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    Coach Kelly Explains Blue-Gold Format

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    We're less than 72 hours from the 83rd annual Blue-Gold game...

    This morning after practice, head coach Brian Kelly announced some changes to the game's format, explaining that the teams will be broken up as Offense against Defense, rather than simply Blue versus Gold.

    Coach Kelly explains in the video above that this format is designed to prevent any of the Irish players from having to play for nearly the entire contest, a problem that would have occurred had the Irish taken a traditional spring game approach.

    As such, there will be a different scoring system designed so that both the offensive and defensive squads can score points. Offensively, the Irish will stick to traditional scoring (six points for a touchdown, three for a field goal, etc.).

    On the other side, the defensive scoring will focus on turnovers. Led by Coach Diaco, the defense will earn seven points for a turnover forced before the 50-yard line, and three points for a takeaway after midfield.

    Similarly, it will earn four points for a turnover before the 50, and two for a stop beyond it. The defense can also earn one point by forcing a field goal attempt.

    For more on the spring game format, check out the release on UND.com.

    Pollock Gets The Call

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    They're less than two weeks into the young MLB season, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have already been hampered by a slew of key injuries. While it might be tough news for D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, it has presented former Notre Dame standout A.J. Pollock with a special opportunity.

    The Hebron, Conn. native was called up from Triple-A Reno last night, and could make his MLB debut today or tomorrow. Pollock was hitting .340 through 12 games with the Aces. Nick Piecoro has more in the Arizona Republic.

    Notre Dame assistant director of media relations and baseball sports information director Michael Bertsch (@NDsidBertschy) also uncovered some great data on the Irish in the big leagues.

    Pollock's debut will make him the 73rd former Irish player to appear in the MLB, seventh-most from any school, and first among those in the BIG EAST.

    Total Players in MLB History (NCAA)
    • USC - 103
    • Texas - 101
    • Arizona State - 99
    • Stanford - 83
    • Holy Cross - 77
    • Michigan - 77
    • Notre Dame - 73
    • Arizona - 69
    • Illinois - 69
    • UCLA - 68

    Total Players in MLB History (BIG EAST)
    • Notre Dame - 73
    • Villanova - 49
    • Georgetown - 36
    • Seton Hall - 28
    • West Virginia - 24
    • Rutgers - 21
    • Cincinnati - 18
    • St. John's - 18
    • Pittsburgh - 16
    • USF - 12
    • Connecticut - 11
    • Louisville - 3

    When Pollock debuts for the Diamondbacks, possibly tonight against Pittsburgh or tomorrow in the series opener versus Atlanta, he will become the fourteenth Irish player to appear in an MLB game since the draft began in 1965.

    It's been a relatively quick road to the show for Pollock, who spent the 2009 season right here in South Bend with the Class A Silver Hawks. He underwent arm surgery in 2010, and rebounded in 2011 with a strong season at Class AA Mobile (.307, 41 2B, 8 HR, 73 RBI).

    Among other fast call-ups in Irish MLB history were RHP Aaron Heilman (748 days), current Chicago Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija (780 days), and LHP Dan McGinn (948 days).

    For position players, OF Dan Peltier (1,117 days) was the quickest to the big leagues, followed by two-time World Series champion INF Craig Counsell (1,203 days).

    The Diamondbacks host the Pirates today at 3:40 pm ET in the finale of a three-game set. Follow @NDBaseball on Twitter as Pollock looks to make his major league debut.

    Smith Has Tools If Packers Go Safety First

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    11.19.11 Game Day 2188.JPG
    Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

    We're just eight days away from the 2012 NFL Draft, with nine former Notre Dame football players hoping to get the call that will change their lives. One of the those NFL hopefuls is safety Harrison Smith, the 2011 Irish captain. Smith is expected by many to be a second round pick, but some draft pundits also believe he could be a late first rounder.

    The Green Bay Packers, who have the 28th pick, may be one of the teams interested in the Knoxville, Tenn. native. Their former Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins underwent neck surgery during the 2011 season, and is still waiting to hear from doctors before he decides on his playing future.

    The Packers finished the regular season with a 15-1 record, but fell to the New York Giants in the divisional playoffs. Smith is one player who may be able to help a secondary that struggled for much of the 2011 campaign.

    Tyler Dunne has more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

    At a sturdy 6 feet 2 inches and 213 pounds, Smith is intelligent, long and fast. He's one player who may be capable of covering today's athletic tight end. Throughout his meetings with teams, that has been the hot topic.

    "There's a big tight end in every division that dominated last year," Smith said. "Nobody found a great way to stop it without leaving other things open. So that's something people are definitely focused on.

    "How do you stop these big, athletic guys? I think the best way to stop them is with bigger, athletic safeties that match up better with them. It's hard to put a corner on them. It's hard to put a linebacker on them. A bigger safety who can run with them and make plays on the ball is something teams put a lot of value on."

    Visit JSonline.com for the full article, and tune in to next weekend's draft to see where Smith and his Irish teammates wind up.

    Thanks, Bill.

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    TimBrown.jpg

    Yesterday afternoon, Notre Dame deputy director of athletics Bill Scholl was introduced as the director of intercollegiate athletics at Ball State in Muncie, Ind.

    A 1979 Notre Dame graduate, Bill has served the athletic department at his alma mater for more than two decades, most recently responsible for senior-level administration, including fundraising and donor relations, divisional budget construction and growing external revenue.

    Bill was also the sport administrator for football team, working with head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish program on a daily basis.

    As seen in the photo above from last October's game against USC, Bill presented a plaque at halftime to 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, commemorating the Irish great's selection as one of six recipients for the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award.

    Having only worked in the department since August, I cannot speak much of Bill's contributions to Notre Dame, but I know his numerous accomplishments have been instrumental in developing our university's athletic programs. Several Notre Dame colleagues also expressed their well wishes on Twitter, including director of football media relations Brian Hardin and und.com's Jack Nolan.

    In the short time that I have known Bill, his door has always been open and he has had the best interest of the university community and student-athletes at heart - two characteristics that will undoubtedly contribute to his success when he begins at Ball State at the end of the month.

    For more on Bill's new opportunity, check out the official press release on UND.com.

    Thanks, Bill. Good luck leading the Cardinals.

    Student. Athlete. Irish.

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    Natalie Novosel Fights To The Top

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    This afternoon, Notre Dame senior Natalie Novosel and graduate student Devereaux Peters are at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. for the 2012 WNBA Draft. Their Fighting Irish playing days are over, but the all-BIG EAST first team selections were each top-10 draft picks, with Peters being selected third by the Minnesota Lynx and Novosel going eighth to the Washington Mystics.

    Novosel.jpg

    Novosel was recently featured in an article by Andrew Lovell on ESPNW.com. Here's an excerpt from the nice story:

    Natalie Novosel collected the loose ball at the top of the key, drove past the taller defender in front of her and set her sights on the basket.

    It wouldn't be that easy. Another taller player stepped up, met Novosel in the air and challenged the layup. "Foul," Novosel said. "All ball," the defender shot back. In a move born of frustration, Novosel picked up the ball and fired it at the player's head.

    You see, Novosel doesn't hate losing. She despises it. It's a trait her family realized early in her basketball career.

    The perimeter defender? That was older sister Shannon, who stands 6-foot-1. The interior defender? That was 6-foot-5 twin brother Nate. And the above scenario -- with and without the hurling of the basketball -- played out thousands of times in the Novosels' backyard in Lexington, Ky.

    Visit ESPNW.com to read the whole article, and get ready to cheer on the former Irish stars when the WNBA season starts in mid-May.

    Inside Leprechaun Tryouts

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    It's only mid-April, but on Friday evening, the Notre Dame cheerleading squad hosted a football pep rally in The Pit at the Joyce Center. Actually, there were several mini rallies as seven Notre Dame students tried out to be the shillelagh-holding, green-clad face of the Fighting Irish.

    leprechaun1.jpg

    Hundreds of students (and even a few Notre Dame Coaches Clinic participants) came out to the basketball practice facility in support of their friends and classmates trying out to be the next Notre Dame leprechaun.

    Events like this that remind you of the passionate spirit of the Notre Dame student body. Homemade t-shirts, thunderstix, but mostly good, old-fashioned cheering made for a great atmosphere, and had everyone thinking about football season (which by the way, is 137 days away).

    leprechaun2.jpg

    The tryouts began with each of the seven leprechaun hopefuls leading the crowd through a mock pep rally for the Purdue game, the first home football contest on the 2012 schedule (Sept. 8, 3:30 pm ET, Notre Dame Stadium - mark your calendar).

    Outgoing senior, or perhaps leprechaun emeritus Mike George emceed the event, putting the competitors on the spot and asking them to 'introduce' famous Notre Dame personalities as guest speakers - everyone from two-time Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck ('05) to women's basketball head coach Muffet McGraw.

    George also presented each of the leprechauns with a scenario - the band has finished playing, the fans are waiting, the team has yet to arrive and the pep rally is broadcast nationally on NBC. How are you going to keep everyone entertained?

    Afterwards, WNDU sports reporter Angelo Di Carlo grilled each student in a mock live interview, asking if the Irish can return to football dominance and why he or she should be selected as the 2012-13 leprechaun.

    The Fighting Irish expect to light up the scoreboard this fall, so of course, the tryouts concluded with a push-up contest.

    After the team of judges deliberated for a couple hours on Friday evening, junior Bryce Burton was selected as the new Gold Squad leprechaun for football and men's basketball. Burton was the Blue Squad leprechaun this past year, cheering for soccer and women's hoops.

    Sophomore Johnny Romano will take Burton's place on the Blue Squad and junior Louis Ganser will cheer for the new Green Squad.

    All in all, a great evening at The Pit, and a nice promotion for the leprechaun who helped cheer Coach McGraw's squad all the way to the national championship game in Denver. Check out an interview with Burton on WNDU.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

    The Bald & The Beautiful

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    Irish Strike Out Cancer (and Syracuse)

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    It was all Orange this afternoon at Melissa Cook Stadium. And that's not to say Syracuse got a big victory. In fact, it was Notre Dame that emerged with a 4-3 win in the first game of a BIG EAST conference doubleheader.

    Orange was the color of the afternoon because Syracuse was decked out in it from head to toe, but also because the Fighting Irish uniforms were accented with orange for leukemia awareness.

    IMAG1513.jpg

    Notre Dame held its second annual Strike Out Cancer event to help raise money for the South Bend Memorial Hospital Pediatric Hematology / Oncology Program.

    Pediatric leukemia is a disease that has closely affected Irish softball, as head coach Deanna Gumpf's daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed in 2010. Now six years old, Tatum is on her way to a full recovery.

    Among the activities at this afternoon's event were balloon animals, facepainting, and a silent auction.

    2012-04-14_13-33-39_139.jpg Some of the items being auctioned off include two pre-game sideline passes and game tickets for Notre Dame football game against Michigan, replica commemorative Strike Out Cancer jerseys and game-worn commemorative helmets and gloves.

    IMAG1501.jpg

    After trailing for much of the game, the Fighting Irish tied the score in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run from Katey Haus, before walking off with a win in the seventh when Kelsey Thornton scored from third on a wild pitch.

    Notre Dame and Syracuse return to the field in a few minutes for the second game of the afternoon.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)
    Picture this: a 22-year old Springfield College graduate sells his Jeep, buys a motorcycle, straps a few possessions to the back of it and rides more than 1,600 miles from Massachusetts to Texas, in search of a coaching position.

    Bob Wager's life sounds like a plot line from Friday Night Lights, and that's because twenty years ago, H.G Bissinger's book inspired him to make a life-changing journey to the mecca of high school football.

    The Arlington Martin High School head coach spoke at the Notre Dame Coaches Clinic on Saturday morning, focusing on 'Winning the Turnover Battle.' Beyond the X's and O's and strategy of football, Wager's career is a very captivating story - from junior high coach, all the way up the ranks of Texas football from 1-A through 5-A.

    Like those who presented before him, Coach Wager could not say enough about the impact his coaches had on his development as a person and football player.

    Having lost his father at a young age, Wager specifically mentioned his high school head coach Barry Clawson, a mentor whom he keeps in touch with to this day. (Interestingly for me, Wager originally hails from Johnstown, N.Y., about 40 miles from my hometown and one of the high schools we used to compete against before changing conferences).

    Coach Wager also described how honored he was to speak at Notre Dame and how blessed he felt to be able to make the trip with four of his assistant coaches - Clifton Odom, Casey Thompson, Tim Mays and Ronnie Jones.

    Though he's not Coach Eric Taylor, watching his presentation featuring clips from drills and practices, turf fields and high school stadiums, it felt like Matt Saracen or Tim Riggins might appear at any moment.

    For more on Wager's story, check out Corbett Smith's article from The Dallas Morning News.

    The 2012 Notre Dame Coaches Clinic comes to an end later today with the football team's twelfth practice of the spring. To see photos and more on this year's clinic, check out the Coaches Clinic Facebook page.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

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