Star Tribune - Gophers coach Don Lucia played for Lefty Smith when Lucia was a defenseman at Notre Dame from 1977-81. So Lucia was among the many saddened to hear that Smith died on Tuesday night of natural causes at his home in South Bend, Ind. "Everybody that knows Lefty loved him," Lucia said. Smith coached the Irish for 19 years from 1968 to 1987 and, until retiring last month, was the facility manager of the school's Loftus Sports Center. "Lefty was not only the hockey coach but he spent more time there not coaching than coaching," Lucia said. "In many ways he was almost an ambassador at Notre Dame. "When you went in his office, as he managed the football center, you couldn't see the walls. All you saw were pictures of former players and families. That is just the kind of person he was." Smith, who would have turned 82 on Thursday, had a 307-320-30 record at Notre Dame. His teams were WCHA runners-up in 1973 and '77. He was the WCHA coach of the year in 1973. Smith's hockey roots were in Minnesota. He graduated from the College at St. Thomas in 1951 and from 1953 to '68 was an assistant and then a head coach at South St. Paul High School. "He is one of those throwback guys," Lucia said, "and obviously, he is very well connected to our state with his South St. Paul roots and coaching Doug Woog" in high school. Woog was the Gophers coach that Lucia succeeded in 1999-2000. Smith knew both Herb Brooks and John Mariucci well, Lucia said, adding; "He's told some good stories playing with John Mariucci [for] the old Millers back in the day." The Minneapolis Millers were a semi-pro hockey team. "It is amazing the names and the people that he [knew]," Lucia said. The rink at Notre Dame's new Compton Family Ice Arena is named in honor of Smith. The Notre Dame Club of Minnesota had planned to hold a dinner at the University Hotel Minneapolis on Friday to honor Lefty Smith. It undoubtedly will still be held, but will be a more emotional event. Lucia and Irish coach Jeff Jackson are among the scheduled speakers. Tuesday was the deadline for buying tickets.
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The Responsibility Project by Liberty Mutual recently featured a roundtable on the state of college sports and includes Troy Vincent, who says around the 4:10 mark, "Notre Dame has a model that works for student-athletes." Vincent played college football at Wisconsin and is currently the vice president of the NFL Player Engagement Organization.
Props to former Irish tight end Kyle Rudolph on being named to the 2011 NFP All-Rookie offensive team. Here's an excerpt from NFP's site on Rudolph, who scored his third professional touchdown on - appropriately - Christmas Eve while guiding Minnesota to a 33-26 win over Washington. NationalFootballPost.com - 2010 had one of the best tight end classes ever. This year wasn't quite as good. Two stood out from an average class and they were Rudolph and Lance Kendricks with St. Louis. Kendricks is more of a move tight end while Rudolph has the bulk, size and power to play as an inline tight end and the speed and finesse to be a move type. He put up good numbers with 39 catches and 3 touchdowns.
To become a student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame, individuals have to embrace the fact that they are not only preparing for success during the four years spent in South Bend, but also for life beyond collegiate athletics as well. The time spent at Our Lady's University is not a stopping point, but rather a spring board for what is to come in the future. From the moment that Luke Zeller stepped on to campus, it was apparent that a leader was joining the Fighting Irish family. Throughout his career at Notre Dame, Zeller made a notable impact on those around him, both on and off the court. Whether it was volunteer work within the community or serving as a captain during his senior season in 2008-09, Zeller's ability to lead defined his career as a Notre Dame student-athlete. His successes did not start in South Bend, however. When Zeller committed to Notre Dame, head coach Mike Brey knew he was getting a very motivated and skilled basketball player. Zeller was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball as a senior in 2005 and participated in the prestigious McDonald's All-American game. In addition to his athletic achievements, Zeller excelled academically and was named co-valedictorian of his senior class at Washington High School in Daviess County, Ind. Once he arrived in South Bend, Zeller made the most of his time at Notre Dame, and always instilled positive impressions on those around him. "Luke is really special," Brey said. "He's one of my all-time favorites because of the young man that he is. He always saw the big picture. While he was playing basketball here, he was always planning for his future and thinking ahead. He's truly a class act." The future for a collegiate student-athlete is a difficult thing to predict. In addition to potential job opportunities and professional aspirations, individuals need to focus on balancing their academic calendars with their athletic schedules. For Zeller, he knew the future was going to involve two things that he is extremely passionate about: basketball, and assisting others. As planned, Zeller has been able to incorporate both of these aspects into his everyday life.
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.
- 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.