Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Notre Dame football.

Sunday, December 31

Weis Not Leaving

Charlie Weis wants to make this perfectly clear -– again. He is not interested in leaving Notre Dame for any reason, and certainly not for an NFL job.

He’s had to address the issue during Sugar Bowl preparations in the wake of New York newspaper speculation that Weis would be a leading candidate for the New York Giants job.

Of course, the job isn’t open. Tom Coughlin remains in charge, although he’s under enormous heat in the wake of a late-season slump that jeopardized the Giants’ playoff hopes. New York gave itself a playoff chance with Saturday night’s victory over the Washington Redskins that enabled it to finish 8-8, or probably three games below expectations.

Weis, meanwhile, is happy with coaching the Irish. He’s a Notre Dame grad who has restored his school to national relevance, even if this season was a disappointment. He has signed a contract extension that will keep him in South Bend for then next thousand years (give or take a few hundred). The contract includes an enormous buyout certain to discourage even the wealthiest of suitors. He has built a big, new, expensive home in the South Bend area, which he wouldn’t have done if he was looking to move on.

Still, figure this will be a yearly occurrence. Consider it the price of success. And, really, is that so bad?

Saturday, December 30

No Compromise With Weis

Charlie Weis is not compromising his Sugar Bowl curfew policy and to show he means business, he does many of the bed checks. Players had better be in their beds or they’re heading home.

"I had bed check (Thursday night),” he said. “It was late, but they know if they are not there they are going home. Case closed. Non-negotiable. I don't know if there were people running up the stairs two minutes beforehand, but I did bed check and everyone was there sleeping or faking like they were sleeping."

Also, the Irish have a connection with Louisiana State with running backs coach Mike Haywood. He coached running backs and special teams at LSU from 1995-2002. He spent two years as running backs coach at Texas before coming to Notre Dame.

Ironically, LSU and Texas both won national titles the year after Haywood left.

"I'm trying to get rid of him,” Weis said with a laugh. “I told him I am trying to get him a job so we could have a chance."

That, of course, is a story for next year. For now, the Irish are looking to exploit their underdog role and upset the Tigers. Weis is continuing his practice policy of having short, up-tempo sessions to ensure his players start Wednesday’s game at full speed.

Speed and fast starts are crucial if Notre Dame is to end its eight-bowl losing streak. There’s no compromise there.

Thursday, December 28

Quinn Looks To Go Out On Top

Quarterback Brady Quinn will leave Notre Dame with enough honors and records for five players, but one thing he hasn’t done is win a bowl game and, yes, that burns at him.

In his two previous bowl opportunities, the Irish lost 38-21 to Oregon State in the Insight Bowl and 34-20 to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Quinn played solid in both games -– totaling 500 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception –- but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome shaky defense.

Now comes next Wednesday’s final opportunity -– Louisiana State and the Sugar Bowl -– and Quinn hopes to make the most of it.

“I’ve had a great time at Notre Dame, and things obviously never go as well as you’d like them to. But I’m hoping with a win in this bowl game you could put somewhat of a happy ending to my career here.”

The two other co-captains –- linebacker-running back Travis Thomas and safety Tom Zbikowski –- also could be playing in last final Notre Dame game, although both have a final year of eligibility and could return. Neither has made a final decision.

“It would be something to cap off my career,” Thomas said, “and it would end the season on a positive note, considering we lost our last regular season game.

“That's all we're working for is to win. There's no point in going down there if there's any doubt in your mind you're not going to be able to win. It would definitely be the icing on the cake.”

Added Zbikowski: “I don't think in my years we've finished with a win in the last game. It always makes the off-season a little easier and you've always got that momentum when you finish with a win, especially in a BCS game.”

You figure Notre Dame’s eight bowl losing streak has to end sometime. Why not next week?

Wednesday, December 27

Notre Dame Recruiting Never Rests

Sure, Notre Dame remains focused on next Wednesday’s Sugar Bowl battle with Louisiana State in New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean coaches have slowed down their recruiting pace.

In fact, they are targeting stud linebacker Chris Donald out of Tennessee, the state’s No. 1 player whole could help boost an area that badly needs it.

It might help that the Irish just got an oral commitment from another Tennessee high school player, highly regarded safety Harrison Smith. He picked Notre Dame over the Volunteers despite the fact his high school is just a few miles from the Tennessee campus and the fact both his parents are Tennessee grads.

Smith can run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, which is significant considering Notre Dame’s rep for lacking defensive speed. In fact, it’s no coincidence that both Smith and Donald are defensive players. You figure with coach Charlie Weis around, the Irish will never have a problem with offense. Defense, however, remains a concern, and the better the players you have there, the better your chances.

In all, Notre Dame has 16 commitments. Coaches can’t comment until signing day, which is in February. Besides, they have a more immediate goal in mind – beating LSU and ending their eight bowl losing streak.

Friday, December 22

Irish To Help Out

For Notre Dame, the Sugar Bowl is about a lot more than just a football game or a chance to show the Irish really can beat one of America’s elite teams.

Hundreds of people associated with the university -– students, alumni, staff and administrators –- will participate in service events in the New Orleans area to help in the on-going recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Those events will include volunteering with cleanup work, a park beautification project and home restoration

These activities were organized by Notre Dame’s Alumni Association and Center for Social Concerns, and Catholic Charities.

Irish players also will help out when they arrive in New Orleans on Dec. 28. They’ll help with a project to restore a troubled youth building.

Thursday, December 21

Irish Have Brains and Brawn

Notre Dame’s football success hasn’t come at the cost of its academics. The Irish finished with a fall semester team grade point average of more than 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. The final cumulative semester GPA will be determined at a later date, but it marks the third straight semester they have surpassed 3.0.

Every player is academically eligible for the next semester, led by tight end John Carlson. He made the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America team with his 3.59 GPA. The history major is the first Notre Dame football academic All-American since Tim Ruddy in 1993.

Of course, academics won’t help Notre Dame beat Louisiana State in the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl, but it demonstrates it is possible to excel in the classroom and in the athletic arena.

The goal is to have that excellence translate into a bowl victory and thus snap the Irish’s eight-game bowl losing streak.

How likely is that? Well, when you get to this level, where the mental aspect can surpass sheer physical ability, being smart –- or at least playing smart -- can be the deciding factor. Maybe Notre Dame will have that edge, and then exploit it.

Tuesday, December 19

Irish Are Looking Good

Good news for those sweating out whether Notre Dame will lose some football players due to academic ineligibility -– relax.

The Irish all passed their first semester courses, so all will be available for the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl battle with Louisiana State.

“We had a couple of guys rally down the stretch,” coach Charlie Weis said, “so that was good news walking in the door.”

Players got last weekend off after last week’s finals. They resumed practice on Monday. Weis said he hopes to have the team’s grade point average available by Thursday.

Among the highlights of Tuesday’s media day was the fact that Weis had completed his evaluation process with potential fifth-year players such as safety Tom Zbikowski, tight end John Carlson and defensive tackle Trevor Laws.

Because all Irish players are required to graduate in four years, there is no redshirting. Players who don’t play their first year and want to go a fifth year must apply.

Zbikowski, Carlson and Laws all can apply for that fifth year of eligibility. Or, they could enter the NFL Draft. Or they could enter the work force.

Weis would only say that he’s completed his evaluation process with them and that, when everything is settled, “Notre Dame fans will be happy with the results.”

That suggests that most, if not all, will stay one more year.

Saturday, December 16

Offensive Lineman Commits to Notre Dame

Notre Dame's December recruiting surge continues with yet another commitment from a California high school player.

This time it's offensive tackle Taylor Dever, who is rated No. 51 nationally by He is 6-6 and 289 pounds, which means he has the frame to end up well over 300 pounds. Dever chose the Irish over Nebraska, Arizona State, Miami and Oregon.

Notre Dame now has 15 oral commitments. They can't sign until February, so until then coaches can't talk about them. But this is shaping up as another top-10 class. The talent upgrade continues, so it might not be too much longer before the Irish do unto, say, USC, what the Trojans have done to them.

Thursday, December 14

Sugar Bowl Ticket Lottery Starts

Notre Dame hasn’t lost its ability to send fans to bowl games. The university has once again sold out its allotment of bowl tickets.

The Irish received 24,635 requests for 17,500 tickets for the Sugar Bowl. That means for the third straight BCS bowl officials will resort to a lottery to determine who gets tickets for the Jan. 3 New Orleans game between Notre Dame and LSU.

Requests came from contributing alumni, current students, parents of current students, Monogram Club members, benefactors and current faculty-staff members.

Lottery results will be available Friday by calling 574-631-7356 or by checking (ticket account number needed for access). Tickets will be shipped Friday via Federal Express two-day delivery. Refunds will be mailed in January.

Of course, there are other ways to get tickets for those with the money, means and will. Do you have what it takes?

Wednesday, December 13

Notre Dame Adds Recruits

Notre Dame’s Sugar Bowl battle with LSU could have more than just game stakes. It could determine if the Irish land heralded defensive tackle Will Blackwell.

The 6-4, 295-pounder is from West Monroe, La., and has narrowed his finalists to Notre Dame and LSU. And, yes, his decision could come down to who wins the Sugar Bowl.

Speaking of recruiting, Notre Dame has received three more oral commitments to boost their total to 14. All three are from the South, yet another indication that coach Charlie Weis leaves no part of the country unaccounted for.

Tailback Armando Allen from Hialeah, Fla, gives the Irish another speed back. Defensive tackle Ian Williams from Florida and athlete Golden Tate from Tennessee are instant impact type players.

Tate played quarterback, tailback, receiver, defensive back and kick returner. He even had a 40-yard punting average. This past season he rushed for 1,413 yards and had 510 receiving yards while totaling 29 touchdowns. He also plans to play baseball at Notre Dame.

He picked the Irish over Florida, Alabama, Vanderbilt and South Carolina.

Williams is a crucial recruit consider Notre Dame will love defensive tackle Derek Landri and, possible, Trevor Laws. He is 6-2 and 294 and is ranked No. 28 among defensive tackles by, an Internet recruiting service.

Notre Dame’s No. 1 commitment is quarterback Jimmy Clausen from California. Other commitments are wide receiver Duval Kamara, tight end Mike Ragone, offensive linemen Andrew Nuss and Emeka Nwankwo, defensive linemen Kerry Neal and Justin Trattou, linebacker Aaron Nagel, cornerback Gary Gray and athletes Steve Paskorz and Greg Little.

The class could get to 25 by the time February's signing period arrives.

Monday, December 11

Quinn's Big Day Will Come

So now that the Heisman race is over, Brady Quinn and the rest of the Notre Dame Irish can focus on what REALLY matters -- beating LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

Yes, Quinn will get his big day once the NFL draft rolls around. He has the classic size, arm strength and talent to be a future star, and the fact he's thrived in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense is a big plus.

Quinn is likely to get the edge over Heisman winner Troy Smith when it comes to being drafted -- and landing a huge contract (not that Smith's will be small). Smith lacks the height most NFL teams want, although the same was said about Drew Brees and Michael Vick, and they've done all right.

For now, though, there are finals to finish and a LSU team to prepare for. The Tigers just might have the best overall defense Notre Dame has faced all season. Quinn will have to be at his best if the Irish are to have a chance.

Friday, December 8

Pricing Sugar Bowl Tickets

So say you’re a Notre Dame fan and you just have to have a Sugar Bowl ticket because you know, absolutely know, the Irish will beat LSU and end all that bowl futility.

Ticket demand indicates Notre Dame’s allotment of tickets already have been sold, which might really depress you until you realize you have all sorts of money available in the kids’ college fund.

Sorry. Only kidding. That’s what you have your retirement fund for.

Anyway, so what do you do? Well, you could try the classified ads looking for tickets, or you could try internet sites such as, which provides tickets for big-time events.

As you might have guessed, the Sugar Bowl is a big-time event. According to numbers, it’s the third-highest ranked bowl game after the national title game and Rose Bowl based on gross sales.

Sugar Bowl tickets are available on-line between $250 and $1,900, for an average of $352 per ticket. By comparison, the title game between Ohio State and Florida has tickets available between $1,100 and $17,000, for an average of $1,466 a ticket. The only tickets that ever cost more on was Super Bowl XL.

The Rose Bowl has an average ticket price of $511. The Fiesta Bowl is at $280. The Orange Bowl is at $212.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what you’re dealing with. And if you don’t have to tap the kids or retirement funds, all the better.

Forget Heisman, Just Beat LSU

Okay, so the entire civilized world knows that Brady Quinn will not win the Heisman. Troy Smith looks like the run-away winner, with projecting Smith to set a record with 95.7 percent of the vote. Quinn projects to finish third behind Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.

Quinn will move on, with the main emphasis on the Sugar Bowl and, after that, the NFL draft.
And it's not like he hasn't been honored this season. He just won the Maxwell Award for college player of the year, beating out Smith along the way. He has a slew of Notre Dame awards. He has the look of a future NFL No. 1 pick, with millions of dollars to follow.

So life is good for him. There's just one thing that will make it better, and it has nothing to do with that famous trophy.

Beat LSU.

Wednesday, December 6

Seniors Have More Bowl Plans

It’s going to be a busy January for eight Notre Dame seniors. Not only do they get to play LSU in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that month, they also will participate in postseason all-star games.

Quarterback Brady Quinn, defensive end Victor Abiamiri, offensive tackle Ryan Harris and wide receivers Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight will play in the Senior Bowl. That’s scheduled for Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala. This bowl generally features the nation’s best NFL prospects. More than 700 coaches and scouts will be on hand. Practices and the game will be televised on the NFL Network.

Defensive tackle Derek Landri and offensive guard Dan Santucci will play in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game on Jan. 20 in Houston, Texas. The 82-year-old Shrine game is the second-oldest postseason event behind the Rose Bowl. This year’s coaches will be Hall of Famers Don Shula and Dan Reeves.

Offensive lineman Bob Morton might have made out the best, at least as far as location, by going to the Hula Bowl on Jan. 14. Yes, that’s in Honolulu, Hawaii. Coaches are Fresno State’s Pat Hill, Georgia’s Mark Richt, West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez and Houston’s Art Briles.

These events are usually for players who have used up their eligibility. Players such as Tom Zbikowski, who is a senior academically but a junior athletically, has yet to decide whether he’ll return for a final season or enter the draft.

Tuesday, December 5

Rating The Irish

So now that the BCS controversy has settled -- at least if you don't live in Michigan, support Michigan football or base your happiness on Michigan football opportunity -- we can analyze what Notre Dame means to fellow coaches. We can do this because of the coaches' poll. The final votes were made public, so we can see who voted who where.

Okay, that might not be gramatically smooth, but the point is, we can tell what everyone thinks of the Irish, as well as the Florida-Michigan debate.

Notre Dame was picked as high as seventh (thank Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee) and as low as 16th (what was South Carolina's Steve Spurrier thinking?). Indiana's Terry Hoeppner had the Irish 10th.

Tyrone Willingham, who is now at Washington, picked Notre Dame 13th.

What did Charlie Weis do? Well, he had Notre Dame eighth, which, coincidentally or not, is the last BCS spot to receive an automatic BCS bowl bid.

All of this is moot now that the final BCS rankings are out and the Irish are safely in the Sugar Bowl. Okay, "safe" might not be the right word considering Notre Dame's eight-bowl losing streak and the strength of its opponent, LSU, but you get the idea. What better way to end this streak than in a BCS bowl against a high-profile opponent.

Let's face it. Next year could be a bit of a struggle considering how many high-quality seniors the Irish will lose. Winning this game would be a big momentum boost, sort of like a final gift from these seniors to the program. Because nobody -- nobody -- who is involved with the program wants to deal with any more talk about a bowl losing streak.

Monday, December 4

Irish Need a Fast Start

Yes, we know all about Notre Dame’s recent run of bowl misery –- a NCAA record-tying eight straight losses. Facing a powerful Louisiana State team in the Sugar Bowl won’t make ending that streak any easier. For instance, the Tigers have quarterback JaMarcus Russell (pictured) who has thrown for 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. They also have one of the nation's top defenses.

This is the fourth time in the last calendar year the Irish have played a team in the top 5 of the BCS standings. They got hammered the first three times –- by Ohio State, Michigan and USC.

So how does Notre Dame change things? Easy, said quarterback Brady Quinn. Start fast.

“We're going to have to get off to a strong start," he said. "All those games we got behind. We had a great game plan going into the game. It's tough to get behind two scores, three scores. We can't allow ourselves to get into a hole right from the get-go."

Quinn offered that advice Sunday night while on a teleconference. He was in Green Bay watching his brother in law, Packers rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk, the former Ohio State standout, play the New York Jets.

The Packers didn’t have much luck, losing 38-10. The Irish can only hope they have better luck against the Tigers.

Sunday, December 3

Intriguing Sugar Bowl Matchup

Okay, now we know Notre Dame is heading to New Orleans to face LSU in the Sugar Bowl. We know this matchup is full of intrigue, with the Irish mystique against the Tigers southern power (they won the national title in 2004). We know LSU will have a home field advantage given the relative short distance from the New Orleans Superdome to its campus in Baton Rouge, La.

Still, Notre Dame figured to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl until the Gators somehow jumped Michigan in the two human polls and wound up in the national title game against No. 1 Ohio State.

That leads to the obvious question -- both Irish coach Charlie Weis and LSU coach Les Miles voted on the coaches' poll. So who did they vote for?

"From my end," Weis said, "it was a fairly easy decision. Not to be disrespectful to Florida. I agree going 12-1 and winning the SEC is a high-end accolade. But it's only right to show respect to a team that beat you soundly at home, so I voted for Michigan."

Miles, a Michigan graduate and former long-time Wolverine assistant coach, had a different viewpoint.

"I felt the SEC winner with one loss might deserve the opportunity (to play in the national championship game)," he said. "I had to vote for what was right."

In his view, that was Florida.

Does that sound right to you? Do you care? If so, let us know and we'll tabulate and post the results.

In the meantime, consider this -- Notre Dame has lost eight straight bowl games, which ties a NCAA record. LSU has won seven of its last nine, and is 2-0 in BCS events. The Tigers are swift and athletic, and the Irish have not fared well against those kind of teams lately.

The odds favor LSU. But maybe this year, this year, the odds can even out.