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Weekend notes: Belichick, schedule, rankings and more

Apr 12, 2013, 10:59 AM EST

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The Notre Dame coaches clinic is underway, with hundreds of high school coaches from around the country descending on South Bend to hear Brian Kelly and his staff speak. In addition to the Irish coaches, a star-studded list will also be joining the festivities, with current NFL head coaches Marc Trestman, Marvin Lewis and Bill Belichick all taking the time to share some tips as well. They’re joined by former Bengals coach Sam Wyche and former Nevada coach Chris Ault, who is widely credited for the Pistol offense that’s the rage of pro and college football.

The assembly of coaching talent says a lot about the relationships Brian Kelly has developed over his years as a head coach. It’s funny to think back to the hiring of Kelly, when many wondered if he was too “small-time” with his roots being at Grand Valley, Central Michigan and Cincinnati.

With a cast of coaches befitting an Ocean’s Eleven movie, I think we can put that notion to rest for the thousandth time.

Speaking of Belichick, the notoriously tight-lipped coach actually spent a little more than ten minutes with the local press, doing his best to show his admiration for Kelly and the program he’s built, but also Notre Dame and the players it develops.

Here’s Kelly on his experience with former Notre Dame players.

“They’re all smart, they’re tough, and they’re disciplined,” Belichick said. “To get through four years here with the program that Notre Dame has academically, socially and from a football standpoint takes a lot from a kid. That’s the kind of player you see come out of here. Kids that are smart, well-versed and have more than football in their lives.”

While Belichick had good things to say about former Irish wide receiver David Givens and former cornerback Mike Richardson, he saved his most glowing praise for former Giants great Mark Bavaro.

“Mark Bavaro is right at the top. He’s about as Notre Dame as they come.”

***

In what’s only news because it’s the middle of April, Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson created a couple ripples when he took to the airwaves of a local Phoenix radio station to complain about Notre Dame considering whether or not they’ll play in Tempe in late October, 2014.

The Irish have themselves in a bit of a scheduling pickle in 2014, the first season they’ve agreed to play five games against ACC teams.

FoxSports Arizona has more on Patterson’s remarkably candid comments:

“The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director (Jack Swarbrick) call the athletic director at ASU to discuss it,” Patterson said. “They had their PR guy call (ASU’s media relations office) to give us a message Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four.

“At least in the little Catholic town I grew up in — Beaver Dam, Wis. — the good nuns wouldn’t have thought that was a very appropriate way to honor your word.”

–snip–

“Our position is ‘Hey, we’ve got a contract,’ and we expect Notre Dame to live up to it,” Patterson said.

ASU and Notre Dame are set to play this season at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 5 as part of Notre Dame’s “Shamrock Series.” That game is not in question, but the possibility of losing the 2014 game could put ASU in a tough spot with its schedule for next year, which also includes nonconference games with Weber State (home) and New Mexico (road).

“What people don’t understand is you do this 18 months before a game,” Patterson said. “Virtually every other university in the country’s got their teams scheduled until 2014. So who do you get as a replacement even if you wanted to do it?

“If you act in a professional way and you want to talk about three years down the line or four years down the line where somebody’s got a chance to make an adjustment in their schedule, that’s a different thing, but when it’s 18 months out, everybody’s got their season booked.”

While Swarbrick hasn’t made any comment publicly, senior associate athletic director John Heisler told the South Bend Tribune that the schedule for 2014 is still in flux.

“It looks like we’re kind of in the home stretch here,” Heisler said Wednesday, “but the reality is we have more games than we could play.”

We talked about the overloaded schedule earlier in the week, but there’s little doubt that Swarbrick and company won’t fully weigh their options before making a decision. Still, it’s a little crazy to see normally behind-the-scenes discussions like this get blown out in public.

No word if the nuns in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin have a problem with airing dirty laundry in public.

***

Don’t look know, but Athlon released their annual coaching rankings, and Brian Kelly came in at No. 4 in college football. Here’s the top ten:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
5. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
6. Chris Petersen, Boise State
7. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
8. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
10. Gary Patterson, TCU

Here’s what Athlon had to say about Kelly:

Not many coaches in college football can rival Kelly’s resume in four stops as a head coach. Kelly’s first head coaching gig came in 1991 at Grand Valley State, and he stayed in that capacity until 2003. During 13 years with Grand Valley State, Kelly went 118-35-2 and won two Division II titles. After his success with the Lakers, Kelly went 19-16 with Central Michigan, which included a MAC Championship in 2006. Kelly moved on to Cincinnati at the end of the 2006 season and guided the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009. After back to-back 8-5 seasons with Notre Dame, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the BCS National Championship game at the end of the 2012 season. Despite the blowout loss to Alabama in the title game, Kelly clearly has the program back on track to be an annual top 10-15 team.

Other than Stoops, coaches on the Irish’s upcoming 2013 schedule include Brady Hoke (14), David Shaw (20), Mark Dantonio (26), Todd Graham (29), Bronco Mendenhall (46), Paul Chryst (52), Lane Kiffin (57), Troy Calhoun (58), Darrell Hazell (67), Ken Numatalolo (76), Matt Rhule (109).

***

When reading Stewart Mandel‘s recent profile on Lane Kiffin and USC at SI.com, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when Charlie Weis was at Notre Dame. Fair or not, it seemed like things that happened early in Weis’ tenure at Notre Dame lingered over Weis’ head long after his introductory press conference.

In Weis’s case, he could never dig out from underneath comments like “decided schematic advantage,” or the brash persona he openly embraced for a profile on 60 Minutes. Kiffin deals with similar pain, unable to shake the portrait he helped paint of himself, after horrible runs with the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Vols, yet continually failing up, something skeptics credit to a family name built by his father.

That’s what makes the thought process behind Kiffin’s below comments so difficult to understand. He’s certainly not going to live down any criticism any time soon. So why keep talking about it?

Kiffin told a story recently about the perils of fashion choices. When the Trojans played at Oregon in November 2011, Kiffin, who openly detests cold weather, wore a white beanie to stay warm. After USC pulled off the upset, there was a run on beanies at the school bookstore. The Dan Patrick Show requested the original.

Now fast forward 13 months to last season’s Sun Bowl. As USC was getting embarrased by 6-7 Georgia Tech, Kiffin was getting blasted on Twitter for donning a hood and dark sunglasses. “He wasn’t focused, he didn’t care, he checked out, because we lost the game” said Kiffin of his perception. “If we won the game, no one would have noticed.

“And if we lose the game at Oregon, [the perception] would be, ‘What kind of head coach wears a beanie?'”

Kiffin even addressing this topic shows a hopeless lack of media savvy. So does the revisionist history the head coach and athletic director Pat Haden exercise by acknowledging last year’s team was overrated.

Here’s Kiffin and Haden on the lofty preseason expectations, something he didn’t shy away from at the time.

“I felt if I was to talk that way to [the media] … I would be giving our players an excuse to lose,” Kiffin said to SI. “That’s why I didn’t temper expectations outside even though I knew where we had some issues and weren’t as good as people thought we were.”

“I had us pegged for two losses myself,” AD Pat Haden told Mandel. “You don’t want to discourage your kids by saying you’re not that good, but we knew.”

It’s interesting comparing these comments to the ones coming from Notre Dame after their embarrassing defeat to Alabama. Certainly, Kelly talked about a lack of depth along the offensive line, but he — and his players — have taken the loss as an objective measure of what they still need to work on.

***

Lastly, here are a few high school coaches that’ll be speaking at the clinic this weekend.

Michael Johnson, Head Coach
Bishop Dunne H.S. — Dallas, TX

Tony Perry, Defensive Backs Coach
Fresno Central H.S. — Fresno, CA

Tony Sanchez, Head Coach
Bishop Gorman H.S. — Las Vegas, NV

Mike Rumph, Head Coach
American Heritage H.S. — Plantation, FL

Don Fellows, Head Coach
Grand Rapids Christian — Grand Rapids, MI

  1. dudeacow - Apr 12, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    I don’t know, I kind of appreciate coaches that will talk about things that normal ‘professional’ coaches won’t talk about. Kiffin was being honest. Give him some credit. It’s not like he’s going to earn it anywhere else…

  2. bernhtp - Apr 12, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    I take Pat Haden to be a class guy and can’t imagine that he will suffer Kiffin for much longer. It will be interesting to see who he gets as the next USC coach. I actually think he should consider taking the job himself.

  3. kiopta1 - Apr 12, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Anyone see the daily show go after the NCAA? Hilarious.

  4. gtizzo - Apr 12, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    “The assembly of coaching talent says a lot about the relationships Brian Kelly has developed over his years as a head coach. It’s funny to think back to the hiring of Kelly, when many wondered if he was too “small-time” with his roots being at Grand Valley, Central Michigan and Cincinnati.”

    Keith don’t you think this is a little naive. Come on you think this about Brian Kelly developing a “relationship” with a some NFL names. This is about NFL coaches looking for hot assistant coaching talent and ND is just one stop on that list. This is a time for coaches to network on future employment.

    • Keith Arnold - Apr 12, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Don’t agree. You really think these coaches give up a weekend to poach young assistants? These camps/get-togethers are mutual admiration opportunities, just as Belichick put it.

      Maybe Kelly puts a bigger emphasis on this, or maybe we’re just paying more attention, but look at the names BK has had at this:

      Chip Kelly
      Urban Meyer
      Belichick
      Marvin Lewis
      Trestman

      You don’t do this if there isn’t some admiration of what he’s done, not just at ND, but before.

  5. irish13pa - Apr 12, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    WOW Steve Patterson, get over it already. Im sure there will be a big line forming to play ASU in place of ND in 2014. There are plenty of teams who would love to play an easy out of conference game.

    Les Miles didnt make the top 10? I guess personality does count.

    • ndnphx - Apr 12, 2013 at 6:53 PM

      ASU’s 2014 home schedule is lame, except for ND (no Arizona, USC, or Oregon). Patterson wanted the ND game so he could save season ticket sales, hence his tantrum. Wah.

  6. nudeman - Apr 12, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    I understand the point of ASU and ND here. The contract gives ND an “out” and they’re choosing to exercise it. I suppose one could say to ASU “do a better job negotiating next time”.

    On the other hand, ASU is trying to recover from 5 years (I think) of Dennis Erickson (like recovering from a 5 year bender of whiskey and Quaaludes) and lots of years of mediocrity obefore that. Their stadium sucks, and attendance is poor. Graham (from Pitt) offers them real hope, and scheduling ND at home was a BIG deal in a lot of ways, especially selling season tickets.

    So now ND wants to cancel (contractually perfectly OK) just 18 months before they play in Tempe. That puts ASU in a terrible position; it’s not like there are a lot of high profile BCS teams that they can just plug in.

    Is Patterson being a baby by going to the media? I don’t think so, especially considering that ND didn’t even show them the respect of having Swarbrick make the phone call.

    • bernhtp - Apr 12, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      I agree, at least from the perspective of what we know from Patterson. I still wait for Swarbrick’s version, which may or may not be materially different.

  7. bernhtp - Apr 12, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    I love this promo for the Blue-Gold game and the upcoming season more generally.

    • papadec - Apr 12, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      bern – goosebumps & shivers!!!!!!!!!! Thank you.

    • andy44teg - Apr 13, 2013 at 12:15 AM

      YEEEAAAAHHHHH BABY!! Getting psyched already!

  8. jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 12, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    Finally, a photo of Bellychick where he doesn’t look like a complete scrub with his dirty ass cut off hoodie. That guy is dirt. Hey Bill, if you’re reading this, why don’t you go videotape some Jets’ signals. Ass!

    Also, Lane Kiffen at 57? Priceless. Are the rats still leaving that sinking ship?

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      Ooh 5 thumbs down? I smell me some Patriot fans. Remember Belichick would be nothing without Parcells ( a Jersey guy). Name me one other pro coach who, in defeat, puts on that pouty puss and refuses to speak to the media. What a tool!

  9. fnc111 - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:43 AM

    A totally classless move by Swarbrick, period. Wouldn’t even talk to the ASU AD? Maybe Jack was busy getting his teeth finally fixed.

    It will be a huge celebration in this ND household the day Swarbrick finally leaves ND. Hopefully NDs next AD will care about men’s basketball for once instead of letting it rot away.

    • andy44teg - Apr 13, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      Yeah…’cuz ND men’s B-ball was sooo top tier before Swarbrick got there….wow…smh

    • bernhtp - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      You really are a piece of work. Swarbrick has been absolutely brilliant on so many fronts and has been a transformative figure.

      Regarding basketball, the program is far ahead of where it was under Kevin White. In fact, you can say the same thing about almost every single athletic program at Notre Dame. Yes, the basketball team loses in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but at least it makes it there every year. Brey’s team overachieves each year – garnering multiple COY, POY and many other honors – but then they hit more athletic teams that step it up for the tournament. Basketball recruiting is more of a cesspool than football, and Notre Dame is finding it difficult to recruit ND-quality people that are also top athletes. My guess is that the program will continue to very gradually improve, but I don’t expect a breakthrough to the final four anytime soon. The last two classes have been very good, especially for ND.

      • nudeman - Apr 13, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        Why does anybody reply to this guy?
        He brings nothing. I don’t mind a hater who has legit opinions and maybe some occasional perspective from outside our bubble.

        This guy offers none of that, contradicts himself regularly and is just here to piss people off. I don’t even bother with thumbs down.

      • bernhtp - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        Nude, good points. I guess we will next read about how Muffet McGraw can never win the big game.

  10. yllibnosredna - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    Speaking of USC players abandoning ship and the number 57, that’s just about the amount of scholarship players USC has on their team right now. There are precisely only 63 scholarship players on USC’s football team for the spring. I’ll wager their practice scrimmages resemble an intramural flag-football session…Should make for another soft Kiffin-led USC squad in the Fall. It’d be nice to see a horse-pounding of the Trojans at ND next Fall and return the favor that some Pete-Carroll teams inflicted upon ND in the early-mid 2000’s.

    • bernhtp - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      USC is always dangerous. While not deep, they have some of the best recruits in the country, especially skill players.

      My guess is that we will only have about 80 real scholarship players – I don’t count (non)players like Tyler Stockton that were granted scholarships once it became clear that there were some unused. While I hope that our full recruiting class is admitted this summer, there is always a risk that one or two don’t make; academic issues would be the primary reason. These guys make commitments to work hard and achieve goals through their senior year.

      Notre Dame is also at a disadvantage because it doesn’t have a bench – a waiting list of grayshirted players and potential Juco transfers. ND rarely takes transfers and never from Jucos and for good reason, e.g., Prestwood.

  11. jerseyshorendfan1 - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    Ooh 5 thumbs down? I smell me some Patriot fans. Remember Belichick would be nothing without Parcells ( a Jersey guy). Name me one other pro coach who, in defeat, puts on that pouty puss and refuses to speak to the media. What a tool!

  12. nchdomer - Apr 14, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    Expecting an impressive season from ND. There is a different feel and vibe from the team at this year’s coach’s clinic. Confident and sure of themselves and their coaches. Music now being played at different stages of the practice, which seems to create a lot more energy and enthusiasm from the players – a little bit of a gameday/inside the stadium excitement to what used to be a library-like practice atmosphere. A noticeable change from years past.

    Also, the coaches are more relaxed and confident. Less shouting and more teaching. Speakers were informative and interesting. A very well-run event; the best of the Kelly era. And speaking of Kelly, his talk at the end of a long day was terrific, energetic and showed his passion for teaching the game, as well as his receptiveness to changes in how he runs his practices. Subtle but significant changes in some areas.

    All of the players seem improved and the overall depth level is dramatically better than anything I’ve seen in the past 10 years. It used to be that you could see a clear drop-off from the first team to the second team players. No more. And one final thought – Golson is the clear leader of the team now and it shows. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name mentioned with the other big name quarterbacks during the season.

  13. yllibnosredna - Apr 14, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    Bern,
    No doubt USC is talented (as always) and therefore dangerous. By no means is this game even a lock for a victory. But the USC football program appears to be close to its nadir in the post 2000 era, and their overall depth issues are still substantially more problematic than ND’s at this stage. Moreover, I don’t see Hayden keeping Kiffin around much longer…Point being this year appears to be ND’s best chance for a landslide victory over the f…sticks from Southern California for the first time since the end of the Holtz era. Not saying it’s necessarily going to happen, but it would be nice (and I don’t think implausible) if it did occur this season.

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