will want to give Notre Dame its best chance of winning the bowl game. Logical, right? Where it gets tricky is understanding why he could wind up choosing a quarterback who will NOT be the starter in 2012. That could be said of either option, Rees or Hendrix.
Starting with Rees, it is entirely possible that he will start given his record as a starter. Kelly even defended Rees during the press conference after beating Boston College. But Rees could just as easily as poorly as he did against Stanford and earn himself a seat on the bench in the second half (or sooner), paving the way for Hendrix to audition for the 2012 role early.
Likewise, Kelly could take a gamble on an unproven winner and start Hendrix. But if Hendrix falters he might seal his fate for the 2012 competition.
Then there is the wild card that has yet to take a game snap: Everett Golson. A freshman with a powerful arm and elusive speed, it is plausible Kelly wanted preserve an extra year of eligibility while Golson learned the offense and developed his conditioning in practices. To date he has only spent time on the 'show' team.
Bowl Game and Beyond
Regardless of who starts the bowl game, or who finishes it for that matter, Notre Dame must win to show that 2011 was not a total loss. Many pundits tabbed the Irish for at worst 9-3 and a BCS bid. Kelly even set his expectations to the BCS, but alas the Irish will be resignated to bowls just beneath that tier. Now, the Irish must rely on their bowl game to earn their ninth victory of the season and eclipse last year's mark.
A bowl loss would not be the end of the world, but it certainly would not help on the recruiting front, where the Irish have yet to sign an elite back in the class of 2012 despite several potential candidates.
Win, and the sour taste of the poor beginning, middle and end to the regular season will be quelled.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The BCS Still Sucks and Will Cause The Zombie Apocalypse

For years, we’ve been told that the BCS was the “best system available” to determine college football’s national champion.

Never mind that the lower divisions of college football have playoffs with great success. Never mind that the idea is pounded home that these are amateur athletes on the playing fields of a sport dominated by big money.

These are the last desperate arguments of a group barely hanging on to the cash cow that is the BCS.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports published an article Wednesday detailing what the BCS actually is.

Five of the six computer polls used in the BCS don’t make their formulas public, so not even BCS officials know what goes into it.

We do know that two thirds of the BCS are wildly subjective human polls, known to be riddled with political bias and straight up homerism.

Ultimately, this season puts to rest the nonsense argument that the BCS puts an emphasis on the regular season. “Every game matters!” ESPN is fond of spouting, but clearly, that isn’t true.

In the past, we’ve been told teams can lose early in the season and still recover to make the championship game. Now, even that vague guideline seems to have gone out the window.

Alabama already lost to LSU once, and failed to qualify for the SEC Championship game as a result, yet they remain No. 2 in the BCS.

That’s better than Oklahoma State. The Cowboys lost just last week to an unimpressive 6-5 Iowa State team, but they remain third in the BCS.

But the untimely loss by OSU has been glossed over, and if they defeat Oklahoma to end the season they’ll be first in line of the teams that got “jobbed” by the system.

What the Hell is a computer?

Now it doesn't even seem to matter if LSU wins against Georgia this weekend. It's a foregone conclusion that they'll be in the BCS championship game if the entire squad comes down with the old Louisiana two-step (note: Cajun' food burns coming out too).

Frankly, I hate the BCS and every year I come up with a different angle from which to criticize it.

A playoff might not be better, but it would be infinitely more satisfying. The basic concept that the top teams in college football are determined by a complicated formula fully understood by no one is upsetting.

Even now my blood boils as Jesse Palmer and the strangely still employed Craig James gasbag about quality losses.

I'm gonna kill y'all

There's no such thing as a quality loss! Vince Lombardi is spinning in his grave! Bear Bryant will soon reanimate and punch you in the face if you even use the phrase, and rightfully so.

And that ultimately is the biggest problem, great coaches of the past will turn into zombies and storm ESPN, CBS and the individual homes of all BCS proponents if we don't do something to end this nonsense.

Is that really what we want? Waves of the undead fixing a problem that living humans could easily remedy?

No! We must take a stand and defend what little sanctity is left in college football. We must end the BCS any way possible, even if it means a little bloodshed.

That's food for thought. Zombie food.


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