Dec. 27, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - -- The Notre Dame football Delta 747 charter, slated for a 10 a.m. EST departure, left about 45 minutes late under sunny skies and 39-degree temperatures in South Bend.
The plane carried 165 passengers--the Irish coaching staff, administration and families.
The 90-minute flight landed in Nashville at 10:45 a.m. CST, and the Notre Dame travel party headed via bus caravan to the Gaylord Opryland Resort where both teams are housed for the week.
Meanwhile, the Irish players all flew in commercially from their hometowns, all arriving within a seven-hour window that began at 5:10 a.m. (eight players on a red-eye American flight from Los Angeles) and ran through 12:15 p.m. (Cole Luke on a United flight from Phoenix). Players had been booked on 19 different flights, plus seven others that involved staff members and injured members of the squad who are not practicing. The largest chunks of arrivals featured 15 individuals on a Delta flight arriving at 10:10 a.m. and 14 on a U.S. Airways flight that landed at 10:37 a.m.
The Irish squad gathered at its headquarter hotel for a 2 p.m. team meeting, followed by special teams meetings and offensive and defensive position meetings. The team left the hotel at 3:30 p.m. for its 90-minute practice at a local Nashville high school.
-- Did you happen to notice the 2014 Official Notre Dame Football Yearbook? Published back in August, its cover and inside page design came from a historic Nashville company, Hatch Show Print, which specializes in letterpress printing.
-- This marks the second major trip to Nashville in 2014 for a Notre Dame athletic program. The Irish women's basketball squad came to Nashville for the 2014 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Final Four--defeating Maryland in a national semifinal game before falling to Connecticut in the title contest.
-- Two of the most recent Tennessee products to star at Notre Dame (both are currently standouts in the NFL) are 26-year-old wide receiver Golden Tate (from Hendersonville, now with the Detroit Lions) and 25-year-old free safety Harrison Smith (from Knoxville, now with the Minnesota Vikings). Tate has 96 catches in 2014 for 1,286 yards and four touchdowns. Smith has 89 tackles, five interceptions and three sacks in 2014.
-- For the second straight year, 11 of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 14 schools are bowl eligible, and the ACC will have 12 teams (including Notre Dame) in its bowl lineup. Eight of the ACC's 11 bowls are against Power 5 Conference opponents, and four are against teams ranked in the top 15. The ACC is sending its associate commissioner for football communications, Mike Finn, to Nashville for the bowl game.
-- Maybe it was a coincidence, but Notre Dame's football team made itself right at home today while practicing at Father Ryan High School where the sign under the football press box reads "Home of the Irish." There's a "Play Like A Champion Today" sign in the locker room and there's another sign with an epic Knute Rockne quote: "One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it."
-- Notre Dame has no better connection in Nashville than Chris Casa Santa, who just happens to be one of the hosts (along with his wife Tricia) in the Notre Dame hospitality room at the Opryland Hotel. Casa Santa's grandfather, Joseph Casasanta, wrote "Hike, Notre Dame," "On Down the Line" and "When Irish Backs Go Marching By" and served as director of the Notre Dame music department from his 1923 graduation until 1942. Joseph's arrangement of the "Notre Dame Victory March" is the basis for what the Notre Dame band and glee club perform today. He also composed the Notre Dame Alma Mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother," in 1931 after Rockne's death. Chris grew up in South Bend and spent two years at John Adams High School before moving to Lafayette, Indiana, and finishing at Lafayette Jefferson High School. He has lived in Nashville since 1980 and at his home has a replica of the Grotto.
-- Wondering where the Notre Dame quarterback situation stands? Here's what Brian Kelly said after practice today: "I haven't made the decision on who the starter is yet. Both are getting quality reps. I probably have to make it here in the next 24 hours. They're both going to play, and I'm just going to have to just get a feel for it and the flow of the game."