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Ragone granted sixth year, headed to Kansas

Mar 16, 2012, 2:58 PM EDT

Mike Ragone

Lost in the shuffle of a pretty eventful offseason Thursday, tight end Mike Ragone won his sixth year appeal with the NCAA and will play one more season of college football. While it won’t be for the Fighting Irish, Ragone will be reunited with the head coach that brought him to South Bend, joining Charlie Weis — and Dayne Crist — in Lawrence, Kansas.

Catching up with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, Ragone was ecstatic about the opportunity.

“I’m pretty excited right now,” Ragone told Hansen. “I want to do big things, now that I have this chance.”

That chance didn’t seem possible at Notre Dame, especially with the return of Tyler Eifert and a depth chart featuring promising youngsters like Ben Koyack and Alex Welch, who were forced into duty after Ragone’s knee injury.

Ragone was one of the most highly touted tight end recruits in the country when he came to Notre Dame, recruited by Weis out of New Jersey after a promising high school career as both a football player and wrestler. But a knee injury ended his senior season of high school before it ever started, and then did the same in 2008. Last season’s knee surgery was the third for Ragone in his last seven seasons of football.

The injuries were hardly the only speed bumps in his career at Notre Dame. He suffered severe heat illness during preseason camp and also was arrested for possessing marijuana in his car. He returned to the team without missing a game and earned back the trust of the coaching staff who hailed Ragone’s maturity and leadership after his knee injury last year.

Reunited with Crist, Hansen also hinted that the Notre Dame to Kansas migration isn’t complete, with linebacker Anthony McDonald — not invited back for a fifth year at Notre Dame after an injury filled career as a reserve linebacker — potentially joining them in Lawrence.

  1. Jennifer - Mar 16, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    All of this back and forth renders me “dazed and confused,” and feeling like I’m on the wrong side of a marathon ping-pong match. My head hurts.

  2. ct111 - Mar 16, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    I have a bad feeling about the direction of this football team is heading.

    • joeschu - Mar 19, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      Kansas or ND? I hope you mean Kansas.

  3. bernhtp - Mar 16, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    I wish Mike all the best, and a lot more luck than he had at ND. He seemed to grow up a lot at Notre Dame and the place was good for him.

  4. rambler09 - Mar 16, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    This is great for Mike Ragone. His repeated injuries were so unfortunate… I’m glad he’ll finally have a chance to play. I’m sure he’s excited to be reunited with the coach that recruited him. He should have a chance to go in and play right away.

    Losing Ragone should only really hurt us in the sense that we will lose his leadership. We have a stable of tight ends ready to play- making this a minimal loss for Notre Dame and a great gain for Ragone.

    I also like what this says about Charlie Weis and the relationships he built with his recruits and players. We know the mistakes he made too well, but I was always impressed by the sense of loyalty that his players always displayed. I think that Crist, Ragone, and McDonald looking to him first speaks volumes to that part of Weis’s character. Whatever you may think about him, he was a hell of a recruiter.

  5. don74 - Mar 16, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    I’ve read a lot of comments, not on this site but on others, about how this, Tee Shepard and his cousin’s change of heart reflects poorly on Kelly. I am not seeing it. My opinion is they are 3 separate incidents. Shepard committed, enrolled early and left. We don’t know why and nothing has been said to preclude his return. His cousin wasn’t all in but continued to tell the coaches he was coming until he didn’t. I will bet if Ragone wasnt granted a sixth year and he wanted to stick around to help coach Kelly would have found something for him. TE is a position of strength, using a scholly for a guy with 3 major knee surguries might not be the best use of resources. Not much was said last year when Wenger was given a sixth year, wasn’t invited back and went to FL. Yes, CW builds loyalty but I am not hearing or seeing complaints from the player about their coach. In fact every interview I’ve read with recent grads are positive.

    The upcoming season will be a measuring stick for the program. There are 26 sophs coming of age. Better than 2/3’s of the guys are BK’s. The seniors and 5th year guys have 3 years of Longo’s training. The coaching staff (we are told) is all on the same page. Kelly has to coach them to at least 10 wins. While CB and maybe the entire secondary is a weakness he will have to cover it with player development and scheme. I hope we don’t see the Cincy win a shoot out plan but if that’s what it takes, just win. I count myself as a BK supporter but this year is his test. CW’s 5th year was his test and he failed. Let’s talk about the coach after the last game this year. This year, we will see what he, the staff and the team are made based on obvious positional weaknesses, a tough schedule and an always restless fan base. I hope he comes out on top simply for not wanting to wait another 3 yrs for someone else to rebuild.

    • nudeman - Mar 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM

      I don’t understand the antipathy towards Kelly.

      I’ll say I was very disappointed in the discipline the team did NOT exhibit last year. And his handling of the QB position was terrible.

      Having said that, EVERY facet of the program is trending upward. Overall talent, facilities, recruiting, etc are on the rise.

      Is he/should he be on the hot seat this year? Absolutely YES.

      Last year was sufficiently disorganized and disappointing that he needs to improve, and he needs to improve NOW. I’m prepared now, before Spring practice even begins, to say he’ll get it right. I believe that completely.

      But the margin for error is smaller than 2 years ago.

      8-5 won’t make anyone happy anymore.

      • nudeman - Mar 16, 2012 at 9:03 PM

        One more thing: You can’t blame him for Tee or Greenberry for that matter.

        He took a big swing at 2 borderline ND qualified guys and it didn’t work.

        He tried.

      • irish9314 - Mar 17, 2012 at 8:05 AM

        I dont understand… You say everything in the program is trending in the right direction, yet he is in the hot seat in only year three? I have always loved Notre Dame and will continue to love them until the day I die. But some days the fan bases just drives me nuts. Give this man 7-8 years. Since everything IS trending in the right direction, why would we add one more distraction of saying he is on the hot seat. Whenever ESPN catches wind that we are throwing Kelly on that seat, it starts a feeding frenzy that our players don’t need to go through. Please just let him do his work, he is the right guy…

      • nudeman - Mar 17, 2012 at 10:47 AM

        First, don’t blame ESPN. That type of scrutiny comes with being a high profile university and program with tremendous tradition. Don’t like it? Cheer for Toledo.

        Second, the situation with BK is not completely black & white, hence my equivocal comments. I think he’s “the guy”. But last year was a total mess, for reasons already stated. Even more than the final record, the handling of the QBs had/has ND alums and fans looking at 2012 with a high powered microscope. And a warm chair.

        I’m pushing my chips to the middle and saying 2011 was an anomaly. I like some of the offseason moves, primarily moving Chuck Martin to the offensive side of the ball. I like several of the recruits they got, although the class size was small. Overall the positives outweigh the negatives. Maybe not 20-1, but 5-1.

        Last thing: We might never know the whole Tee story, but it seems almost certain that grades were a big part of it. If that’s the case, does anybody doubt if this was Alabama, LSU, USC,tOSU, Miami, or Florida he’d still be enrolled? THAT is what ND is competing with. Schools that say “come here and we’ll make it work; don’t worry about the class and crap like that; we need to work on your 40 time and you’ll be fine”.

        I don’t see THAT changing, and I don’t see ND changing (nor should they). And that’s what makes me wonder if they’ll ever win a NC again in my lifetime.

      • don74 - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:12 PM

        Overall the program is trending up. The reason I am looking for more from Kelly this year is while the overall view is positive there are some parts of the program that are no better, no worse and there are some areas trending down.

        Defense is on the upswing. Talent, scheme, effort all better than when he took over. The secondary is a question but his reputation is player development and getting the right guys in the right place. Now’s the time to show me.

        Offense is even. While the running game and OL appears better, QB play is worse than when he took over. Receiver’s, other than MMF have been inconsistent. TE is as good as what was here when he came on.

        Special teams….Place kicking better, kickoffs better, kick coverage better, punting inconsistent, punt returns worse, kick returns about even.

        Game management/attention to detail, up and down. Kelly’s teams play for 4 quarters when they show up. Too often they don’t show up.

        Is he on the hot seat, no. Is this a year for him to show us why he was such a hot commodity 3 years ago, absolutely. He has a QB that’s played for 2 years (not anyone’s choice to start), he has 2 talented guys that have been in the system 2 years. (EG was an early enrollee). Although neither started and one has never played they fit his scheme. The OL and front 7 on D are solid and deep. He has the pieces to get it done. Does he have 30 guys that will stack up to Alabama, SC or LSU? No, but who does? Can this group win? Yes. Barring injuries there is talent and depth. It’s time for the coach to show a bigger audience than the loyal followers that this team is on the upswing. Heck, if the powers that be go to a plus 4 with conference champs only we are left out. Imagine a scenario where we beat SC but they win the Pac12 (substitute Stanford) but lose to the other Pac 12 opponent. We beat OK, we beat the Big East champ we beat Miami and they win ACC but lose to BC. We end up 10-2 and opponents we beat are in the plus 4. This team has to win this year to get back in the conversation. The folks talking about the next version of BCS have yet to mention a Notre Dame exception. Until we win the program will be excluded. That’s why BK has to win this year. 8-5, 9-4 will not be good enough.

      • nudeman - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:51 PM

        As usual I agree with everything you wrote. But let me clarify my “BK is on the hot seat in 2012” observation.

        First, the seat is ALWAYS warm at a place like ND, Bama, USC, UM, tOSU, etc. So that’s the starting point

        Despite the positives, there has been just enough to be disappointed in over the last few years that the temperature of the seat is up from 98.6 to maybe 103.3. Not intolerable for the guy sitting in the chair, but noticeable.
        By saying his seat is warm or he’s on the hot seat … I am NOT saying he should be canned if they don’t win every game 43-0.

        I am saying that there needs to be distinct, clear and measurable improvement THIS YEAR, or I believe BK will face a “10 wins or bye bye” mandate in 2013. And I think he knows it.

      • joeschu - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM

        Good discussion, but while ND’s seat is always hot, there’s no freakin’ way this guy is getting fired without at least another 5 years under his belt. Only a 3-9’er would change that.

        The surest way, at this point, to break ND football is to try to “fix” it again with more staff turnover. Let someone try to build a program instead of looking for the savior coach.

  6. redleg99999 - Mar 16, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    Hi all,this is not Ragone specific. I am new here. ND 66 then 32 yrs in the Field Artillery then a few yrs school teacher now retire(LOVE IT). I got booted from ND Nation for not being anti Kelly . It is nice to see a site that is not full of vitriol against players and coaches. I am not giving them a pass but &^^%% serves no purpose. My dad was ND 37 went to school with Fr Joyce, Moose etc so from birth I am totally Irish. I won’t post much.Keith Keep up the good work.
    I am optimistic ,but then that’s me. So Go Irish and thanks.

    • oldestguard - Mar 16, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      Welcome….optimism is no sin here.

      Would love to hear some Moose stories some day when you have time.

  7. prophetjcb - Mar 17, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    Not really sure how Crist, Ragone, etc. going to Lawrence somehow makes Weis a “great recruiter.” All I take from this is that three guys who don’t start on ND’s current team are looking for an opportunity to play somewhere and getting a second chance with their original coach. Wish them the best, but none of them would be leaving ND for Kansas if they were starters.

  8. ct111 - Mar 17, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Here is the link explaining why Tee left,

    • nudeman - Mar 17, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Sorry, I don’t buy it. Just follow this train of thought and tell me what YOU think:

      1) He’s an elite scholarship athlete at ND
      2) ND has world class medical care available to their players. FREE
      3) Tee has a “serious health issue” that won’t allow him to work out until May.
      4) So he quits school, leaves an ND scholarship on the table and goes home
      5) To Fresno
      6) Gets treated … where? At a county healthcare facility? On his own dime?
      7) His future is a JuCo or working at a car wash.

      You’d really have to be one dumb MF to believe this. It’s insulting.

      Look, if the kid wasn’t ND quality in terms of academics, OK. I feel bad was put in a position to fail and be embarrassed.

      But if he and his Dad start making stuff up to save face, I’m gonna’ make a trip to the F-Bomb warehouse.

      Lastly, there is a post on one of the other KA articles from a guy whose name I haven’t seen before (zsman713), but he appears to have some inside knowledge re: this: Here it is below. It will disgust you:

      I really am sad to read this, but those from the Central Valley in California predicted this 8 months ago.
      Both Greenbury and Shephard have ‘history’ of following the direction of their ‘handlers’ and not getting very good guidance. That, plus their complete LACK of participation in the classroom for years in HS, and the multiple transfers WHILE in HS, this happening was the safest bet imagineable.
      TS not only missed his sr year because of a ‘transfer’ thing that was brought on by someone giving him bad advice, he also lost most/all of another season(soph) due to the same thing.
      Also, the school he transferred TOO in Fresno is known for giving A’s to failing students that move into the school(last season, another LB transferred to Wash Union, from Central HS(tees old school where he also transferred FROM) and had 6 F’s the previous semester, somehow miraculously took summer school online courses from BYU, and 2 summer courses at his new HS, and now he had a solid b average and played.
      That, plus the Deont.Greenbury situation where he has on numerous occasions been caught with the 420(at one of the HS all star games, when he was blowing off practice, for gods sake) they were both NEVER going to make it in South Bend.
      All DI coaches knew ALL about ALL of this information i just posted, but some still took the chance. I wish Tee well, but he needs to get away from the people that are giving him advice, and he needs to focus in the classroom or he could end up like the other Fresno Flameout Cliff Harris(oregon) and several others who have made national news with their athletic prowess, but cant get past elementary classroom work.

      • bernhtp - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:32 PM

        Very sad if true, and this would cause me to lose some respect for Admission’s due diligence process.

    • bernhtp - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Nude, I completely agree that the health issue excuse is completely unbelievable, lame and insulting. I don’t expect Notre Dame to ever say more than they have, but I do the truth to come out somehow.

  9. don74 - Mar 17, 2012 at 4:26 PM


    I didn’t mean to imply Kelly was in job jeopardy in 2012 but it is important to win this year. The landscape of CFB is changing If ND wants to control their destiny the surest way to insure an outcome is to win and win now. Read Dennis Doyle (maybe last name Dodd) on He’s not the first. Maybe What i am sensing is it is ND that’s on the hot seat I don’t think the CFB world is going to wait for BK to have all the pieces in place for ND to be part of the national conversation. Hence my statement this year needs to be a success. Does 6-6 get him fired? No. Does 6-6 hasten ND’s slide to nowheresville, absolutely.

    • nudeman - Mar 17, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Nothing gets him fired after this year, except an NCAA violation of some magnitude. I believe he’ll finish his original 5 year contract; but as to whether or not he finishes out his extension, that’s less certain and totally dependent on Ws and Ls.

      You know, I’ve written this before and not been pounded too badly, so maybe ND fans know in their hearts this is true. I am not sure that ND will EVER win another NC in my lifetime (I’m 58). Things are SO radically different today than 25-30 years ago. The money, the dirtiness, getting kids through 4 years of college who can’t do long division. I doubt ND will ever stoop to that level. But it’s almost mandatory if you want to be a perennial power in today’s world. I have zero respect for the dirty schools. But even ND haters still respect ND for what they stand for at some level.

      • bernhtp - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:13 AM

        Nude: Kelly is probably the best guy for Notre Dame now and for the foreseeable future. He is smart, knows football, has lots of success, and embodies the Notre Dame spirit. We won’t do better with anyone else that will come. Top national coaches like Meyer won’t come to Notre Dame because they cannot operate their process under the strictures of Notre Dame standards, rules and ethics. Anyone that believes otherwise is delusional.

        You may be right that a NC is near impossible under current conditions where Notre Dame can’t play in the same cesspool with the big boys. If so, I’m infinitely more content with a second-tier football program with Notre Dame qua Notre Dame than a pooped-up SEC wannabe.

        With that said, I believe that Notre Dame can and will make progress under Kelly. A few more wins, especially high profiles ones, will bring more elite RKGs our way, some of whom currently go to Michigan, Stanford and USC. I remain optimistic.

      • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:39 AM

        1) Kelly: Agree completely. He LOOKS the part, has the right name, and has a great pedigree. The only thing that shocked me was the sloppiness, penalties, turnovers from last year. I also didn’t understand the benching of Crist, but BK was there every day and I wasn’t. But I digress. An ND team should NEVER be at the bottom of the heap in offense, turnover margin and penalties. Inexcusable from a BK coached team. I’m saying this was an anomaly and next yr is different. Best sign of this I believe is moving Chuck Martin to the O side of the ball.

        2) ND as a NC competitor: It’s not out of the question they could pull off a stunner at some point and win one. But it’s not like the Era of Ara anymore and I don’t see them as a perennial top 5. ND is now a decided underdog vs the “big money, win at all costs even if it means cheating and graduating 35% of your players” schools. ND can only control ND. And the NCAA apparently can’t – or won’t – control Bama, USC, FL, LSU, etc etc.

        And there’s nothing on the horizon that makes me see things changing, unfortunately. Too much money flowing from TV, too many sophisticated schemes to funnel money and cars to kids.

      • bernhtp - Mar 19, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        I agree that Kelly made lots of mistakes. If he weren’t in the media pressure cooker of Notre Dame football, he might be able to speak more frankly about them. My belief is that he will step up to the higher demands of this job.

        As for the NCAA cesspool, I would change one rule: no recycling of scholarships. This means that if a kid drops out, transfers, etc., the scholarship cannot be reused until it has “matriculated” after four years. Give more scholarships (e.g., 28 a year), but make them stick. Making this one change would dramatically increase the commitment to players with higher GSRs, elimination of oversigning, stop the effective cutting of players that don’t work out, etc. Of course, this won’t happen because too many schools have a model predicated upon the opposite.

      • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        That is a good suggestion re: scholarships.
        With issues like this, where there obvious answers like the one you lay out, that DON’T get implemented, all you have to do is ask yourself “who’s making money?”. And therein you’ll divine the answer as to why things don’t change.

        I’m not a NCAA-ologist, so I don’t know the complete answer on this one. But the system smells. The recent revelations about Syracuse bball,were disgusting. Everyone knows Bama, Oregon and others flaunt the rules. March Madness is a HUGE windfall for TV and other parasitic organizations. T-shirt mfrs, beer companies, etc… Same with the BCS.

        So why kill the golden goose?

        The money is flowing, the kids are on TV, even though many have a 6th grade reading level, fans love it. Everything is cool. Party on, dude.

        It will never change.

      • don74 - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:03 PM


        ND winning a NC is secondary to my point. If ND desires to control their destiny winning, top 10 type program, is critical. There is no reason ND can not be a top 10 program by playing it straight. Stanford did it. Look how many sons of NFL’ers are on Stanford’s and ND’s program. They know what’s important.

        ND values independance in CFB. To maintain it the program needs to keep a high profile status. Being in the discussion every year is the only solution. The history of winning is akin to a business building “goodwill”. That will only carry the program for so far and I am afraid we are approaching the end of the line.

        Winning with a charismatic coach is ideal, that’s why Holtz has a statue at the stadium but winning solves all. Kelly seems to have the stuff to make it happen. I am suggesting this year is key, if not for him for the program.

    • txbeej - Mar 17, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      This is absolutely a critical year for Kelly. He and his staff must demonstrate the ability to coach up the already talented-enough players that they have into something greater than the mediocrity they’ve presented us with in Kelly’s first two seasons.

      It hurts to think how quickly Stanford has surpassed us. The three straight wins they hold over the Irish is bad enough, but the four wins in five tries against USC, an accomplishment any of us would kill for, is a straight up punch below the belt. And they did it with superior coaching.

      • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Agree. This year will tell us how good of a coach he really is. Doesn’t mean if they disappoint he should be fired. Definitely NOT.

        But here it is for me in a nutshell:
        Will they again finish 116th (out of 120) in the NCAA in turnover margin?
        Or …
        … Will we see a BK type team that we EXPECTED to see? Passionate, disciplined and electric on offense.

        I can handle that there are more talented teams out there. I can handle not going undefeated. Just don’t give me the slop from 2011.
        And fix the damn QB mess.

  10. ct111 - Mar 17, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Wow nude I never knew you had such strong feelings about Tee. It’s like you guys were in a serious relationship and you caught him cheating. But, I agree with you. Something is not right. Also, It feels like all the ND fans has lost faith in this football team.

    • nudeman - Mar 17, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      I have nothing against Tee. I feel bad for him because it appears from a distance like he’s been very poorly served by his parents. Same with Greenberry, although I found him somewhat more annoying, I admit.

      Let me ask you – or anyone reading this – this question:
      Could YOU have gotten away with complete inattention to academics in HS (as appears is the case with these guys)?

      I couldn’t. I had parents that insisted I pay attention and get decent grades. You probably did too.

      These kids are set up for failure in life after having silver played opportunities dropped in their laps. I guess the exception to that would be if they are among the .003% of good HS football players who become NFL stars. But from what I’ve read neither approaches even their football life with much discipline. And I’m not sure Tee will ever play major college football.

      • joeschu - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:44 AM

        Fellow ND Alum George Dohrmann wrote about the basketball version of this in a very good book: Play Their Hearts out. These handlers really can prey on kids and their families. Leaving them in very difficult, and sad positions.

      • nudeman - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        Wow, I might have to pick that up. A world I admit I didn’t know existed.
        I’m either naive or too old, but this is disturbing.

  11. bernhtp - Mar 19, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Brady Quinn also signed with the KC Chiefs. It will be interesting to see if that region becomes a place of resurrection or the ND analog of an elephant grave yard. I am rooting for all of them.

  12. jerseyshorendfan1 - Mar 19, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Good luck Mike Ragone and hey, if you’re driving out to Lawrence, please leave your bong and your weed in SB.

  13. jerseyshorendfan1 - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:53 AM

    Nudeman you’re out of control. Its an article about Ragone going to Kansas and you have 10 posts underneath it. You get laid off or retire or something?

    • nudeman - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      You’re right. I need to dial it back a notch, dude.
      However … a story about Ragone going to Kansas is nice but doesn’t move the needle.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        Just messin’ with ya.

      • nudeman - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        Got that
        Ooooops … there I go again

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