Cole Barker: True Fighting Irish


With things a little slow over the weekend as the Irish wait to enroll for summer school, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune had an excellent story on former Notre Dame student Cole Barker, who at 26 just lost a long battle with brain cancer.

From Hansen:

Literally minutes after saying good-bye to their 26-year-old son at
Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa, Randy and Nancy Barker received
yet another in-your-face reminder of just how alive the legacy of their
late son, Cole Jacob Barker, truly was.

Cole did eventually
succumb glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer on May 5 — if you can call
it succumbing. He was given three-to-five months to live by doctors
after the persistent headaches Cole suffered in the fall of 2004 were
revealed in mid-November of that year to be the result of a tumor in the
frontal lobe of his brain.

Faced with an arduous battle in front of him, Cole was adamant that he’d finish his Notre Dame education, which he did, with a double major in philosophy and pre-med. Cole graduated in May of 2006, had planned on med school at Indiana University at South Bend, but he was forced to put med school on hold after he he had another surgery to remove an infected bone plate from his skull.

One person who stuck with Cole and his family through this journey was Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. Weis headlined a Glee Club Benefit back in April of 2005, in his early days as Notre Dame’s head football coach, helping to raise money for Barker’s medical expenses and befriending the family.

That friendship lasted through the twists and turns of both families, and continued after Barker’s death earlier this month, when they received a phone call from the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The post-funeral phone call on May 10 was just the punctuation mark.

recognized the voice right away,” Randy said. “I had heard it in person
years before, but recognized it from the interviews on TV.

“He says, ‘Randy Barker, are you Cole’s dad?’

“And I
said, ‘Yes, I am.’

“He said, ‘This is Charlie Weis.’
I said, ‘Nancy get on the other phone.’ … I can’t say enough good
things about the guy.”

Weis, Notre Dame’s recently deposed head
football coach and first-year offensive coordinator for the Kansas City
Chiefs, first apologized for not being able to come to the funeral in

“I had heard stories about him, but I always had a high opinion of
Charlie Weis, because I knew he did a lot of things that nobody knew
about, like this, when he was the head coach. But to do it when he was
no longer at the university was even more special, just calling to make
sure Randy and Nancy were doing OK.”

Just reading excerpts of Hansen’s story don’t do the Barker’s justice, so head over to the website and give it a read.

A great testament to the fighting spirit of Cole Jacob Barker and his family and yet another reminder how misrepresented Charlie Weis was during his tenure at Notre Dame.

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.




Days before facing Notre Dame, USC coach Steve Sarkisian to take leave of absence


When Notre Dame takes on rival USC on Saturday, they’ll be facing a Trojans team without a head coach. USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today that effective immediately, head coach Steve Sarkisian will be taking an indefinite leave of absence. Offensive coordinator Clay Helton will be interim head coach.

While the details are still coming into focus, multiple reports point to another incident with alcohol. Haden himself said that he made the decision after speaking with Sarkisian.

“I called Steve and talked to him. It was very clear to me that he is not healthy. I asked him to take an indefinite leave of absence,” Haden said, according to multiple Los Angeles media reports.

Sarkisian’s decision-making and alcohol use came into the spotlight this August when the head coach made inappropriate statements at a large booster event. Sarkisian addressed the media after the incident, acknowledged mixing medication with alcohol, and vowed to seek help and not to make the same mistake again.

Today’s incident appears to be a relapse, and one that requires immediate attention. Helton ran the team’s practice today and steps back into an interim head coaching role, a job he handled after the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron left after not being awarded the permanent job.

“Fortunately or unfortunately, I have been in this situation before,” Helton said. “Once again, I’m very fortunate to have a group of first-class kids that are extremely talented and want to do something special here.”

This is the second major sports persona to leave his season to seek treatment in recent weeks. New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia left the team to seek treatment for alcohol issues. The Trojans are coming off an upset loss to Washington on Thursday night, losing 17-12 as a 17-point favorite.