Does BYU independence mean Irish in the future?

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Some of the seismic shifts in college football that were mentioned during the offseason finally came to fruition in the past 24 hours. While it wasn’t the Richter scale shaking major conference realignment that many suspected, the Mountain West conference created quite a stir when both Fresno State and Nevada accepted invitations to leave the WAC and join the Mountain West in 2011 or 2012. These invitations were spurred on by the Salt Lake Tribune‘s report that BYU is leaving the Mountain West and going independent in football. The rest of BYU’s athletic programs would rejoin the WAC conference.

BYU would join Notre Dame, Army, and Navy as the only independent teams left in college football, giving credence to some prophetic words from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick early this week.

“You’ve got to solve the non-football side of the equation,” Swarbrick said, “but it can work. I don’t know if there will be others but it wouldn’t shock me because the landscape is so fluid.”

With BYU’s other sports apparently realigning with the WAC conference, the Cougars seem to have solved the non-football side of the equation. Now comes the daunting task of going it alone, a proposition that BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe talked about earlier this summer.

“Independence is an option that obviously has been out there. We will look at everything. We have looked at everything. There are pros and cons to the Pac-10, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Mountain West Conference and independence. With all these things there are pros and cons.

“So what you have to do is you have to weigh those and measure them against what? What is right for BYU. And not for what is right for BYU in the year 2010, but what is right for BYU into the future.

“That is quite a bit more complex than most people understand. You have got a constituency to deal with. You have got a school to deal with.”

While there is no match-up currently slated, I’d expect Notre Dame to be open to scheduling BYU in future games, especially with their recent history on the gridiron. The Irish won two of three in their last action against the Cougars, losing the season opener in 2004, sandwiched between wins in 2003 and 2005. If you’re looking for a game to potentially plug in, the Irish have one game that needs to be schedule for the 2011 schedule, as well as potential openings on the 2012 and 2013 slates.

BYU may state that there are pros and cons to every decision, but it’s pretty clear that if the Cougars were willing to walk away from a football conference on the verge of qualifying for an automatic BCS bid, there had to have been a large financial reason to go it alone. Notre Dame’s agreement with the BCS draws the ire of many in down years, but the Cougars likely expect to compete for an at-large bid, pocketing the hefty appearance fee all by themselves. With a prominent national following based largely around the school’s Mormon faith, BYU also likely finds itself appealing to a broadcast network, figuring that any deal struck will recoup more than the $1.3 million in TV money they pocketed from the Mountain West last year.

What remains to be seen, and what could be the multi-million dollar question is how well with the Cougars play as free agents. If the school is able to schedule competitively and return to being one of the elite programs in college football, could BYU become a natural rival of the Irish, will the religious affiliations of both schools adding a unique twist to a potential rivalry?

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson was sure to skirt most questions regarding BYU’s precarious future with the conference, saying only that as of 9:45 MST Wednesday night, the Cougars are “a member of the Mountain West Conference.” Still, it’s easy to think that if the Cougars truly do go it alone, they’ll likely find their way onto the Irish schedule sometime in the very near future.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

echoes
@NDFootball Twitter
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DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend

 

 

Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.

 

Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

aaron-banks
Tom Loy, Irish 247
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Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
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Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Senior
Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.