Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Whack Stack Stats

A rather new magazine called STACK, is the first magazine dedicated to helping high school athletes improve their performance safely and effectively. One of the things that this thorough, fact-checking magazine has done is compile a list of the Elite 50. The Elite 50 is a ranking of the best schools for academically minded athletes. After months of crunching numbers [wins, losses, championship titles, school rankings and academic progress], Stack listed a compilation of information that gives High School Student-Athletes a guide to choose a school that provides the right balance of academics and athletics.

Overall, Notre Dame cracked the Top 15 of the list at 13. I guess this is Stack's attempt of emulating the NCAA Overall Sports Trophy (NACDA Director's Cup, formerly the Sear's Director's Cup). Here's the breakdown of rankings in each sport: Women's Soccer(1), Women's Tennis(4), Men's Cross Country(4), Men's Soccer(4), Women's Cross Country(6), Lacrosse(6), Hockey(8), Men's Tennis(8), Football(12).

Being ranked 12th in football, I don't have a problem with, especially after this season's debacle. This is what the magazine had to say about it:

Notre Dame’s strong academics won’t be enough to keep football ranked 12th next year, after this season’s dismal performance. But the strength of women’s soccer (1), men’s soccer (4), men’s XC (4), women’s tennis (4), women’s XC (6), and men’s tennis (8) may keep them near the top-15 overall

Now here is my concern I have about this whole football ranking system. Stack used four academic and athletic performance categories (2008 U.S. News & World Report on America’s Best Colleges, Academic Progress Rate [APR], Athletic Performance, and STACK Factor) to determine the top 15 teams. The main area I really had a beef about was the APR. According to Stack, the APR:
Established by the NCAA in 2005, APRs gauge how well collegiate athletic programs move their student athletes toward graduation. Every team receives a rating based on the academic eligibility and retention of its players. Two points are awarded each season to every student-athlete who meets academic eligibility standards and who remains with the institution. A team’s APR is the total points earned by its members in a given period, divided by the total points possible. The highest rating is 1000. Teams that fail to reach minimum standards, which depend on the sport and its number of participants, risk NCAA sanctions.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Notre Dame's APR was at 964, while such great football factories like Auburn, Georgia, and Florida, are 967, 963, and 961, respectively. How in the world does Auburn have a higher APR rate than Notre Dame? I can live with the fact that little brother, Boston College (976), and California (965) have higher APR's than the Irish, but definitely not WAR EAGLE, err, I mean the Tigers.

With the players we do have that don't transfer, Notre Dame does do a wonderful job of keeping their players eligible and eventually graduating within five years. In fact, Notre Dame has had a 98.69% of football players that have graduated from the institution since 1962. Also, Notre Dame was tops in the country this season with Northwestern for having the highest graduation rate (95%) in Division I football. So how come Auburn was ranked higher in APR than Notre Dame? Your guess is as good as mine.

According to the NCAA, Notre Dame is the best at retaining their student-athletes from year-to-year, and graduating them in a timely manner. In their latest Federal Graduation Data, Notre Dame was again at the top. In football, the NCAA looks at three things for a particular cohort: 99-00 graduation rate, four-class average, and student-athlete graduation success rate. Below is the breakdown of numbers:

Notre Dame: 81 (99-00 GR), 84 (four-class avg.), 95 (GSR)
Auburn: 61 (99-00 GR), 56 (four-class avg.), 63 (GSR)
Georgia: 33 (99-00 GR), 39 (four-class avg.), 41 (GSR)
Florida: 32 (99-00 GR), 42 (four-class avg.), 80 (GSR)

Here are the facts. Yes, Notre Dame has had players leave the squad to transfer under the Charlie Weis regime, but so has the other three schools. You mean to tell me that Auburn hasn't lost players leaving early to the NFL or lost them to transferring in the last three seasons? Auburn has actually lost 5 to the NFL early, 7 to transferring or leaving the program, and 11 to being declared academically ineligible the last three years.

This just shows that people can spin numbers anyway they want to, to make a buck. But when they try and compare the 19th best institution in the country, according to US News and World Report, to the 96th is ridiculous. Once again the anti-Notre Dame bias shows.

NOTE: Click on the title to view the Top 15 schools in football according to Stack Magazine

Battle for the Big East Bye

Down the stretch they come! As the last couple of weeks remain during the regular season, six teams vie for one of the four 1st round byes in next month's Big East Tournament. Georgetown is sitting pretty at 10-2 in the league, while Louisville, Connecticut, and Notre Dame, is a step behind with three conference losses. Pittsburgh is creeping ever so slowly at 7-4 and Marquette is in the distant with a 6-5 ledger.

Here are the six candidates remaining schedules:

Georgetown (13-0) overall home, (6-3) road; (6-0) conference home, (4-2) road

@ Syracuse
@ Providence
St. John's
@ Marquette

Louisville (12-2) overall home, (6-2) road; (5-1) conference home, (4-2) road

@ Providence
@ Pittsburgh
Notre Dame
@ Georgetown

Connecticut (13-1) overall home, (5-2) road; (5-1) conference home, (3-2) road

@ South Florida
@ Villanova
@ Rutgers
West Virginia
@ Providence

Notre Dame (14-0) overall home, (2-3) road; (6-0) conference home, (2-3) road

@ Rutgers
@ Louisville
@ DePaul
St. John's
@ South Florida

Pittsburgh (14-1) overall home, (4-4) road; (5-1) conference home, (2-3) road

@ Marquette
@ Notre Dame
@ Syracuse
@ West Virginia

Marquette (12-1) overall home, (3-4) road; (5-1) conference home, (2-4) road

@ St. John's
@ Villanova
@ Syracuse

As you compare each team's schedule, both Georgetown and Connecticut are in the driver's seat to earn a first round bye at the Garden. The next two in line, Louisville and Notre Dame, both play each other, but the Cardinals end the regular season at Georgetown. For Irish fans alike, I'd concentrate on how well Pittsburgh plays. What's good for Notre Dame is the home matchup next week in the Joyce that will give the Irish a two game separation. Also, the Panthers have to face Louisville and at Marquette.

In the end, I see Georgetown, Connecticut, Louisville, and Notre Dame, all earning their 1st round exemption. But first things, first, as the Irish need to take care of business at an always tough Rutgers. Some good Notre Dame teams have come into the RAC, but have left in the loss column. Sunday cannot be the day to let the rowdy Scarlet Knight's fans to get into the players heads. These next four games are critical for Notre Dame's postseason success. It's now time to throw down the gauntlet and prove to the nation that Notre Dame Basketball is on the rise!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

MSG Magic

Notre Dame enters tonight's contest against Kansas State with a 5-2 record after posting a 76-65 win over Eastern Michigan at home on Saturday. It was the Irish’s third-straight win -- all at home -- since dropping back-to-back one-point heartbreakers to Baylor and Georgia Tech in the Paradise Jam on Nov. 18 and 19.

Junior guard Kyle McAlarney paced three players in double figures with 21 points on 8-of-10 field goals, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, against EMU, while sophomore forward Luke Harangody and junior guard Ryan Ayers added 18 points and 12 points, respectively. The team shot 56.3 percent from the field in the victory, including 61.5 percent in the first half, and had just nine turnovers.

One of the top defensive teams in the country, Notre Dame is holding opponents to just 60.6 points per game this season on 39.1 percent shooting from the field, which will come in handy tonight since KSU converting on 50.6 percent (160-of-316) of its 2-point field goals. That is good news since the Irish have struggled at time to hold the opposition from beyond the 3 point arc (Georgia Tech and the late surge by Eastern Michigan).

The big assignment tonight is to contain heralded freshman Michael Beasley. Beasley averages 26.7 points and 15 rebounds a contest. He also is shooting 60.8 percent from the field, including 47.1 percent from 3-point range to go with 1.6 assists, 1.6blocks and 1.1 steals in 31.9 minutes per game. So yeah, wow! There will be a rotation of players guarding Beasley, starting with Junior swingman Ryan Ayers. Depending on the success, look for Zach Hillesland to disrupt Beasley's flow of the game.

The Irish are just as formidable on the offensive end, averaging 78.3 points on 47.7 percent shooting, including 43.4 percent from 3-point range. It is also averaging 39.7 rebounds, 19.7 assists, 7.0 steals and 4.3 blocks per game.

This is a contest I predicted the Irish would lose. After watching their contest against Oregon, I honestly believe Notre Dame, can steal this one because of a few factors: 1) Familiarity at the Garden. Notre Dame has played in the historic Madison Square Garden now for years. The glitz and glamour and being awed will not be a factor for the Irish. It will be the Wildcats’ first regular-season visit to the Garden in school history and the first since playing two games in the 1994
Postseason NIT. The program has never won a game in four overall contests in the building. 2) The youth movement. One of the nation’s top recruiting classes has been a big success so far for Kansas State, as the newcomers have posted over 60 percent of the Wildcats’ total points (380), rebounds (187), steals (32) and blocks (18) and over 50 percent of the total assists (62). In all, four of the top-5 scorers and each of the top-3 rebounders are either freshmen or first-year players in the program. Once again how much of the bright lights of New York will get into the Wildcat players' minds, especially Beasley?

This matchup is like one of those bruising Big East Conference games for the Irish, especially since it is playing in MSG. The emergence of the long ball from McAlarney, Ayers, and Luke Zellar will create opportunities for Rob Kurz and Luke Harangody down low. As long as Beasley is held under 20 points, this one should go to the Irish in a close, hard fought Jimmy V Classic!

Notre Dame 79
Kansas State 73

Notes and Stuff
~ This will mark the fifth all-time meeting between Kansas State and Notre Dame on the hardwood and the first since the two played in the second round of the Postseason NIT in 1992. Notre Dame owns a 3-1 advantage all-time in the series.

~ Since coming back from the Virgin Island's, Notre Dame has been hitting their shots with relative ease. The Irish have shot 91-175 (.520) from the field and 30-61 (.492) from threepoint range. Against Eastern Michigan on Saturday night, the Irish connected on 56.3 percent (25-52) from the field and 62.5 percent (10-16) from three-point range — both season bests.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wait or Not to Wait: The Last 48 Hours behind Notre Dame Football

Now that Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has publicly announced that Head Coach Charlie Weis will be back for a fifth season, many fans and alumni alike, wondered why wait till next Monday?

Personally, I didn't have a problem with the university and Swarbrick waiting till December 8 to announce Weis' fate. You have to assume a decision was made or partially made after the Southern Cal game. But with the back-and-forth comments and hearsay of his staying and the athletic department not commenting until today, makes one wonder. Why was Swarbrick still on the West Coast? And what business does he have over there? Better yet, is Boise, Idaho, considered West Coast? We'll get to that in a little bit.

I will say this, I think it was very important that the university needed to keep this week as normal as possible. And I say this for a couple of reasons. Number one, this Friday is the annual Football Banquet. I think it's a little disrespectful to the senior class if something had happened to Coach Weis' future in South Bend. Remember a couple of years ago during the last coaching change, and they cancelled the football banquet? That would really be unfair to the seniors who put four or five years of service here. They gave up a lot of sweat and blood for the Lady on the Dome. The least they could do is be honored by the university at this banquet. Luckily, the show will go on.

Another importance of this week deals with the recruiting of high school juniors. According to former Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Bob Chimel, you want to make sure the junior recruiting gets off to a solid start or continue to progress well. So that's very, very important for the Irish right now.

Waiting till this coming Monday also allowed Swarbrick and Fr. Jenkins to go out and look around a little bit. You can make some secondary connections with people if they felt the need to look and see who the next head coach might be. Then they could have talked to a friend of a friend and work around bothering a coach who is still very active.

I will say this; I didn't have a problem waiting till this Monday because there was still some good coaches if Notre Dame did want to make a change that were still very busy in conference championships or finishing up their regular season. Heck, many criticized Washington for taking Mike Haywood out of his element during a practice week to interview for the Husky vacancy. So if Swarbrick and Jenkins waited a few more days when all the games were played and the bowl bids were handed out, then they could have had a few days to do some serious talking over the weekend. They could have talked to one or two coaches on a Saturday night or Sunday morning because their regular season or conference championship game was done, and they wouldn't have to worry about affecting some other team's preparation for a big contest.

You know Charlie gets paid very well, and if something had changed and didn't come back, he would have been taken care of financially. So the week's worth of effort he did on the road recruiting would have been made up nicely in a financial settlement to the tune of $20 million dollars.

Lastly, there's nothing wrong with looking around the landscape of college football and seeing who the top coaches are, and if there is any mutual interest in the Notre Dame program. If there was a coach out there that Swarbrick and Jenkins wanted to talk to, this would have been the prime time to do so because they could have contacted those individuals one-on-one than through secondary people.

Swarbrick has had a Plan A, Plan B, and a Plan C for quite some time now after it was evident when Weis' team was regressing. After the Boston College game, Swarbrick asked Fr. Jenkins permission to get some feelers on replacements for Coach Weis. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden and his agent did place a call to Swarbrick's office, but that talk was brief and didn't have much substance.

Most of the behind the scenes work was done the last two weeks and, most recently, the last 48 hours.

November 22
Notre Dame loses to Syracuse 24-23. Swarbrick dodges media questions.

November 24
Swarbrick makes call to the University of Oklahoma. Sooners Coach Bob Stoops tells Swarbrick he's comfortable in Norman.

November 25
Swarbrick places calls to the University Florida and the University of Cincinnati to speak with coaches Urban Meyer and Brian Kelly.

November 28
Meyer and agent would only speak with Swarbrick and Jenkins' after the SEC Championship game.

November 29
Notre Dame loses to Southern Cal 38-3. Swarbrick tells media that he'll talk with Weis about his future on Monday, December 8th.

November 30
Weis asks Swarbrick if he should go out recruiting, and Swarbrick tells him yes. Meyer and agent tell Swarbrick he's staying put in Gainesville.

Brian Kelly and agent talk with Swarbrick and Jenkins' via phone conference and discuss possibilities.

December 1
Swarbrick calls Boise State to speak with Head Coach Chris Petersen. Petersen's agent calls Swarbrick that there's no interest.

December 2
Kelly leverages with UC administration and trustees for more incentives for their football program and scoffs at Swarbrick's and Jenkins initial figure.

Media reports hit wire of Kelly's statement of not interested in any jobs and is staying as Bearcats head coach.

Swarbrick and Jenkins meet with Weis in California to let him know that he's being retained for another year and that they will discuss changes within in the program early next week.

Swarbrick calls Associate AD John Heisler to let him and the Sports Information Department that Weis will be back next season.

WNDU-TV Sports Director Jeff Jeffers and's Mike Frank get calls from the ND SID Office of Weis' return.

December 3
Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick releases official statement of Weis' return as head coach next season.

As you can see this has been a whirlwind of events for the Notre Dame Football program. I, personally, don't mind seeing the aggressiveness of new Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick getting information and testing the waters with several top notch coaches. If it panned out, the incoming coach would have had some nice foundation to work with because of Weis' recruiting efforts.

On the flip side, what can you say about stability? It's good to see that Weis will get at least one more year to right this ship. Changes will indeed be made as the Irish will be shopping for a new Offensive Coordinator, Offensive line coach, Quarterbacks coach, Strength/Conditioning Coach, and most likely a Special Teams coach, after this holiday bowl season.

Parameters will be established next week for Weis or this will definitely be his last hur-rah in South Bend. So fans of Weis, I leave you with this little diddy by one of my favorite 80's groups Crowded House.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Coaching Rumor Bug Hits Home

This college football season should have been a soap opera with all the ups and downs it had, especially for my beloved Fighting Irish. Now with every coaching fire and hire, and speculation of who is going where, the reverberations are now hitting South Bend. Another Notre Dame assistant coached is being rumored to be going elsewhere.

First, Mike Haywood was in consideration for both the Northern Illinois and Houston head coaching positions. Now it is being RUMORED that offensive line coach, John Latina, will be reunited with longtime friend David Cutcliffe at Duke. Latina was Cutcliffe's offensive line coach at Ole Miss at first before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2000. Once Cutcliffe was let go as the Rebels Head Coach, both Latina and him were hired on to Charlie Weis' staff; and we all know what has happened since.

Currently, ex-Notre Dame quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas is the Duke offensive coordinator. If Latina were to leave Notre Dame, it would definitely be for that OC position. Cutcliffe is in the process of assembling his staff, and will try and finialze it by the New Year. Last week, he sat down with the current Duke assistants to see if he will keep any or certain ones on staff.

Notre Dame fans first response would be, will this effect any of their current verbal commitments? I would say with this solid group, no. Besides Latina, there have been a handful of assistant coaches and Weis, himself, being in regular contact with all their 22 commitments.

Latina's offensive line gave up a Notre Dame record of 58 sacks, while averaging an NCAA worst 75.2 rushing yards per game.

Only time will tell if there is any truth to this rumor. I will keep you posted when I hear more about this situation.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weis' Future Being More Clear: The Wheels are in Motion

The Charlie Weis clock is now ticking to its preverbial ending. It all started on Saturday night after the Irish lost to Pittsburgh 27-22 and it's long flight back to South Bend. Sunday morning Weis was called in to Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick's office at 9:30 am, where he was told something. Whether he is staying or going, has not been made publicly, but the final nail seems to have been nailed shut.

Here are a few tidbits which should uncloud the Irish Nation's mind about the future of Coach Weis:

~ Weis calls off his Sunday media press conference. This is the first time in five years he has called off a press conference.

~ The media try to contact both Swarbrick and ND President Fr. Jenkins for comment on Weis future, but are not able to be reached, due to both being away from campus.

~ 12:00 p.m. South Bend Private Flight carrying Swarbrick and Jenkins is headed South to Florida.

~ The same plane also has scheduled flights this week to Cincinnati and Oklahoma.

~ Bob Stoops of Oklahoma has been reported as being intersted in the Notre Dame job if it becomes available, according to Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune.

According to one of the Board of Trustees and a source inside the Athletic Department has both confirmed that both Swarbrick and Jenkins have put a package together to lure Urban Meyer back to South Bend. Here are the main details that are on the table as of yesterday:

1.) A 10-year $50,000,000 base salary, which doesn't include endoresment and university incentivies.

2.) 3 "special" projects a year, which may include JUCO transfers.

3.) A contract with Nike (football only)

4.) Additional incentives:

(a) $550,000 for Top 10 Finish
(b) $750,000 for BCS Bowl appearence
(c) $1.2 million for BCS National Championship
(d) $400,000 for 90% or better graduation rate

The carpet is ready to roll out for Meyer for the taking, whether Swarbrick and Jenkins can get it done, will be the trick. If not, Brian Kelly, seems to be the next logical choice.

These next two weeks will be a roller coaster for media and Irish fans alike. But one thing is for sure, the Weis era clock is about to hit midnight!