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A.J. Returns

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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.

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.

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

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. - 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."

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!)

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)

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Event Calendar

October 26
ITA Midwest Regional Championships
Notre Dame, Ind. (Eck Tennis Pavilion)

WatchND Tennis
October 30
7:00 PM
St Francis Ill
Notre Dame, Ind. (Purcell Pavilion)

October 30
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
October 30
7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

October 30
5:00 PM
Michigan State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Rolfs Aquatic Center)

Live Stats
October 30
5:00 PM
Michigan State
Notre Dame, Ind. (Rolfs Aquatic Center)

Live Stats
October 30
7:30 PM
North Carolina State
Raleigh, N.C.

Live Stats
October 30
ACC Championship
Tallahassee, Fla. (Apalachee County Park)
October 31
8:00 PM
Philadelphia, Pa.(Lincoln Financial Field)

October 31
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
October 31
2:00 PM
Notre Dame, Ind. (Alumni Stadium)

October 31
3:05 PM
Hartford, Conn. (XL Center)

October 31
3:30 PM
Purdue/Ohio State
West Lafayette, Ind. (Boilermaker Aquatic Center)
November 1
Intrasquad Scrimmage
Notre Dame, Ind. (Frank Eck Stadium)
November 1
1:00 PM
North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C.

Live Stats
November 1
2:35 PM
Brooklyn, N.Y. (Barclays Center)


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