While it hasn’t gotten the headlines of the rivalry between the Irish and the Wolverines, Notre Dame’s long-running series with Michigan State has also become part of the collateral damage from conference expansion. With Notre Dame committed to playing five ACC opponents a season and the Spartans dealing with a new nine-game conference commitment, finding a way to renew the series has been on both athletic departments’ priority list.
With news coming out of Rosemont, Illinois as the Big Ten holds spring meetings, it appears the hope for renewing the rivalry isn’t dead, though an annual game for the megaphone trophy isn’t possible anymore.
“It’s gone,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News at the Big Ten’s spring meetings. “We have situations where we can’t play them, they have situations where they can’t play us, and it’s just kind of the roadkill of conference expansion that’s created these close rivalries to … we both want to play each other; we just can’t.”
The teams are set to play in 2016 and 2017. And while a handshake agreement has both schools trading home games sometime in the 20s, a neutral site game at a still to be determined location is lined up for 2023. Hollis seemed to point at Chicago as a logical venue for the two Midwestern programs to meet.
“Logically, it would be Midwest,” Hollis said. “Notre Dame and Michigan State have a reputation for taking games to national and global locations. So I think anywhere on the planet is probably in play. But a Notre Dame-Michigan State series in Chicago would be a very attractive location and you could kind of take, it’s not a game on campus but it’s very close to the alumni and fan bases. That’s not an announcement, it’s just a thought process.”
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.
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.