Michigan v Notre Dame

2011 schedule begins paradigm shift for Irish


Both Air Force and Wake Forest confirmed this weekend that they’d be playing Notre Dame in 2011, effectively finalizing the schedule for next season. And while its been hinted at by both Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick, we can now see with great certainty that the 7-4-1 scheduling model of former athletic director Kevin White is gone.

While Notre Dame stays silent on all scheduling until the slate is complete, Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh told the Colorado Springs Gazette that the Falcons would visit South Bend on October 8 next year, with the Irish traveling to Air Force in 2013. The Irish haven’t played Air Force since 2007.

“This means a lot to us,” Mueh told the Gazette. “They recognize the great relationship we’ve had through the years.”

Meanwhile, Wake Forest confirmed a long-discussed series with the Irish, with athletic director Ron Wellman announcing that Notre Dame will head to Winston-Salem to take on the Demon Deacons on November 5th. Wake is already on the Irish home slate for 2012, but the Deacons will play the return game of the two-game set in November, 2015.

“This is an excellent opportunity for our football team to compete against one of the most storied football programs in the nation,” Wellman said in a statement.

Here’s the Irish 2011 schedule, with only Boston College still to be determined:

3-Sep	H	USF
10-Sep	A	Michigan
17-Sep	H	Michigan State
24-Sep	A	Pittsburgh
1-Oct	A	Purdue
8-Oct	H	Air Force
22-Oct	H	Southern Cal
29-Oct	H	Navy
5-Nov	A	Wake Forest
12-Nov	N	Maryland
26-Nov	A	Stanford
TBD	H	Boston College

For those of you scoring at home, that’s six home games, five away games, and one neutral site game at Fed Ex Field against Maryland. Just like this season, the Irish play six legit games to open the year, with little margin for error in the opening six weeks, and USC waiting after an off-week. (A slight upgrade from Western Michigan on the 2010 schedule…)

While the home stretch seems a little bit more manageable with Navy, Wake Forest, Maryland, most likely BC, and Stanford, Kelly will have to get used to a difficult opening quarter of the season, as the next few years have the Irish facing top-flight opponents from the get-go.

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.