Dec. 27, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - -- Day two in Nashville began for the Irish squad with a 9:30 a.m. breakfast, followed by 10:30 a.m. special teams meetings and then 10:45 a.m. offensive and defensive unit and position meetings. The Notre Dame football party left via bus at 11:45 a.m. for an hour-and-45-minute practice session at Father Ryan High School.
-- The evening featured the official Music City Bowl welcome party for both teams and staffs on the General Jackson Showboat docked near the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
-- You may not find a bigger Notre Dame fan in Nashville than Pete Weber, the television play-by-play voice of the NHL Nashville Predators since 1998-99, the team's first season. Weber, who owns two degrees from Notre Dame, previously did games on television and radio for the NHL Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres and worked 15 years in minor-league baseball. He's a Galesburg, Illinois, native.
-- It was breezy and 57 degrees with a few light sprinkles as the Irish hit the field for pre-practice work. Then the rain came in earnest just before 1 p.m. as practice started. The rain mostly halted by 1:30 p.m., but the final practice periods played out in a near downpour.
-- Tomorrow the Irish players take in the first hour of the NFL Tennessee Titans-Indianapolis Colts NFL game (on the final regular-season weekend for pro football) before heading back for an afternoon workout.
-- There are lots of reasons they call it the Music City. Some members of the Irish travel party took in the Grand Ole Opry Friday night at the famed Ryman Auditorium (where bluegrass was born) in downtown Nashville. Others Saturday night headed for the Bluebird Café, the 90-seat "listening room" where country music up-and-comers often start their performing careers (You may have seen it featured on the television show "Nashville.") Wander down Broadway and you can hear live music of all sorts emanating from virtually every bar and honky-tonk. And there's no shortage of boots and western wear if those suit your fancy.
-- Looking for something a bit southern on the menu? Try Merchants, for example (around since 1892), and you'll find duck fat tater tots, fried green tomatoes, southern fry (catfish, shrimp, dill pickles and okra), pulled pork and brisket, blackened catfish, jambalaya, sweet tea pork loins, sweet potato pablano hash and pimento cheese grits.
-- As Notre Dame football fans soon look forward to 2015, consider this: Stadium Journey, a website and monthly magazine which focuses on rating stadium experiences from around the world, has released its list of 2014 FBS College Football Stadium Experience Rankings.
Again this season, Notre Dame Stadium is the highest ranked college football stadium with a FANFARE Score of 4.7. Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey co-founder, wrote of the iconic stadium after visiting 50 Football Bowl Subdivision venues in 2014:
"It is one of those special places that all sports fan aspire to visit, even if they are not fans of college football. It doesn't matter what inspires you to go and see a game at Notre Dame Stadium; whether it is the fervent fan following, your appreciation of history or the movie Rudy. Whatever your reason, you would be justified to go and see a Fighting Irish home game, and chances are your expectations will be exceeded."
Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium came in second place and was followed by Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans.
Listed below are the top 10 stadium experiences for college football:
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama Crimson Tide
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC Trojans
Michigan Stadium, Michigan Wolverines
Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium, Texas Longhorns
Spartan Stadium, Michigan State Spartans
Blaik Field at Michie Stadium, Army Black Knights
Ohio Stadium, Ohio State Buckeyes
Williams-Bryce Stadium, South Carolina Gamecocks
Autzen Stadium, Oregon Ducks
-- In case you missed it, Forbes for 2014 recently rated Notre Dame's football program the second most valuable in the country at $122 million, behind only Texas ($131 million value), with the notation: "A single home game attracts almost 62,000 visitors from outside the South Bend area; on average, each of those fans injects close to $200 into the local economy." Next on the list were Michigan, Alabama and LSU.
-- 2014 Notre Dame captain Zack Martin is headed to the NFL Pro Bowl in his rookie season as a starting offensive guard for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of only three rookies who made the list, joining St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley. Pro Football Focus says Martin is the NFL's second-best pass blocker at his position.
-- A practice visitor today was former Notre Dame football staffer Rex Hogan, now living in Nashville and scouting for the Chicago Bears. He joined the Bears' staff as a college scout in 2003 and was named a national scout in 2012. He previously spent five years combined at Notre Dame and Utah in the recruiting and football operations areas. Hogan is a 1995 graduate and former football player at Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tennessee.
-- Irish assistant coach Bob Elliott needed 20 stitches today above his right heel after inadvertently being stepped on by a cleat at practice.
-- As media waited in a Gaylord Opryland Hotel conference room to do Irish player interviews late this afternoon, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his staff headed into a next-door conference room. Not surprisingly, the media asked Kelly if he had selected a starting quarterback. Kelly indicated the upcoming meeting likely would impact that call, and he offered, "If it's Everett (Golson) I'll knock once on the wall, if it's Malik (Zaire) I'll knock twice."