Backed into a corner, Stoops says no to ND


As I’ve tried to humorously note these past few days, the rumor mill is churning out of control. The best example of that is the latest, greatest stunt chronicled by our friends at BGS, entitled “Anatomy of a rumor.”

As someone who tries to comb just about every message board known (and unknown) to Notre Dame fans near and far, I watched this story manifest as the seeds were planted by a bored law school student, sending a completely bogus (but detailed) email to a website called

Without replying to the email or asking any follow-up questions, FootballCoachScoop simply posted the rumor.

Notre Dame:
tell us that Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick is very interested in
talking with Wisconsin Head Coach, Bret Bielema, after the Badgers trip
from Hawaii.  They are expected to talk Sunday or Monday, according to our sources.

As BGS points out better than I can, the rumor went from a tiny, unknown website, to a slightly larger, and still completely disreputable, website called the Examiner. From their it got picked up by our friends at CFT, and then at ESPN.

(Both CFT and ESPN ran retractions after their were clued into the farce.)

Yet even with the retractions, a rumor is now news. How’s that for the new generation of journalism?

I only bring this up because of the latest news on Bob Stoops. Even though he’s addressed the issue for a good, solid week, the latest story over at the Chicago Sun-Times today regurgitates a week’s worth of Stoops rumors and forced the Oklahoma coach to go on the record again and emphatically state that he won’t be the next football coach at Notre Dame.

“For the third, and hopefully final time, let me
again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I
appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate
the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building
that tradition here.

“I work for a wonderful president and athletic
director, who have created an incredible work
environment at OU. There haven’t been any plans for a meeting or
negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to
that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at
Notre Dame.”

There you have it. Barring a Saban-like turn of events, Bob Stoops is out as a candidate to replace Charlie Weis as head coach at Notre Dame.

While we have no true idea if Notre Dame actually wanted to bring Stoops in, thanks to the swirling rumors on the internet and the propensity for big media outlets to run with those rumors instead of vetting them, Stoops was backed into a corner and forced to proclaim emphatically that he didn’t want to come to Notre Dame, even if there was mutual interest from both parties.

It sounds like Sun-Times writer Brian Hanley has been on the beat for a while, so there’s a chance that he had some actual scoop with his latest report. But most likely, he cobbled together the same junk that I’ve been reading for the past five days, nothing more than message board speculation and wishful hypothesizing from Irish fans.

(I realize I’ve been posting the same stuff, but I think I’m pretty open about the fact that this is all rumor and innuendo…)

Bottom line, nobody knows for sure whether or not Jack Swarbrick and Bob Stoops have spoken about the job opening at Notre Dame. And that’s exactly the way it should be, even though we’d all like to know.

But thanks to writers like Hanley and an obviously protective group of fans (and media members) at Oklahoma, Stoops has been forced to acknowledge and deny three times any interest in a job that he might actually be interested in, all because he knows a “no comment” would be interpreted as a sure sign of him bolting for South Bend.

The only way we’ll know if Bob Stoops was interested in the Notre Dame job is if he shows up at the press conference introducing him as head coach. Which is probably the way both Swarbrick and Stoops prefer it.  


Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.