December 2011 Archives

Notre Dame 14, Florida State 18

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Live Chat - Football vs. Florida State

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It's time.

Time for the Champs Sports Bowl. Time for a win. Time for Notre Dame football.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

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Following Flynt - It's Finally Here

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While the NFL often has a two-week break between the conference championships and Super Bowl, college football is the only sport where teams have anywhere from a month to almost six weeks between their final regular season game and postseason bowl. After weeks of meetings, film sessions and practices, it's finally time for Notre Dame and Florida State to hit the field at Citrus Bowl Stadium for the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl.

The Irish are at an interesting crossroads, particularly at the quarterback position. Though Tommy Rees has led the team for much of the year, Andrew Hendrix saw significant action against Stanford and should see plenty of time in tonight's game. With Everett Golson sitting out this season to preserve his eligibility, there could be a three-man quarterback battle come spring practice and training camp. How Rees and Hendrix perform tonight could certainly factor into who has the upper hand heading into next season.

In a matchup reminiscent of the great teams of the 1980's, last year's Irish squad jumped out to a 27-3 halftime lead, on their way to a 33-17 Sun Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes.

Today, it's a bit of a flashback to the 90's, specifically the 1993 "Game of the Century" between the #1 Seminoles and second-ranked Fighting Irish. Though it doesn't have the hype or significance as those games of years past, it presents a similar opportunity to last year's bowl - a chance to send these seniors off with a victory and resounding final memory of their Notre Dame football careers.

That's not to say the coaches, staff and underclassmen aren't also deserving of a win. They've put in months of work and made their share of sacrifices as well.

However, people might forget that this senior class came to Notre Dame on the heels of a 3-9 season. They have gone through a coaching change and countless season-ending injuries. They have endured the tragic Declan Sullivan accident and the passing of former student manager and team intern Xavier Murphy. Yet they've stuck together and represented Notre Dame in a way that makes us proud to call ourselves students, alumni and fans of this university.

All cliches aside, they have show significant growth and maturation since 2008 (or in the case of the fifth-year players, 2007 season), have helped to shift the culture of Notre Dame football and have created the foundation for the next great Irish team of the future. They've been involved with service projects like St. Baldrick's Day and started new traditions, such as "Trick Shot Monday."

It's going to be an exciting afternoon here in OrlaNDo, and hopefully the exclamation point on a great week. As a recent graduate, I feel as though I've been along for the entire journey of the fifth-year players (my classmates) and senior class, sharing in the victories and heartbreaks over the past few seasons.

But it was this 2011 season, working with the team, in which I have seen a different side of Notre Dame football. I've gotten to know some of the players, coaches and staff, and my connection to the team runs deeper than it did while rooting from the student section. Tonight, I would love nothing more than to see this group hoisting the trophy and celebrating a Champs Sports Bowl victory at midfield of Citrus Bowl Stadium.

Go Irish. Beat FSU.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. Longwood

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The women's hoops team takes on Longwood today at 2:00 p.m. (ET) inside Purcell Pavilion. Kick up your feet and enjoy the action right here on

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

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Following Flynt - Almost Game Day in OrlaNDo

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It's crunch time here in OrlaNDo. Tomorrow is the day the Irish have been waiting for since they fell to Stanford in Palo Alto on Nov. 26.

With only about thirty hours until game time, the team headed out to the Hilton Orlando Hotel for the Champs Sports Bowl kickoff luncheon. They will have a short break at the team hotel later this afternoon, before a trip to the Citrus Bowl Stadium for a final walkthrough and team photo.

As I wrote about yesterday, both the Irish and the Florida State Seminoles visited Give Kids The World village on Tuesday morning. It was not only a great service event, but also a way for the teams to enjoy some time together for a good cause before they clash on the field on Thursday.

The "Our Team, Our Story" video above highlights some of the activities that the players participated in, but also provides a glimpse of the very entertaining dance-off that broke out between the teams. Several of the players showed off their moves during the "Cupid Shuffle" and "Teach Me How to Dougie," with Brandon Newman, Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick stealing the show.

Bowl games always give gift packages to the players from each team, often including an assortment of clothing and electronics. For this year's Champs Sports Bowl, each player received a gift card to Best Buy, and the Irish went on their shopping spree last night after dinner. It was awfully entertaining to see over 100 Irish football players enter Best Buy at once, like kids in a candy store, trying to decide what to purchase.

With no academic responsibilities during the semester break, the Irish have certainly had their share of fun this week, but they've also balanced it with their usual football activities, meetings and practices. Though today is only Wednesday on the calendar, it's a Friday in the eyes of the team. Right now they're focused on one task and one task only - beating Florida State tomorrow, closing out 2011 with a W and heading into the new year with momentum for the 2012 season.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Pittsburgh

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BIG EAST Conference play begins tonight for the men's basketball team when it takes on Pittsburgh at Purcell Pavilion.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

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Following Flynt - Irish "Give Kids The World"

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With kickoff just over 48 hours away, today was the equivalent of a Thursday if this were a normal game week. Some rain passed through OrlaNDo this afternoon, as the Irish hit the practice field for the final time this season. They will hold one final walkthrough tomorrow, before battling Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29.

But before focusing on football after an early lunch at the hotel, the Irish joined the Seminoles for a great morning at the Give Kids The World Village in nearby Kissimmee. Give Kids The World is a "70-acre, nonprofit 'storybook' resort, located near Central Florida's most beloved attractions, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations."

As Louise, one of the volunteers at GKTW said to the players as they arrived, "You want it to be the best Tuesday of their lives, and you're going to make that happen for them today."

Taking some time away from football, the Irish and the Seminoles brightened up the lives of many children, and spread joy to their families, simply by spending quality time with them.

For fans, sometimes the emotional interest invested in the outcomes of games causes us to overlook the fact that teams are more than collections of athletes. People always see the hard-hitting, physical and aggressive side of college football players.

But sports and life, are about much more than that. They are about the children's laughter and the smiles on the faces of their parents as they get ice cream from Darius Fleming and autographs from Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith, take pictures with Manti Te'o, dance with Mike Golic Jr. and Andrew Hendrix and play catch with Carlo Calabrese and Jamoris Slaughter. (These, just a few of the special moments I saw this morning.)

The children and their families enjoyed their day, not because they got to spend it with athletes who've scored big touchdowns or made important tackles, but because they were struck by the kindness of complete strangers. They were surrounded by a team of young men, a group of student-athletes whose lives, at the end of the day, will be measured in the positive impact they had on the world and those around them, not in the accolades they achieve on the football field.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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When Notre Dame and Florida State meet on Thursday in the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl, the game will not have the BCS implications that many may have suspected at the start of the 2011 season. Ranked No. 16 and No. 6 respectively in the preseason Associated Press polls, both the Fighting Irish and the Seminoles fell short of expectations. Still, this week's game at the Florida Citrus Bowl has particular intrigue because the winning program will have momentum and a leg up on preparation for the 2012 season.

But the future is not the only reason this matchup is being discussed as one of the more interesting non-BCS bowl games of 2011. It is also about the past. Over the long history of college football, Florida State may only be a blip on the radar. They started playing football in 1947 and have won two national championships, compared with Notre Dame's eleven titles.

However, the Seminoles are one of the most accomplished teams of the last quarter-century. They won ten or more games in 14 consecutive seasons from 1987-2000, and this season marks their 30th straight year playing in a postseason bowl.

Florida State and Notre Dame have played six times, with the Seminoles holding a 4-2 advantage. The teams met most recently in 2003 (a 37-0 FSU victory), and most notably, a decade earlier, in 1993.

ESPN's College GameDay took its show on the road for the first time, visiting South Bend for the "Game of the Century" between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 2 Fighting Irish. NBC began the broadcast with nearly a three-minute segment narrated by Bob Costas, considered by many one of the greatest pregame introductions ever. (Speaking of which, I would love for NBC to bring back this music from that game for its current Notre Dame broadcasts. So 90's.)

And somehow, with all the hype, the game itself did not disappoint. The Irish jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and led by two scores late in the fourth quarter. However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward would not back down. The Florida State quarterback hit Kez McCorvey for a touchdown to make it 31-24 and the Seminole defense forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame's next possession.

Ward drove the Seminoles deep into Irish territory, but on the game's final play, Notre Dame defensive back Shawn Wooden batted down his pass near the end zone to preserve the victory.

Notre Dame seemed to be in the driver's seat for the national championship, but the Irish lost to Boston College the following week, and it was Florida State who had the last laugh, going on to defeat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and claim its first title.

In the 1996 Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz's squads met again. Notre Dame built a 26-14 lead, but Florida State scored the game's final 17 points to win 31-26. It was the Seminoles tenth-straight bowl victory and the second of nine consecutive bowl losses for the Irish.

In 2002, No. 6 Notre Dame visited Tallahassee, Fla. as a double-digit underdog. On the first Irish play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday hit Arnaz Battle for a 65-yard touchdown pass. In the third quarter, Notre Dame forced three turnovers over a four-minute span and opened up a 27-10 lead and went on to defeat the No. 11 Seminoles, 34-24.

In recent years, neither team has achieved the level of success it aspires to reach, but Thursday marks the beginning of a new chapter in this young series. Both Florida State and Notre Dame are on the rise, so do not be surprised if we see the Seminoles and Fighting Irish battling for postseason supremacy again sometime in the near future. The winner of the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando moves one step closer to being back among college football's elite.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - Day Four in OrlaNDo

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Today in OrlaNDo was a busy day for the Irish, as they held their second-to-last practice before this week's Champs Sports Bowl matchup against Florida State. After a couple of days inside the Citrus Bowl Stadium, this afternoon's practice moved to nearby McCracken Field.

Afterwards, the team enjoyed lunch from a local barbecue restaurant, before many of the players headed to Universal Studios. The big hit of the day was the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, a steel roller coaster and one of the park's main attractions. The Revenge of the Mummy ride was also a team favorite, and though most who made the trip spent the evening at Universal Studios, some checked out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

On Christmas night, many of the players visited Disney World, and as you might see from the "Our Team, Our Story" video above, the Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster can even frighten 20-year-old college football players.

The week is going by quickly and the bowl game is soon approaching. Tomorrow, the Irish will visit the Give Kids The World Village for an event with the Florida State team and they will have their final practice of the week before a walkthrough on Wednesday.

With the second university charter plane arriving today and fans continuing to invade OrlaNDo, central Florida is beginning to look more and more like Irish territory as Coach Kelly and his team prepare to take on the Florida State Seminoles.

We'll be back tomorrow with updates on Irish UNDerground and our football Facebook page.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - An OrlaNDo Christmas

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It didn't quite look or feel like the Christmas I'm used to, but the Notre Dame football family celebrated the holidays here in OrlaNDo. Team chaplain and Dillon Hall rector Father Paul Doyle presided at Christmas Mass, which was followed by a brunch for the team, coaches, staff and the rest of the ND travel party.

The players ate first and headed out to team meetings, before hitting the field for their second bowl practice of the trip. Afterwards, many of the players headed to Disney World for a few hours of fun. (See Gary Gray's Twitter photo for one of the funniest moments of the week thus far.)

It remains to be seen if Disney topped last night's visit to SeaWorld, where Shamu was clearly a team favorite. The Irish move one step closer to gameday tomorrow, with practice in the afternoon and a trip to Universal Studios.

We'll have more updates coming soon, so keep an eye on Irish UNDerground and

And on this Christmas night, I'll leave you with this all-time classic from Mr. Sinatra.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Santa Digger!

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Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

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Following Flynt - Christmas Eve in OrlaNDo

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Dec. 23 was a great first day in OrlaNDo, but today, Christmas Eve is when the festivities truly began. If you follow any of the players on Twitter, you may have noticed a lot of talk this morning about airports. With a short break from practice and football responsibilities over the past few days, most of the team was traveling from back home. The "Our Team, Our Story" video above provides Mike Golic Jr.'s perspective of the trip as he departed from Connecticut earlier today.

Players arrived throughout the morning and everyone was in Orlando by mid-afternoon for a team meeting and practice. Practice will be followed by a team meal, before many of the players depart for an evening at Sea World.

Walking around during these first couple days, the size of our hotel is a bit overwhelming. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it might take me longer to walk from my room to our "office" here in Florida than it takes to drive from my house in South Bend to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex back on campus.

That being said, the hotel has three pools (plus a children's pool), jogging trails, a golf course, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, and multiple cafes and restaurants. But don't be alarmed.

That's not to mention the banquet and conference rooms that have become dining areas, position meeting rooms and a players' lounge. The bowl trip is an opportunity for the players, coaches and their families to enjoy some time together, but Coach Kelly, his staff and team remain focused on their matchup with Florida State next Thursday. If the Shamrock Series was designed to take the university to a different city, Bowl Week takes the entire Gug on the road.

For me, it doesn't quite feel like Christmas Eve. Usually at this time, I'm getting out of 4 p.m. Mass and preparing for a nice dinner with my family. This is the first Christmas I've ever spent away from them and the winter weather of upstate New York. Going for a run this afternoon in a t-shirt and shorts, it felt more like spring break or summer vacation than the holiday season. The hotel is definitely not void of Christmas decorations, but something seems strange about walking outside and seeing palm trees and green grass rather than icicle lights and snow.

It's tough to miss the holidays at home with my parents and brothers, but I know there are some people who are away from their loved ones and may have no one to share their Christmas with. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by the Notre Dame family here in OrlaNDo. It's a different kind of Christmas for me, but one I will definitely enjoy and certainly not forget.

I hope everyone has a happy, safe and joyous Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, Irish fans.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - Wheels Down in OrlaNDo

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Just two days before Christmas, it was in the 30's and overcast in South Bend - pretty standard for this time of year. I might even say that seems warm for what I've grown accustomed to over the last four years and previous 18 living in upstate New York. But then came the magic of the airplane. Three hours and 1,100 miles later, we arrived in Orlando, greeted by sunshine and mid-80's. (The photo above doesn't quite do the weather justice. That was actually taken from inside the tinted windows of our bus at the airport.)

Flying on a charter flight for the first time was quite an experience - Movies, food, in-flight Internet and more food. Now I understand why people say, "Once you've flown on a charter flight, you won't want to go back to commercial."

We arrived at the team hotel just after 4:00 pm. With over 1,500 rooms, and seemingly dozens of conference rooms and dining areas, it feels more like a small city than a hotel. Shortly after we arrived, our video crew spoke briefly with Coach Kelly, who joked that moving a team of 105 players to Orlando was easier than traveling with his three children.

A few players traveled on the South Bend charter this afternoon, but most will arrive on Christmas Eve from their home airports. There will be a team meeting in the afternoon, before the first bowl practice in Orlando and a trip to Sea World tomorrow night.

The excitement has only just begun here in Orlando. We'll have plenty of other updates coming throughout the week right here on Irish UNDerground, at and on the football Facebook page.

It's beginning to look a lot like bowl season.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Always a 'Notre Dame Man'

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After a few weeks of college visits and meetings with coaches, Dayne Crist, who recently graduated from the Mendoza College of Business, made this announcement on his Twitter page earlier today:


In joining the Jayhawks, Crist will reunite with former Irish coach Charlie Weis. The California native recently reflected on his experience at Notre Dame in an interview with Douglas Farmer of The Observer, recognizing that while he leaves South Bend, he will return to Our Lady's university often, perhaps as soon as May, to walk at graduation with his friends and classmates.

While Crist moves on to a new team in his pursuit of the NFL dream, #10 is and always will be a Domer - a Notre Dame man who is as good a representative of this university as anyone I have seen during my time here. Thank you, Dayne. You will always be part of the Notre Dame family.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

McAlarney Pour Trois

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Following Flynt - Almost Bowl Time...

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Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program. He will have a series of updates as the Irish get ready for the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.

After a night of bowling, go-karting and mini golfing at Strikes & Spares, the Notre Dame football team had one final practice in South Bend this morning before players were dismissed for a short holiday break.

Just a few minutes ago, the football equipment truck, more affectionately known as "ND1," begun the journey south. After some much deserved family time, the team will reconvene in Orlando on Christmas Eve. In many ways, the team hotel in Florida will be swapped for the Gug here on campus. From position meetings to team meals and a players' lounge, the Irish will feel right at home, even though they will be more than a thousand miles from the comfort and familiarity of South Bend.

I've never been to a bowl game before, but will be making the trip this year. Even before leaving Indiana, I've realized that while the ultimate goal is to come home with a win, the bowl experience is about much more than simply the game itself. The team has been, and will continue to be, focused on beating Florida State next Thursday, but the players will also get a chance to enjoy some time in the Sunshine State.

There will be a lot going on throughout the week and beginning on Friday, Dec. 23, I hope to provide many updates regarding the on- and off-the-field happenings of the Irish in orlaNDo. Look for the latest on my Twitter account, be sure to keep an eye on the football Facebook and YouTube pages and check back right here at Irish UNDerground.

Get your bowling shoes ready. Go Irish.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. UCF

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The Irish women's hoops team tips off against UCF tonight at 7:00 p.m. (ET) inside the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

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The Comeback Kid on MNF

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Strikes & Spares

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Trick Shot Bowling....

Where Are They Now?

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Pictured with former president George W. Bush is Notre Dame lacrosse All-American Todd Rassas (second from left), who was one of the nation's top defensemen during his career (1995-98). A third-generation Irish student-athlete - and half of one of two father-son All-America duos in Notre Dame history - Rassas, who now works for the United States Secret Service, recently enjoyed a spirited bike ride with Bush and several other Secret Service agents.

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Sacred Heart

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Notre Dame returns to Purcell Pavilion tonight for a non-conference matchup against visiting Sacred Heart.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Daily Dish - 12.19.11

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- Former Notre Dame All-American and NBA free-agent forward Troy Murphy signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team announced Sunday ... Murphy signed a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum, worth $1,352,181, which is a set figure by the league for all players with 10 or more years experience, according to a league source ... Murphy, 31, averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds and 10.5 minutes in 17 games with the Boston Celtics last season, finishing the year in Boston after beginning the season with the New Jersey Nets ... the 6-foot-11, 245-pound left-hander has career averages of 11.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 38.9 percent on 3-pointers in 10 seasons in the league ... the Lakers brought Murphy in for a private workout on Wednesday where he caught new coach Mike Brown's attention ... Murphy was a two-time consensus All-American and two-time BIG EAST Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000.

- The FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) All-Independent team included Notre Dame's Cierre Wood, Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert, Zack Martin, Trevor Robinson, Aaron Lynch, Louis Nix III, Manti Te'o, Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith, David Ruffer and George Atkinson III as first-team selections ... Floyd was named the offensive player of the year, Te'o the defensive player of the year and Atkinson the special teams player of the year ... honorable mention notice went to Tommy Rees, Darius Fleming, Jamoris Slaughter, Jonas Gray, Taylor Dever and Gary Gray ... a national media panel representing the coverage markets of the independent institutions made the selections.

- The Irish football team is in full swing with its bowl prep, with a walk-thru this morning, practice from 2:30-4:15 p.m. today, meetings tomorrow morning, then a final practice from noon-1:45 p.m. Tuesday ... the players can travel home late Tuesday and will reconvene in Orlando by 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

- The Lincoln Journal Star yesterday reported that former Irish football center Rick Kaczenski (he started at center for Notre Dame in 1995-96-97), currently in his fifth year as defensive line coach at Iowa, is a top candidate for the defensive line coaching slot at Nebraska.

The Bus Stops In D.C.

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Though most people know him as a star running back at Notre Dame and a former all-Pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers, last week, Jerome Bettis was making an impression on Capitol Hill.

"The Bus" was in Washington, D.C. to speak to lawmakers and officials about setting mercury emission limits in power plants that burn coal and oil. Bettis urged legislators to support the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Toxics Rule to mandate nationwide reductions of dangerous emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic, and acid gases.

"My goal is for the members of Congress we meet with to understand just how important these rules are to people's health, and that they need to be implemented as soon as possible," he said.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 175 million people live in the presence of unhealthy levels of air pollution.

For the former Irish running back, it is also a personal matter. He was diagnosed with asthma at age 15. Bettis was joined in Washington by Clean Air Council analyst Katie Feeney, who explained the dangers that unsafe levels of mercury can have for women during pregnancy.

Despite spending some time lobbying in our nation's capital, Bettis has no plans to pursue a career in politics.

"For me, the problem is, with football, it's easy: You win or you lose. You give 110 percent every time, and that's it. But in politics, sometimes there's not a clear winner and not a clear loser," he said. "There's a lot of gray. So I've lived in a world of black and white, and politics, unfortunately, there's a give and a take... It's just an interesting dynamic that I'm not used to."

Today, Bettis splits time between Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and is a businessman and commentator with NBC Sports. He has also established the Bus Stops Here Foundation, an organization that helps troubled and underprivileged children.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Notre Dame Digs In, Holds Off Wildcats

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5886019.jpeg - With one bold decision to launch the basketball skyward and an afternoon otherwise spent protecting it like it had a Secret Service code name, Skylar Diggins made sure there was one fewer member of the undefeated club by the end of Sunday's game between No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 7 Kentucky.

Just how hard she and the Fighting Irish had to fight to do so suggests the club of championship contenders extends to Lexington.

Behind 16 points and 11 assists from Diggins and 40 combined points from Natalie Novosel and Kayla McBride, Notre Dame beat Kentucky 92-83. For the Fighting Irish, it was a the third win against a top-12 team since a loss at top-ranked Baylor before Thanksgiving, leaving them with at least a case to reclaim the No. 2 ranking regardless of the outcome of Sunday's showdown between Baylor and Connecticut. For the Wildcats, who beat Louisville and Duke at home earlier this month, it was the first loss of the season and the cause of coach Matthew Mitchell's angst.

"They clearly wanted the game more than we did today, and they played with much more effort than we did today," Mitchell said. "They played with much more precision, they executed better, they were better coached today. They had an outstanding game, an outstanding game plan, and they thoroughly beat us today."

Many of those who watched the action in a sold-out Purcell Pavaillion would disagree.

Start with the managers responsible for washing Notre Dame's jerseys. It's going to take some bleach to dispatch the lingering traces of blue left by Kentucky defenders with little regard for personal space. From the opening moments, when Kentucky's Amber Smith swiped the ball away from Novosel after six seconds, to the final whistle, when Smith seemed to have to hold herself back rather than go for the steal as Brittany Mallory dribbled out the clock, the Wildcats pressured, pestered and punished the Fighting Irish with physical defense from end line to end line.

And check with the scoreboard operator, the one responsible for pushing the buttons to reflect Kentucky's 75-74 lead with just more than five minutes to play in the second half, the culmination of a Kentucky comeback from a 10-point deficit.

Kentucky's spirt didn't ebb until Diggins, all of eight seconds out of a timeout that gave the Fighting Irish possession of the ball at the other end of the court, took a pass in the corner from Mallory and hit a 3-pointer to extend her team's lead to 81-75 with 3:35 to play. With the crowd at maximum volume, Kentucky turned the ball over off the ensuing inbounds, Novosel hit two free throws and Notre Dame eased to the finish line.

Diggins initially suggested after the game that the quick shot might not have been the approved plan for that possession. Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw quickly corrected her. Letting Diggins be Diggins is always the plan.

"That was the nail in the coffin," McGraw said. "I thought the 3 was huge and then to come up with the steal after it, I think that was a momentum killer for them. That was such a huge play for us. When she let it go, I just thought to myself, 'It's in.'

"I didn't see the trajectory of the ball or anything, I just knew she was going to will it in."

That shot aside, Diggins took control of the game by doing everything but shooting well. She hit just 5-of-12 shots for the game, and with Novosel on the bench in foul trouble in the second half, Diggins struggled to find points as Kentucky made its run to take the late lead. What Diggins did all day was manage the game. She finished with 11 assists but also just three turnovers in 37 minutes against a defense that entered forcing 35 turnovers per game.

Even as it took a lead in the first half, Notre Dame looked flustered against a level and style of pressure that if not unique, certainly given McGraw's experience against teams like Rutgers, is rarely seen. The Fighting Irish committed 15 first-half turnovers, including nine in the first eight-plus minutes. But time and again Diggins made her way into the teeth of the defense and distributed the ball to McBride, Novosel or someone else to ensure the Wildcats never pushed their momentum beyond the breaking point.

Following Flynt - Irish Around The League

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With Green Bay finally losing and Indianapolis finally winning, Week 15 was a wild one in the NFL. It was a busy week for former Notre Dame players too. Here's a look at how they performed:

Darrin Walls ('10) had one tackle and one pass deflection in Atlanta's 41-14 win over Jacksonville on Thursday night.

In other defensive news, New York's Justin Tuck ('05) had seven tackles, including four solo tackles, but the Giants lost to Washington, 23-10.

New England ended Denver's six-game winning streak, 41-23. Sergio Brown ('10) made six tackles, including five solo stops. Former secondary teammate Kyle McCarthy ('09) had two tackles for the Broncos.

Maurice Stovall ('06) made two special teams tackles for Detroit in a 28-27 win over Oakland.

Philadelphia defeated New York, 45-19. Derek Landri ('06) registered two tackles for the Eagles.

Tom Zbikowski ('07) had one tackle for Baltimore in a 34-14 loss at San Diego.

Seattle kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 38-14 win in Chicago. Golden Tate caught four passes for 61 yards and carried the ball once for two yards.

Anthony Fasano ('06) made two receptions for 28 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown early in the second quarter of Miami's 30-23 win in Buffalo.

Ryan Grant ('05) had 12 rushes for 66 yards and three catches for 35 yards, but the Packers' run of perfection ended in Kansas City, 19-14. It was the team's first loss in 364 days.

Kyle Rudolph had two catches for 15 yards in Minnesota's 42-20 loss against New Orleans.

San Francisco hosts Pittsburgh in tonight's Monday Night Football contest.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Following Flynt - An Early Christmas Gift

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10.29.11 Gameday 7 (1).JPG On Sunday night, much to my surprise, I was greeted with an early Christmas present, courtesy of #5 - junior linebacker Manti Te'o. Though Twitter has been around since 2006, I think it's safe to say that 2011 was the Year of the Tweet. No longer are we reliant upon newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasts to break the news for us. Instead, Twitter is the place we can go to find out...just about anything.

So naturally, it was on Twitter that I learned the big news from the Lott IMPACT Trophy presentation. No, not that the "Hawaiian Hitman" had won the great award, but better news, that Te'o would be returning for his senior season.

Perhaps we shouldn't make a big deal out of this. Aren't student-athletes supposed to spend four years at their undergraduate institution before walking across the stage, degree in hand? After all, most will be "going pro in something other than sports."

Let's not kid ourselves. We know the system well enough to understand that for many collegiate athletes in football and basketball, the NCAA is just a steppingstone to the next level.

In a time when it may be easy to lose faith in college athletics, Te'o's decision is a reminder that not all is gone. From a football perspective, Te'o probably could have moved on from Notre Dame, been drafted in April and contributed immediately in the NFL.

But for the 6-foot-2 junior from Laie, Hawaii, life is about more than football. "The NFL is my goal. My dream is to have an impact on the most people as possible," Te'o explained on Sunday.

Te'o has long demonstrated his commitment to faith, service and the community. He was recently named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All- America squad (second team) and was also selected as this season's Rockne Student-Athlete at the team's football awards show last Friday.

Given what he has already accomplished on the gridiron, Te'o will go down as one of the all-time greats to wear the blue and gold. But more than that, Manti Te'o will be remembered as a Notre Dame man and a true Irish legend for his decision to delay the NFL and finish what he started in South Bend.

He recognizes that Notre Dame is more than a "football school." He understands that being a student-athlete is about more than athletics. And he realizes that football is what he does, not the defining factor in the person he is and wants to be. For those reasons, Te'o should be commended and Irish nation should celebrate his return for 2012.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Irish Connection - Episode 29

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The Tank

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He's Back!

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A.J. Returns

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Irish Connection - Episode 28

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There Goes My Hero

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Thanks to a gift from Shire Pharmaceuticals, Play Like a Champion Today (PLC) will develop educational materials to assist coaches to work with children with a range of learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, such as Asperger's Syndrome, and health problems, such as asthma.

A team of national experts will work with directors of the Play Like a Champion Today program to develop a national initiative preparing youth and high school coaches in the area of exceptionalities. Notre Dame's PLC program, now in its sixth year, offers an athlete-centered, research-based approach framing coaching as a character-building enterprise that complements the educational process. More than 17,000 coaches and 4,000 parents have participated in Play Like a Champion workshops where they are encouraged to see athletics as a means of having fun as well as promoting physical and moral development.

Clark Power, a Notre Dame Professor of Psychology and Education and co-director of PLC, expressed his gratitude to Shire. "This gift from Shire will enable PLC to prepare youth sport coaches throughout the country to work effectively with children, who through no fault of their own get left on the sidelines. "

Kristin Sheehan, a Notre Dame Monogram winner, who also serves as a PLC co-director, noted, "All children have much to gain from sports participation, this includes children with exceptionalities. This gift will give youth sport programs the resources that coaches and parents need to effectively include these children and help them to grow through the best that sports has to offer."

The PLC directors will work with experts in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and education. The team includes: Dr. David Baron, professor of psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and director of the Global Center for Exercise, Psychiatry, and Sports at USC Medical Center; Dr. Thomas Power, Professor of School Psychology in Pediatrics and Program Director of the Center for Management of ADHD at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Dr. Joyce Johnstone, Ryan Director of Educational Outreach and Senior Director for Program Development for Notre Dame's Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI).

Play Like a Champion Today collaborates with the IEI and with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), which together embody the University's commitment to foster excellence in K-12 educational settings, public and non-public.

Student. Athlete. Irish.

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Te'o's Decision to Return About More Than Football

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South Bend Tribune - It wasn't until the morning after, when the tears of exhilaration started flowing one more time and Brian Te'o's cell phone started blowing up all over again, that it hit him.

No one in the Te'o family had actually called Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly directly late Sunday night to deliver the momentous news that Te'o's son, junior linebacker Manti Te'o, was returning to school for his senior year.

Half a continent away and perhaps intuitively, Kelly sensed that this was the way Te'o's decision, about a dip in the NFL Draft pool a year early, was headed in the past few weeks. A chain of calls through the sports information staff found Kelly elated but hardly stunned.

Word that Te'o and best friend since childhood, Irish wide receiver Robby Toma, had been apartment-hunting spilled out to the more majestic offices in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, but that was all about logistics and contingencies, not about what was in Te'o's heart.

Which is exactly where the decision ended up being made.

"I'm so proud of him," said Brian Te'o, who watched his son make an 11th-hour switch from USC to Notre Dame based on a leap of faith -- a leap of, really, blind faith -- in February 2009.

"In the end, this decision had nothing to do with football, and that's the greatest thing. It's not about football. It's about being guided to a place that's special."

And coming full circle and redefining just who Manti Te'o is.

The Laie, Hawaii, product made the decision in Newport Beach, Calif., of all places, blurting out his intentions in the spur of the moment to his parents, a Fox Sports regional TV audience and the Twitter universe at an awards banquet for the Lott Impact Trophy, for which Manti was one of four finalists.

This, after Brian Te'o, citing all the financial evidence and professional advice Manti asked his parents to garner, had recommended his son go pro only hours earlier. This after his 19-year-old sister, BrieAnne, days before, told Manti in a phone call to follow his dream.

"She was at a bus stop after class heading home," Brian related, "and Manti called her and asked, 'What should I do?'

"She said, 'Wasn't it your dream to go to the NFL? Then go.' And that got Manti thinking.

"But when he got to Newport Beach this weekend, and he talked to my wife and I, he said, 'The NFL is my goal, not my dream. My dream is to have an impact on people. I think I'm doing that, and I'm not finished yet. All the trips to the pediatric hospital, to the Homeless Center. I'm not done yet."

Hear It From a Student - I Love Winning

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1993385220.jpg"I love winning. It's like, you know, better than losing!"

The Notre Dame hockey team can probably sympathize with Nuke LaLoosh, Tim Robbins' character in Bull Durham.

From Oct. 21 to Nov. 25, the Irish went 11 games without losing, playing six ranked teams during that span. A four-game losing streak dropped them to 10-6-3 heading into last Saturday's home game against Ferris State.

The Bulldogs won their end of the home-and-home Friday night, 4-1, but Notre Dame returned the favor Saturday with the same score.

"I think it's a relief for all of us - for our players, for us as a staff," head coach Jeff Jackson said. "After having such a good stretch, the last four games have been pretty miserable."

The Irish were able to revert to their winning ways in a physical game that featured a healthy dose of special teams play. The officials penalized players for a combined 68 minutes, and it was a rare sight to see the boxes empty. The Irish were able to capitalize on two power plays with goals from sophomores Jeff Costello and T.J. Tynan.

"Special teams probably was the biggest difference. Goaltending's a part of that on the penalty kill, but it's also about the power play," Jackson said. "That's what we were doing when we were on a little bit of a roll."

Jackson credited goaltender Steven Summerhays, who kept the Irish ahead during the third period in his fifth start this season. The sophomore improved to 4-1 on the season. With a two-goal lead through most of the third period, Summerhays had several tremendous stops to keep the cushion.

"This was definitely up there for one of my better games for Notre Dame," Summerhays said. "Everyone pitched in and really helped and made me look better than I probably was tonight."

In addition to special teams and goaltending, Notre Dame was successful at accomplishing the little things the team had been successful at during the unbeaten streak. Riley Sheahan's 88 percent face-off advantage increased puck possession. Both Jackson and Summerhays pointed to defensive presence in front of the net, and the Irish were able to get off 63 shot attempts to generate offense.

Hopefully the team will remember the winning formula when it returns from a three-week break for finals and Christmas.

"It was a huge win. Obviously we were on a little bit of a skid and we knew that going into break, we didn't want to go in with another loss," said sophomore Mike Voran, who netted two third-period goals. "You always want to go into a break with a positive note, so having a win, you obviously feel a lot better than if you lost."

In the midst of a frustrating losing streak, Jackson's team proved the ability to win a chippy game by getting back to basics and staying disciplined. With secondary scoring, physical presence, defensive stoutness, and strong goaltending, the Irish can make the proper adjustments to rebound from a skid.

It's like, you know, better than losing.

- Craig Chval ('15)

Get Your FIX

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One More Year! One More Year!

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Daily Dish - 12.12.11

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russellcarter.jpg - Notre Dame has launched a new web site highlighting the Notre Dame Summer Sports Camps as part of its Youth Sports and Community Programs initiative ... the site ( features online registration and a welcome note from Irish head coaches ... the site also includes a blog, the ability to order camp photos and sign up for a camp newsletter, plus links to camp material posted on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter ... Notre Dame currently offers men's camps for baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, lacrosse and soccer; women's camps for basketball, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball; plus co-ed camps in diving, fencing, swimming, tennis and track and field/cross country.

- Former Notre Dame men's lacrosse All-America goalie Scott Rodgers has been named to the U.S. National Team roster for January's Champion Challenge ... the Fighting Irish will face Rodgers and the U.S. squad for the second straight season at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. ... this year's game will take place at 4 p.m. (ET) on Jan. 28.

- Competing in the NBA Development League are former Irish players Tory Jackson (with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants) and Russell Carter (with the Iowa Energy) ... also in the league is Joe Harden who started his career with Notre Dame but finished at Cal-Davis (he's with the Dakota Wizards).

- Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs in the Notre Dame department of athletics, has received a special invitation from the Republic of South Sudan Embassy to meet H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of South Sudan ... President Kiir will be in Washington, D.C., next week to meet President Barack Obama ... this will be Kiir's first visit to the USA, since South Sudan became the world's newest nation this past July ... Dugan visited South Sudan this past summer to organize a Playing for Peace basketball festival in partnership with the South Sudan Basketball Federation and the Commission for Demilitarization and Reintegration of Child Soldiers.

- Patricia Bellia, chair of the University of Notre Dame's Faculty Board on Athletics and its NCAA faculty athletics representative, was the surprise recipient of an honorary monogram Friday night at the Notre Dame Football Awards Show ... Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick made the introduction and was joined in the presentation by Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter and current Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ... a professor of law and Notre Dame Presidential Fellow in the Notre Dame Law School, Bellia is in her third year as the chair of the Faculty Board and the University's NCAA faculty athletics representative.


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Following Flynt - Irish Around The League

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Photo courtesy of Hanisch/US Presswire

It was a quiet Week 14 around the NFL for former Notre Dame players, with one exception at Lambeau Field.

Ryan Grant ('05) tallied 10 carries for 85 yards and had one catch for 13 yards. More importantly, Grant had two rushing touchdowns, including a 47-yard run on Green Bay's first possession.

The touchdown was Grant's longest run since Dec. 2009 and his first score since the 2009 regular season finale against Arizona. Grant's breakout performance of the season could not have come at a better time for the Packers as they continue their pursuit of perfection. With key receiver Greg Jennings potentially sidelined due to a knee injury, Grant and the rushing game may be able to take some pressure off of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Grant's second touchdown came in the second quarter on a six-yard run that extended the lead to 31-0.

Anthony Fasano ('06) had three catches for 56 yards, but Miami fell to Philadelphia, 26-10. His college teammates Derek Landri ('06) and Trevor Laws ('07) had one tackle each for the Eagles.

Tom Zbikowski ('07) had one tackle in Baltimore's 24-10 over Indianapolis.

Golden Tate and Seattle will host St. Louis in tonight's Monday Night Football action.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

Te'o To Return for Senior Year

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28cdjf.jpg Chicago Tribune - As he began to contemplate dueling futures at Notre Dame and in the NFL, Manti Te'o was advised by his father to make a list of what was important to him. It would offer some sort of traction in the looming stay-or-go clamor.

Ultimately, it brought Te'o back for his senior year.

Te'o announced Sunday he will return to Notre Dame for 2012, instantly equipping the Irish to handle a buzz saw of a schedule next fall in the most impactful moment of the offseason.

Te'o arrived Saturday for the Lott IMPACT TrophyCQ awards banquet in Newport Beach, Calif. He met with his parents, who flew in from Hawaii, and discussed the decision. On Sunday, Te'o finalized his choice and, surprisingly, announced it at the banquet.

According to the Twitter feed of Fox Sports reporter Lisa Horne, Te'o said this: "I feel I'm not done at Notre Dame."

"Just a month or two ago, I felt Manti was really valuing being a professional," Te'o's father, Brian, told the Tribune in a phone interview late Sunday. "I thought that was at the top of the list and he was going to do as much as he could to do his part at Notre Dame. I thought he was at the stage of moving on. Long story short, essentially, we had a really nice talk with him last night.

"We had a long three hour talk with him about where he felt his priorities where. We were going to use his list of priorities to start canceling out the pros and cons from the list we created. In a nutshell, Manti told me and my wife that he felt he came to Notre Dame - and I'm going to reiterate exactly what he said three years ago - he was led there to do something. He just feels there are so many unfinished things left there."

The Te'o camp preferred to have a general idea of a decision before the Irish's Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl appearance. The family gathered the requisite information about where Te'o might be selected - and Te'o asked for an underclassman evaluation from the NFL - and the results were unsurprising.

Te'o is the No. 13 overall draft prospect according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., and the family's research had him slotted anywhere from the mid-to-late first round to the worst case of the second round. And, as a result of that, Brian Te'o advised his son to declare for the draft when Manti Te'o asked for his opinion Saturday.

"One of inspiring things he shared with us was, what can he live with if decided to go pro?" Brian Te'o said. "Can he live with not having the memory of his senior season? Could I be satisfied with millions and live without the memory? Or can I live without the millions and have the memories?

"He goes, 'I can do that. I can live with my career possible ending at Notre Dame.' If he leaves this life in general, he'll know he gave Notre Dame everything he had. He felt he didn't do that yet. He really hasn't given Notre Dame everything he's got."

Indeed, this was not a foregone conclusion either way until recently. Te'o had planned for next year's off-campus housing with three teammates, a source said, but Brian Te'o said his son was still contemplating and praying on the decision for weeks.

Then, by the time he met with his parents Saturday night, Te'o knew.

"It was clear to me where his heart was," Brian Te'o said. "It wasn't a difficult decision. There was more difficulty in trying to explain to Mom and Dad what he decided. If there was struggle, it was more a distraction, he said. People were telling him you should leave, you should stay -- he just felt conflicted. A lot of people he looked up to (were) telling him to go two different ways."

Notre Dame confirmed Te'o's return late Sunday but did not comment about the team leader in tackles (115), tackles-for-loss (13) and sacks (4.5) in 2011.

On Sunday night, Te'o was set for a red-eye return flight. A final exam awaited Monday. But after unloading this weight, he probably slept easy anyway.

"He wanted to be a senior," Brian Te'o said. "More than anything he wanted to walk around that stadium one last time, whether it was in pads or in crutches. He said he will walk and give his final goodbyes. He couldn't see himself declaring for NFL and not having that opportunity to say goodbye to Notre Dame.

"From listening to him (Saturday) night, that boy truly loves Notre Dame. He truly loves Notre Dame, despite all the shenanigans that may have happened in this past season, and some of that pointed directly to him -- it didn't matter to him. I was very proud at him for that."

2011 Football Awards Show

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Friday was a great night and a celebration of the 2011 season and senior class at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Check out this YouTube playlist or visit the insideNDfootball YouTube channel to select individual videos from the Football Awards Show.

Here's a complete list of the winners:

Scout Team Player of the Year: Everett Golson (Offense), Brandon Newman (Defense)
Newcomer of the Year: Jonas Gray (Offense), Dan Fox (Defense)
Special Teams Player of the Year: Austin Collinsworth
Nick Pietrosante Award: Harrison Smith
Moose Krause Award: Darius Fleming
Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year Award: Zack Martin
Back of the Year: Robert Blanton
Rockne Student-Athlete Award: Manti Te'o
Next Man In Award: Robby Toma
Most Valuable Player: Michael Floyd

Live Chat - Hockey vs. Ferris State

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The Irish icers look to start a new home winning streak tonight when Notre Dame welcomes Ferris State to the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Dartmouth

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Notre Dame continues non-conference men's hoops action tonight when it faces Dartmouth at Purcell Pavilion.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Chat - Football Awards Show

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It's time to hand out the hardware at the Notre Dame Football Awards Show.

Find out first-hand who won what, what they're wearing and how they won it right here on Irish UNDerground.

What to step your experience up a notch? Everything you need for tonight's award show is available on

Straight Swag

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Which adidas uniform was your favorite throughout the 2011 football season?

Caption Contest

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Relay for Life 072.jpg

Must have been a bye week ...

Live Chat - Men's Basketball vs. Maine

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Notre Dame continues non-conference men's hoops action tonight when it faces Maine at Purcell Pavilion.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Hear It From a Student - Tis the Season

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The concourse of the Joyce Center had been transformed for the night of Dec. 5. Table after table draped with red linen, Christmas music playing, and athletes from every Notre Dame sport running around with children from Memorial Hospital's Pediatric Unit.

Some of the college kids were dressed up for the occasion, but most represented their sport in full Notre Dame gear. The children who came for the party approached them cautiously at first, shy and wary of the tall, athletic people surrounding them.

That shyness didn't last long.

Student welfare and development program coordinator Sarah Smith says of all of the volunteer events planned for student-athletes, the Pediatric Christmas party is the one students get most excited about.

"This is the most popular community service event every year. It is obvious that this means a lot to the athletes or they wouldn't come in such abundance," Smith says. "And the children clearly have a wonderful time interacting with the students - all you have to do is see their smiling faces."

The smiling faces are hard to miss. As the children filter into the Joyce Center with their families, some of the athletes are set up at tables with cookies ready for decorating.

A little boy with his mom comes over to a table where women's lacrosse players are waiting. They all stand up when he arrives, eager to help.

"Do you want red frosting?"

"You should make a cookie sandwich!"

"Do you want some cookie with your icing?"

The little boy grins and takes a bite of his cookie, smearing the excessive icing all over his face, but he is not alone - some of the male athletes eat the cookies just as enthusiastically as their new little friends.

"How old are you?" a passing swimmer asks a little boy she is leading to a table.

"Four," he answers.

"Four!" she exclaims. "I thought you were 17, you're so big."

Whatever wariness they had vanishes, and the children are soon hanging on the athletes, laughing at every joke, smiles - as Smith says - everywhere.

Someone announces that a giant game of musical chairs has been set up in the Monogram room, and several kids tear across the concourse to go play (both children and college kids). There are hula-hoops laid out for everyone to play with, and a girl with curly hair challenges a few softball players to last for a minute. She out-hulas them all.

"This program gives the athletes a different perspective on life," Smith explains. "To be able to reflect back on the children and families they meet and realize their hardships are probably not in comparison to what these young kids deal with - next time a student starts to over-stress about an exam or workout maybe they can take a step back and be thankful for their health and life."

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Hank Aaron Visits Notre Dame

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South Bend Tribune - Only a handful of the 300 or so in the auditorium at Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business on Wednesday actually saw Hank Aaron play a baseball game.

Aaron retired as baseball's all-time home run leader in 1976. The gathering of mostly entrepreneur majors weren't born until more than a decade later.

Didn't matter.

There was baseball talk. One student from Milwaukee thanked Aaron for the 1957 world championship. Another had the audacity to mention the name "Barry Bonds" in Hank's presence.

"You've got to be careful who you use as a role model," Aaron said. "They can look at someone -- I don't want to mention his name, but he hit more home runs than I did. Did he do it the right way?"

Hammerin' Hank did. He never weighed more than "175 pounds, soaking wet." He was discouraged from ever lifting a weight. He hit; hit with power; stole bases; and, as an outfielder, won three Gold Gloves.

He did business the same way.

"Just like baseball, you've gotta put your heart and soul into it," Aaron said.

That meant being at his multi-million dollar car dealerships by 5 a.m. It meant being a visible presence in the 32 restaurants he still owns.

"You have to make sure you run your business the way it's supposed to be run," Aaron said.

A poor African-American youngster from Mobile, Ala., Aaron relentlessly chased his dream.

Besides being the best baseball player he could possibly be, Aaron's life ambition was to be a success and then give back.

"When I retired from baseball, my wife (Billye) and I got together and said: 'What do I want to be remembered for?'" Aaron said. "My wife said, 'You chased your dream for many years, now it's time to help someone else chase theirs.'"

Thus was born Aaron's Chasing the Dream Foundation, which provides grants for children ages 9-12 to study writing, music, art, dance or sports.

Aaron has his philosophies:

"There are no shortcuts in life. If you think so, you'll get in trouble."

"You've gotta crawl; you've gotta walk; you've gotta take your time to get where you're going."

"The one thing (I learned) is how to treat people. Baseball is one thing. Business is something else."

"I don't know anyone who ever went to a ballpark to see an owner play. The players deserve (all the money) they can get."

"Barry Bonds (he actually did say the name that once) could have hit as many home runs without taking the substance he was accused of taking."

"Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame. I voted for him."

The 77-year-old was at ease in a room filled with 20-somethings. There was no generation gap.

"Could you be the (designated hitter) on my whiffle ball team?" one student asked.

"I haven't picked up a bat in 20 years," Aaron said.

So what? To those students, he was still the greatest home run hitter who ever lived.

"It makes you feel good when you have the respect of people here," Aaron said. "Probably 90 percent of the people in the audience never saw me play a game of baseball. They don't know whether I was a good baseball player, a bad baseball player, or just bragging on myself."

No brag. Just fact. Baseball or business, Hank's a legend.

Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. Marquette

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The women's hoops squad takes to the court at Purcell Pavilion tonight to face BIG EAST Conference foe Marquette at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout tonight's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Sporting News' Best College Football City

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61251-650-366.jpg Sporting News - Three reasons South Bend is our best college football city.

1. There's nothing like the campus.

Walk anywhere on the bucolic grounds and the aura overwhelms you.

The reflection pool shimmering and shining in front of Touchdown Jesus. The flickering candles from all those Hail Marys (the real kind) at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. The ivy-covered walls, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. If you're lucky enough, and sitting high enough in the stadium, you get an extra game-day experience: a view of the sun setting and shining on the iconic Golden Dome.

"It's so much more than football," says former Notre Dame All-American Aaron Taylor. "It's this living, breathing daily life experience."

There's a reason no campus in the nation has more annual visitors (hundreds of thousands, according to ND) and why game day in South Bend, Ind., is about much more than football.

The leaves turning colors in the crisp fall air. The Friday night pep rallies. The tailgating and the postgame celebrations. It's an event like no other--and it plays out over and over no matter what happens on the field.

2. The history and tradition are unmatched.

Where do we begin? Knute Rockne or Lou Holtz? The Four Horsemen or Joe Montana?

Maybe it's safe to begin with 11 national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners and 99 All-Americans. The second-highest winning percentage in college football history and the third-most wins and fewest losses all-time. Twelve undefeated seasons.

Those numbers are more striking when you consider the Irish haven't been nationally relevant in more than 15 years. Maybe the most telling number of all is 49: the number of players and coaches Notre Dame has in the College Football Hall of Fame, more than any other school.

"We've had some lean years lately," says Notre Dame legend Paul Hornung. "But that doesn't diminish the history that was built by all those players and teams of the past."

3. The future is always bright.

Despite the downturn since Holtz retired as coach in 1996, Notre Dame is still Notre Dame. The Irish still are the biggest television draw of any team or conference in college football.

But the drop-off has hurt recruiting. Prior to the 1990s, Notre Dame had its name and ability to play on national television as the recruiting trump cards. Now everyone plays on national television. And because the Irish aren't affiliated with a conference, once they lose twice (or three times) and become ineligible for a BCS bowl, they are left playing in a meaningless lower-tier bowl. That impacts recruiting more than anything.

So despite its love of independence, recruiting will eventually lead Notre Dame into a conference affiliation--where the best sports city in college football will only get better.

- Matt Hayes - Former Notre Dame and NFL player Larry Williams was named the new vice president and director of athletics at Marquette on Monday.

Williams has been the director of athletics and recreation at the University of Portland since 2004.

"Marquette is one of the elite names in collegiate athletics," Williams said in a statement. "But after getting to know the people here, it was clear to me that this was a program with not only a storied history, but an extremely bright future. Just as importantly, it was a place my family and I could call home."

Williams was a standout offensive lineman at Notre Dame and went on to play in the NFL. He earned a law degree from the University of San Diego during his pro football career.

Williams will begin Jan. 2 and report directly to Marquette President Scott Pilarz.

A native of Santa Ana, Calif., Williams and his wife, Laura Lee Williams, have five children.

After his playing career, Williams practiced law for an Indianapolis-based firm, then returned to Notre Dame to work on licensing and product marketing for the athletic department.

Allie McGuire, the son of the late Marquette coach Al McGuire, chaired the school's search committee. Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a former Marquette player and current school trustee, was a member of the committee.

"I was extremely impressed with Larry's fierce commitment to the values that have always distinguished Marquette, and to the vision he shares with Father Pilarz -- for our student athletes to have a transformational education and for our teams to succeed as national leaders in athletics," McGuire said in a statement. "He'll be a great fit at Marquette."

Student. Athlete. Irish.

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No Trick Shot Monday? No Problem!

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Rudy 2.0

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Following Flynt - Irish Around The League

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Photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Which catch was better?

That's the question Notre Dame fans might be asking themselves after watching this weekend's NFL action. Golden Tate and Kyle Rudolph blew up the Twitter world, as both made outstanding touchdown receptions in Week 13.

On Thursday night, Tate had four catches for 47 yards for Seattle, including an 11-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone. The former Irish receiver also had one carry for eight yards in the 31-14 win over Philadelphia.

Rudolph reached over a Denver safety to haul in a 19-yard pass from quarterback Christian Ponder in the second quarter, but Minnesota lost on a last-second field goal, 35-32.

Fellow tight end Anthony Fasano ('06) made four receptions for 66 yards and was Miami's leading receiver in a 34-14 win over Oakland.

Green Bay continued its quest for perfection with a 38-35 win at New York. Ryan Grant ('05) had 13 rushes for 29 yards, as well as one catch for 17 yards. College teammate Justin Tuck ('05) had five tackles, including one sack in the Giants' loss.

In other defensive news, David Bruton ('09) made two tackles in the Broncos' win at Minnesota. Teammate Kyle McCarthy ('09) also had one tackle in his season debut.

Derek Landri ('06) had two tackles and Trevor Laws ('07) had one solo tackle for the Eagles.

Darrin Walls ('10) registered one tackle for Atlanta in a 17-10 loss at Houston.

-Josh Flynt ('11)

Touchdown Catch Showdown

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Golden Tate vs. Kyle Rudolph ... who ya got?!?

Best catch - Rudolph

Best celebration - Tate
(seriously, Kyle, give us a Harlem Shake or a moonwalk next time!)

Hello, Is It Brian Kelly You're Looking For?

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We're Going To Disney!

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Live Chat - Hockey vs. Northeastern

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The Irish take to the ice for the second straight night while facing Northeastern at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Chat - Hockey vs. Northeastern

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Notre Dame and Northeastern begin a two-game series tonight at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Live Chat - Women's Basketball vs. Penn

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Notre Dame returns to the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center to take on Penn tonight at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Irish UNDerground will have all the angles in and around the action covered throughout today's game. Be sure to share your questions, comments and complaints and let your voice be heard throughout the Notre Dame nation.

Want to track all the action from your mobile device? No problem.

Simply click (or to be phone friendly, "touch") HERE.

Hear It From a Student - We Were All Witnesses

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For my entire life, I've heard stories of legendary Irish triumphs.

Ending UCLA's record win streak in '74. Beating Miami en route to the national championship in '88. Defeating top-ranked Florida State five years later. But my chance to witness history in 2005 saw Reggie Bush push USC to victory.

I may have now witnessed my first truly epic Notre Dame win.

By now, you've probably heard about Notre Dame's thrilling overtime victory over Boston College.

The Irish brought their unbeaten streak to nine (7-0-2) with an overtime defeat of No. 3 Boston College. But that sentence is not even close to adequately describing the game.

In short, that was the greatest hockey game I've ever seen ... and it's not even close. The 5,022 spectators witnessed two elite teams playing at the height of their capabilities in a game that required 64:58.9 to decide it. Another second and the fans would have gone home trying to swallow the bitterness of a tie.

I have to admit, when the puck was in the Notre Dame zone with less than 10 seconds remaining, I was preparing myself for that reality as Bryan Rust skated up the ice.

"I was flying through the neutral zone and went up the left wing," said Rust after the game. "I knew there wasn't much time. I cut to the middle, put my head down and just ripped one. I got lucky, and it found its way to trickle into the net."

The clock stalled at 1.1 seconds, and the newly dedicated Compton Family Ice Arena erupted. It was the collective emotional release of a roller-coaster night.

The final period in regulation was an incredible display of skill and athleticism by both teams. Despite playing with a one-goal lead, the Irish outshot Boston College, 14-6, but none of their chances came to fruition. And with just over two minutes remaining, the Eagles tied the score on a rebound.

With no shootout to occur after the game, a tie seemed inevitable as overtime came to a close - until Rust's shot slowly made its way through the pads of Boston College goalie Parker Milner.

As the game came to an end, there was so much to process that I didn't know where to begin. The roller-coaster for me began with the Jim Cornelison-led national anthem (I half-expected a spotlight to shine on the flag like at the United Center) and continued beyond Rust's goal.

There was the toughness against the top-5 team, the solid goaltending by Mike Johnson, the dominating play in the third period, the resilience of the team after losing the lead and the miraculous goal with a second left in overtime.

All this came on Dedication Night at Compton Family Ice Arena, where the Irish are 4-0-0 on the year. On this night Notre Dame proved it deserved its state-of-the-art facility, as well as all its support from the fan base.

"All the students there during warm-ups is awesome," Johnson said. "We love to see that. It makes us excited and probably gets the best game out of us when they're into it. And they were into it tonight, and they helped us win for sure."

When the team moved from the Joyce Center to Compton, that's the type of impact the coaching staff envisioned, and it's starting to materialize for the streaking Irish.

"Tonight was what we hoped this building would be," Jackson said. "I thought I saw it against RPI a little bit, but obviously tonight, the band, the students - that was pretty incredible."

We'll have to wait for the end of the season to evaluate the true impact of this game. At the end of the day, it's just another regular-season non-conference win. But for those 5,022 fans at Compton Arena, it meant a lot more.

And for me, it was hopefully the first of many legendary victories to come.

- Craig Chval ('15)

Hear It From a Student - Honoring Ed O'Rourke

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Notre Dame alumnus Ed O'Rourke ('49) has been deeply involved in the world of Notre Dame basketball since the days of head coach John Jordan, who was also O'Rourke's coach when he "played a little" in high school.

O'Rourke, in love with both the sport and Notre Dame, did some recruiting and scouting for Jordan when he was heading the program. But over the next six decades he would come to be a common thread that tied together years of Notre Dame basketball history.

Athletic trainer Skip Meyer has been with Notre Dame for 30 years, but he speaks of O'Rourke's contribution to the team with something like reverence.

"He's been here for 55 years. He's a nut," Meyer laughs. "He's been around so much - he's almost like a fatherly figure to the players. He's gone 20 years without missing a game, either home or away. He's the common denominator or thread that unites the past teams and players and this team and these players."

O'Rourke says he carries great affection for the people in this program, and he calls himself an oom to Notre Dame basketball - "the Dutch word for uncle," he explains.

Notre Dame honored O'Rourke's contributions prior to the start of the season by installing a mural dedicated to him in the locker room. At a reception held in Jordan Hall in his honor, head coach Mike Brey explained the significance of the mural's placement.

"It's place where Ed stands after every game - between the locker room and the team room," Brey described. "Ed is a joy to have around our program. As a head coach, when you're in the locker room before a big game, it sometimes feels like you're on an island. Ed has always been there for me though those moments. I appreciate his advice, friendship and all his has done for Notre Dame basketball throughout the years."

O'Rourke claims he was overwhelmed at the attendance of the reception. Although there were around 200 people in Jordan Hall, he can tell you that there were at least 40 former players, two head coaches and 13 assistant coaches. The man does not miss a beat.

"It was beautiful," he recalls. "I had no idea it was going to be that big. It brought some tears to my eyes, to be honest with you."

It is no surprise that such a large portion of Notre Dame basketball tradition stood in that hall to honor O'Rourke. As Meyer says, O'Rourke "brings the stories from the past and carries them on to the players of the future."

Certainly, he will continue than legacy from where he has always stood - between the locker room and the team room.

- Lauren Chval ('13)

Former Guard Back With Ants

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Fort Wayne News-Sentinel - Professional sports can be a cutthroat, bottom-line business, and then there's the story of Tory Jackson's second chance.

Jackson is a rookie, a year late, with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. You might remember him as a quick, feisty guard at the University of Notre Dame. He was in camp a year ago with the Mad Ants, after looks from the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks.

But the night of last year's "Meet the Team" party, Jackson told the Ants that he felt he had to leave for home. His mother, Sarah, had passed away in September 2010, producing lingering stress and other issues. Jackson felt he needed to clear his head and get his life in order.

"My mom always kept me level-headed and kept church in my life, and I kind of lost myself," Jackson said. "I had to take time out to get my things in order, even if basketball wasn't there. I'm a very religious person and God is very key in my life. I needed to find myself again, get right with church and get my priorities straight."

Jackson refocused and worked out in a variety of settings over the last year. The Mad Ants held onto his D-League rights and when 2011 rolled around, the team offered to bring him back to camp.

"It's a blessed situation to be in," Jackson said. "I'm fortunate for them to invite me back after what happened last year. I'm just thankful. It shows what kind of organization they are. ...For them to invite me back to prove myself, I thank them for that."

Jackson, who starts the season as backup to veteran point guard Walker Russell Jr., is on his first road trip with the team. The Ants (1-0) play at Springfield (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, then travel on to Maine on Sunday and Canton next Wednesday.

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Event Calendar

September 4
7:30 PM
vs USF
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

September 4
4:00 PM
at Western Michigan
Kalamazoo, Mich. (WMU Soccer Complex)
September 4
4:00 PM
at Crusader Invitational
Valparaiso, Ind. (Sunset Hill Farm County Park)
September 4
7:00 PM
at Seton Hall
South Orange, N.J.

Live Video
September 5
7:30 PM
vs Texas
Notre Dame, Ind.

September 5
12:00 PM
vs Temple
South Orange, N.J.
September 5
5:30 PM
vs Hofstra
South Orange, N.J.
September 6
2:00 PM
vs UAB
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

September 6
12:00 PM
at Michigan State
East Lansing, Mich. (DeMartin Soccer Complex)

St. Joseph Health System Medifast Delta Canon Visit South Bend Mishawaka