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Luck’s return to Stanford adds another highlight to 2011 slate

Jan 6, 2011, 5:40 PM EDT

Andrew Luck

If Notre Dame has BCS aspirations in 2011, the news of Andrew Luck returning to Stanford means they’ll need to get by some awfully talented quarterbacks next season. Even with coaching chaos at Michigan (we’re getting to that later today), the Irish will face a schedule chalked full of veteran, talented quarterbacks.

Between Denard Robinson, Matt Barkley, and — incredibly — Stanford’s Luck, the Irish will have two quarterbacks that have been pegged as first rounders since early 2009 on the schedule and another that was every bit as dangerous as Cam Newton in the early part of the year before the Wolverines had another late season swoon that cost Rich Rodriguez his job

(Again, this is the fun time of year where we wonder openly if Denard Robinson has played his last snap at Michigan, as reports earlier in the week claimed that the Michigan quarterback would exit Ann Arbor if Rodriguez was relieved of his position.)

If this year’s season finale in The Coliseum was must-see, next year’s date at The Farm could be just as intriguing. The Irish finish next season with six straight weekends against legit competition — Southern Cal and Navy at Home, at Wake Forest, Maryland at FedEx Field, Boston College at home and then off to Stanford for the season’s finale. That battle with Stanford could determine whether or not the Irish are BCS bound, and if both teams play up to their potential, the late-November showdown will be one of the week’s most high-profile match-ups.

Just a quick perusal of next season’s schedule gets the blood flowing. The Irish open against Skip Holtz’s South Florida squad, an eight-win team that beat Miami in OT, lost to “BCS” caliber UConn on a 52-yard field goal, and then beat Clemson in a New Years Eve bowl game. Next is the always dangerous two-pack of Michigan and Michigan State, with the Irish traveling to Ann Arbor and getting the Spartans at home. Dates with a coach-less Pitt team, a Robert Marve led Purdue squad and a nine-win Air Force team that won the Commander-In-Chief trophy lead up to the Irish’s much deserved off week.

While it’s all but decided that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is leaving for the NFL, his star quarterback has decided to stay in school for his senior year, giving whatever coach that runs the Cardinal football program a rock to stabilize a team that’ll finish ranked no lower than No. 4 in 2010, and will stay highly ranked throughout the offseason thanks to Luck’s return.

Say what you want about Luck’s decision to return to school, but I’m all for it. If you’re a high-end collegiate athlete, your family doesn’t need the support, and you believe in your athletic ability, there’s no reason to think that the money won’t be waiting for you next year. Moreover, there’s no year less certain than this one for NFL rookies, who will likely be kept from any team activities until a CBA is reached.

Irish fans have flocked to Southern California on Thanksgiving weekend to watch the Irish battle the Trojans for years. With Luck back at Stanford, a Thanksgiving trip up the coast might be in order.


  1. whisk3yjack - Jan 6, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    Am I missing something? If Luck enters the draft this year, there are multiple teams willing to offer him an absurd contract; no doubt somewhere in the league of Sam Bradford’s guaranteed $50 million.

    If he waits a year, he probably enters the NFL under the new rookie salary cap, leaving tens of millions on the table. Does being “kept from any team activities” allow an NFL team to not pay a player?

    I’m all for enjoying one’s college experience; as you put it, as long as the money will be there after senior year, why not come back? But in this case, he looks to be leaving a fortune on the table that won’t be waiting for him when he finally enters the NFL.

  2. wrpupkis - Jan 7, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    That is correct, the NFL only pays when players are engaged in team activities. So a contract offer of $XX million is worthless unless there is guarantee money and/or the player participates in team activities.

  3. tlndma - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    My question to Luck would be, “how many of your offensive linemen are leaving?”. I thought I heard during their bowl game that they were all seniors or 5th year players. If he has a veteran line returning ok, if not, this might not be the wise move.

  4. bradwins - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    1. whisk3yjack: Contracts for players selected in this year’s draft are expected to be subject to the (presumed) rookie wage school. Obviously nobody can say with any real certainty since that will be ultimately be dictated by a CBA that is not anywhere close to fully negotiated at the moment. However, NFL teams are operating under that assumption, from what I understand, and I think it is unlikely that they will finalize an agreement in which that is not the case.

    2. Keith: I would not assume that “it’s all but decided that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is leaving for the NFL.” I think there is a good chance he is at Stanford for one more season. Why not take a shot at winning a national championship and then going to the NFL the following season? A national championship beats the heck out of a 4-12 rebuilding year. In fact, there may not even be NFL football next year. The money will still be there for him next January.

    • bradwins - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:30 PM

      * rookie wage “scale”, not wage “school”, obviously.

    • whisk3yjack - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:16 PM

      Thanks for the clarification. This is the first I’d heard that the new rookie wage scale will apply retroactively. I wonder how that will work out in practice.

      I have to agree with Keith and the general buzz that Harbaugh is bolting for either the 49ers or the Broncos. Stanford’s best unit is its offensive line– they were a big part of Toby Gerhardt’s domination last year– and they’re losing 3 of 5 starters to graduation there. Since they’ll be rebuilding their O-line, I don’t think a national championship run is really in the cards. Stanford likely peaked this year, so Harbaugh is out.

      • bradwins - Jan 7, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        The way that it will apply “retroactively” is that the draft is the last event of the league year. After the draft the CBA expires and nobody will be signed to any new contracts until there is a CBA in place. So when the incoming rookies do sign it will be subject to the terms of the yet-to-be negotiated CBA.

        (*From what I understand.)

  5. whisk3yjack - Jan 7, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    This story on ESPN offers the best explanation I’ve seen yet:

  6. bradwins - Jan 7, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    I stand corrected. Harbaugh to the Niners. If I were him, I would have tried to win the BCS Championship this year, but hey you can’t knock a guy for taking $25M while he can get it.

  7. papadec - Jan 8, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    It seems to me that Andrew Luck would rather try to win the Heismann than play for the Panthers, in 2011. I can’t blame him for that. The money will always be there – let the NFL issues fall into place.

  8. 1historian - Jan 8, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    I’m happy to see Luck staying but I think Harbaugh’s leaving is not good for Stanford. I don’t think he’ll be that good on the pro level.
    It’ll be interesting to see whom Stanford hires.

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