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Friday, December 17, 2021

Pre-Bowl: Recruiting, The Wager And Other Thoughts

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Start a fire... 

Dateline:  Flint Lake

Okay, so as I was doing a teensy-weensy research on past Wager winners (see below) I ran across something I wrote years ago - I think it was pertaining to Brian Kelly but it sure does now:  

How apt.  Yet it made me laugh.  Maybe the only thing about him these days that makes me laugh anymore.  (I am especially aggrieved about having witnessed his collaboration with his 5-star QB recruit, something one can only file under "Heinous things one cannot un-see.")

And while our former coach now goes by a far more efficient name, Voldemort, the fact is there shouldn't be anyone in the Notre Dame fanbase that isn't feeling extremely optimistic about the future of the football program.

Here come the Irish.

Quote of the Week - I

“What worries me, given the non-regulated nature of it right now, is its impact in recruiting. I think it’s going to be a mess. Recruiting this year is going to have some really horrible NIL dimensions to it."
Jack Swarbrick

In August

Quote of the Week - II

"I don't think people really say it this way, but let's not make a mistake: 

We have free agency in college football."
Lane Kiffin

After the Early Signing period this week. 

Recruiting / Bowl Game Thoughts

A couple thoughts...

1)  It'd be easy, and forgivable, to view this week's Signing Day as a bit of a disappointment.  A couple of WR's bailed (one in an especially sleazy fashion) and a high potential Safety flipped to his more local, Florida, school.  Shit happens

And this year, it seemed to happen to virtually everybody.  As the above quotes are intended to suggest, it's hard not to think of the Woodward and Bernstein quote, "Follow the (NIL) money." 

Yet, I have to believe that ND is not on the precipice of a dystopian future where their 'not playing the game' costs them countless 5-stars.  Will it cost them some?  Maybe.  Probably.  But ND is always going to appeal to a different type of kid (family).  And Freeman's repeated emphasis on aggressive recruiting effort portends a staff is that may not win every battle but it won't be because they are outworked.

2)  For anyone who thinks Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams are... what exactly?  Disloyal... poor leaders... not truly 'Notre Dame men'... because they've opted out of the bowl game?

I think you're being unfair.  

And stupid.

First of all, the bowl games - sadly - have become so marginalized with the BCS playoffs as not have relatively little importance.

Secondly, with a new coaching regime, ND is playing with house money in this game.  Short of getting blown out - something Oklahoma St. seems incapable of doing - there's virtually no downside.  

In fact, quite the opposite:  play loose and have fun.

And that goes for the team and the viewing audience. 

The Wager 

For the 10 finalists - here's the tie-breaker, amounting to 23 total points...

Section I:  Pick the winners, including the spread (1 pt. each) PLUS the Over / Under (1 pt.).
  • 18 points possible 

      Bowl                            Line                                                    Over / Under
1.  Peach.                Pitt (+2.5)  vs.  Michigan St.                          (57.0)
2.  Taxslayer.         Wake Forest (+5.0) vs.  Texas A&M            (58.0)
3.  Cotton.              Cincinnati (+13.5) vs.  Alabama                    (58.5)
4.  Orange.             Georgia vs.  Michigan (+7.5)                         (44.5)
5.  Outback.           Penn St.  vs.  Arkansas (+2.5)                       (46.5)
6.  Citrus.               Iowa (+2.5)  vs. Kentucky                              (44.0)
7.  Fiesta.               Oklahoma St. (+2.5)  vs. Notre Dame          (45.5)
8.  Rose.                 Utah (+6.5) vs.  Ohio State                             (66.0)
9.  Sugar.               Baylor vs.  Ole Miss (+1.0)                              (54.5) 

Section II:  For the Notre Dame game only.

-  How many false starts will the Irish have?  (1 pt.)
-  On which series will the 1st false start occur?  (1 pt.)
  • 2 points possible

Section III:   Who Wants To Be An Arts & Letters major?

Q1Who wrote the poem, “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”, whose protagonist speaks of his infinite love for the natural world while worrying about those who forget the purpose of their existence?

1) Brian Kelly
2) Elon Musk
3) William Wordsworth
4) Matt Lindon

.  Disney+ recently released the Jimmy Chin documentary, “The Rescue,” about the daring, race-against-the-clock rescue in 2018 of 12 boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand during monsoon season.  

Because of their lack of skill involving the niche cave diving avocation, which unlikely twosome did the Thai Navy SEAL’s reluctantly have to call in for help?

1) Lini & Ungie
2) Jared & Invanka
3) Beyoncé & Jay-Z
4) Two middle aged Brits

Q3. Every autumn, The MacArthur Foundation awards its Genius Grants to 20-30 individuals for their exceptional creativity, a track record of significant accomplishments, and / or potential for future creative work.  

And every autumn, Dr. Tím Tím patiently waits by his phone in his Philadelphia garret for a Foundation call that’s never going to come.  

What is the award amount that he’ll never see?

1) 10 Bitcoins, valued on the day of the award announcement
2) $625,000 over 5 years.
3) $250,000 of art-based NFT 
4) $1,000 coupon at the MacArthur gift shop.  

  • 3 points possible

It bears re-stating that beyond winning a cool $1,000 you'll be the recipient of the prestigious Artie award (to be held by me) while joining the pantheon of past winners:
  • 2020:  Mark Ungashick
  • 2019:  Tim Corrigan
  • 2018:  Brian Mullins
  • 2017:  Bob Jank, Mark Ungashick
  • 2016:  No winner (funds donated to charity)
  • 2015:  Jim Belnap
  • 2014:  Al Brunett
  • 2013:  Brian Ward, Ryan Corrigan

Re-Pete (Shameless steal of a Sampson / The Athletic article)

Journalism which ought to fill one with great optimism.

(And how rare is that these days?)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Lamar Mickey walked back into his house with hot wings, baked beans and fries, prepared to meet the third Notre Dame coach who was scheduled to visit his family but the first to actually show up.

A week earlier, Brian Kelly was supposed to be there, but he canceled the day he bolted for LSU. Brian Polian was supposed to come instead, but the special teams coordinator had postponed the visit on the morning it was supposed to happen, unsure he’d even still be at Notre Dame. Those visits were supposed to come three days after Notre Dame’s regular season finale at Stanford.

Instead, Lamar and his son Jaden, the four-star cornerback from Corona Centennial (Calif.) High School, were left to try to make sense of a process that had gone sideways. So they called Marcus Freeman, who was still Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, and explained Jaden planned to visit Oregon and Washington that weekend. Maybe a trip to Northwestern, too.

Freeman told the Mickey family he was meeting with athletic director Jack Swarbrick the next morning. And that Freeman felt he had a chance to replace Kelly as head coach, even as a 35-year-old with no head coaching experience. Freeman only had one request.

“If I get the job, I need you to cancel those damn visits,” Freeman said, as Lamar remembers.

Freeman got the job. Mickey canceled those visits. And a day after his introductory press conference, exactly one week after those Kelly and Polian cancellations, Freeman arrived at the Mickey home to eat hot wings, baked beans and fries. Defensive recruiting coordinator Chad Bowden recommended the menu. Lamar picked up the food. And the night became a reminder of why Freeman feels like the right man at the right time for Notre Dame.

Freeman made it easy to trust him in a moment when honesty could have felt like an act. That’s because Freeman had been accessible to the Mickey family over the past year. Jaden felt so comfortable with his new head coach that he spent the dinner asking about single-digit numbers and what early enrollment looked like. His mom asked about how Joanna Freeman was handling her new role as the head coach’s wife. The fact Freeman had yet to coach a game didn’t come up.

Notre Dame’s new head coach has a lot going for him, even without a head coaching resume. But it’s that accessibility that could make the 21-man class the Irish signed Wednesday the start of something new instead of the last gasp of something old.

A class ranked No. 7 on Rivals and 247Sports — that’s the highest the Irish have rated on national signing day in nine years — could have been a reason for defiant celebration. Kelly used to talk about “distinctions” and “shopping down a different aisle” on signing day. It took him almost a decade to embrace the idea Notre Dame could sign top-five classes.

It took Freeman one week.

This is all believable not because Freeman says it, but because he understands the work to make it happen.

“If these kids don’t know who the head coach is and have a personal relationship with the head coach, you’re at a disadvantage,” Freeman said. “I want these guys to be able to access me at all times, communicate with me directly on my phone, and understand this is going to be a very personal relationship.”

To underscore the point, Freeman said four-star linebacker Jaylen Sneed was calling him during the press conference. It’s unlikely Sneed ever had Kelly’s number. Kelly didn’t recruit with that non-stop human touch, one that can make the difference. Quarterback Steve Angeli had never met Kelly until he committed. Mickey only had one interaction with Kelly, after he’d already committed. Notre Dame almost lost Tyson Ford to Oklahoma because of that relationship-building failure. Ford had done about a half-dozen video calls with former Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley before he’d interacted with Kelly.

These are mistakes Freeman won’t repeat as head coach because he knows they will limit what Notre Dame recruiting can be, which means they would also limit how much Notre Dame can win. There’s a reason why the Irish linebacker haul included four four-star prospects. Linebacker is Freeman’s position.

“Your staff will follow the leader, right?” Freeman said. “If I’m the hardest-working, and I hope we’re all hard-working, but if I’m the most aggressive in trying to form relationships with these recruits, I hope I set an example for the rest of our staff that this is how we’re going to do things. Right?

“We’re going to outwork everybody in the country. We’re going to do things that no one else has done. We want to be unique in how we develop relationships.”

It’s clear Notre Dame’s staff will follow. Ten months ago, the Irish staff tried to defend Kelly in a video call with reporters, pushing back on evidence the head coach wasn’t involved enough in recruiting. No such defense of Freeman will ever be necessary. And Freeman’s push, supported by a stronger recruiting staff, should be the reason why.

Freeman laid down a marker this cycle about what Notre Dame recruiting can be. Those who pick it up will fit into this new era. Those who don’t, won’t.

“It motivates you, for sure,” said recruiting coordinator Mike Elston. “You don’t want to let him down. You don’t want to be outshined by the head coach who’s got 1,000 other things on his plate, and you’re really responsible for being the head coach of your position and the talent that comes into it. If you have any pride at all, and you want to impress the boss, then you’re going to work at that level, if not more. I think you’ll see that across the board.”

None of this is to say Notre Dame should apologize for a recruiting class that played to the program’s strengths, adding to a young offensive line with five more commitments, bulking up at tight end, continuing to grow along the defensive line. The Irish should feel good about what’s coming. Notre Dame should also know it has a head coach willing to pull the program further in recruiting, with the support of a staff happy to help him get there.

Notre Dame signed one top-100 prospect on Wednesday. Texas A&M signed 14. Alabama signed 13. Georgia signed 11. Ohio State signed seven.

That counts, too.

“As a competitor, the way he recruits and the way he goes about it, it raises our entire program’s level,” said offensive coordinator Tommy Rees. “And I don’t think that’s going to change, obviously, that’s only going to go up.”

It has to at receiver, where Notre Dame landed four-star Tobias Merriweather but lost four-star C.J. Williams on Monday night and watched three-star Amorion Walker flip to Michigan on Wednesday morning. That meant a class that wanted three or four receivers finished with one after the first day of the early signing period. The Irish don’t have a scholarship receiver in the junior or sophomore classes, with three potential hits among freshmen.

That’s the kind of recruiting misstep Notre Dame can’t afford. It’s one Freeman won’t tolerate.

“I saw it for the last 11 months that he’s somebody that’s going to raise the level of recruiting at Notre Dame,” Rees said. “As competitors, you don’t want to be the black sheep, you don’t want to be the one that’s not carrying the weight.

“As an entire staff, we’re gonna be challenged and pushed to recruit the highest level. And that’s why I say we’re not going to stop attacking the best players in the country, that isn’t going to stop. To me, that’s as exciting as anything that’s going on in the program right now.”

The 21 recruits who signed with Notre Dame on Wednesday felt that. The seven verbal commitments in next year’s class — including borderline five-star defensive linemen Brenan Vernon and Keon Keeley — feel that. If Freeman can take that energy and repurpose it across Notre Dame’s entire recruiting board, how the Irish recruited this cycle can be a launch pad instead of a finish line.

When Freeman arrived at the Mickey home last week and saw Lamar for the first time, the father of Notre Dame’s top cornerback commitment wasn’t sure how to react. Freeman wasn’t in a Notre Dame pullover; he was wearing a tailored suit. Freeman wasn’t just a defensive coordinator; he was running the entire show. Lamar asked if they should hug or just shake hands. Freeman went in for a hug.

“Same person,” Freeman said, “new role.”

Then, over wings, Freeman recapped one of the wildest weeks in Notre Dame football history. He applied it to how he chose Notre Dame over LSU a year earlier. He talked about what’s coming next for Notre Dame football. It was all so relatable, so easy for the Mickey family to process.

They didn’t need an introduction to Marcus Freeman when he showed up on their doorstep as Notre Dame’s new head coach. They already knew him. And that’s the entire point.

Source:  The Athletic
December 15, 2021

Schadenfreude & Tool!


What are the odds of him going away, never ever to be heard from again?

I know.  Unlikely.

But a girl can dream, can't she?

Final Thought

Happy holidays everyone - hope you're all getting to spend it with family, friends  - with those you love.  

Go Irish!  See you in 2022!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Stanford: Was There A Game?

Reach down your hand in your pocket
Hold out some hope for me
It's been a long day...

Since you're in Louisiana, we have a mission...

The 5 Stages of Grief

1.  Denial.   5pm, Monday - WTF?!

2.  Anger.   6pm. The reports are true! What an asshole. 

3.  Bargaining.   7pm. We'll match anything, won't we?

4.  Depression.   9pm. Done deal!  We're so screwed.
5.  Acceptance.   6pm, Wednesday.   Good riddance.  

Welcome coach Freeman!

Dateline:  Flint Lake IN

Well, don't I feel stupid.

November did not represent a great month for Jerrence and the objects of his fanboy affections.

Aaron Rodgers.  Anti-vaxxer, homeopathy aficionado and leading subscriber to the George Costanza ethos of "it's not a lie if you believe it." 

As one person so aptly put, "He's an exceptional athlete who thinks he's an exceptional person.  Except he's not."

Text of the Week
Brian Kelly
.  He, of the 'limitless love' for his players... who, with a possible BCS Playoff spot still very much a possibility, bails on the team because... well he's restless. 

Have you considered just taking an Ambien, Brian?  

Thank you, no, Jerrence.  I'd prefer to deliver a major 'f*ck you!' to the program while all my assistants are out recruiting - oh is that going to be awkward for you?  And as for that pesky bowl game prep... um, sorry?

Ouch.  Double ouch.  Frankly, I don't think I can take too much more of this betrayal by my heroes. The next thing you know someone will be telling me that something super embarrassing is going to come out about Kevin Spacey...

In any event,  I envisioned the final regular season blog going much differently.  "Waiting" was gonna be the theme - as in, waiting to find out where we're playing in January.  

Which, BTW, wasn't an off point theme.  We've still done a great deal of that this week - just highly compressed and not channelled in a direction we expected.

Is any of this the end of the world?  Not even remotely.  And in a week where we lost a beloved Sorin basement friend (NOT MR. WILLS, EVERYONE!), the unpredictability of these events both pales in magnitude and dovetails w Mr. Rasmus' OpEd about what's truly important.  

That said, whew, what a week. 

Quote of the Week

"These guys are such great athletes. They look like they don't have a brain cell in their head... but they sure can play."

Kay Corrigan
watching Ole Miss v. Mississippi St.


A bit of context:  in the early 1950's, the Corrigans, pre-Jerrence, spent a period of time in Huntsville, AL - our father, your basic government civil servant (or so we thought) was working w the German rocket scientists (Werner von Braun et al) on God knows what... which required a relocation of the family.  At any rate, suffice to say that Alabama was (is?) not a great place to be a Catholic.  And perhaps mom still has some PTSD from their time there, which may or may not be coloring her opinion of southern football players.

Still, coach Kelly, take note.

Having said that,  watching football with one's 96 year old mother - give her a beer or glass of wine or a vodka tonic... and there she goes! - is a singularly entertaining experience.  To say that she has some insights one won't get from the TV announcers doesn't begin to do her play-by-play justice.

Personally, I cannot wait for my brain-to-mouth, no filter life stage.  It isn't far off.

Word of the Week

Used in a sentence paragraph
:  As Young Jerrence's head hit the pillow Wednesday night, he began to take stock of the roller coaster ride of events that had transpired over the past 2+ days.

Watching the Notre Dame-Stanford game with his 96 year old mother was trippy enough.  Having that followed by USC pulling a home run coaching hire our of their asses was both mind-blowing and deflating.

But to have ND's own coach - on the cusp of his team's 3rd BCS playoff appearance in the past 4 years - bail out on them (Huh? WTF?!) and THEN have the football program be completely re-energized by the lightning fast hiring of seemingly EVERYONE'S* CHOICE...  

While retaining all the key coaching staff.  And trending toward maintaining all of their top 10 recruiting class - perhaps even improving it.  (Go ask Oklahoma what that feels like.) 

Hint:  They wouldn't know.

Well, Jerrence could do nothing but marvel at the vicissitudes of the sport - and ND's remarkable ability to remain masters of their own destiny despite it all.

* Well, evidently not everyone. 

Game 12 Thoughts

Watching and waiting
For someone to understand me.
I hope it won't be very long... 

Another fired up Stanford crowd.. 

Let's be serious - you have zero interest in rehashing the Stanford game, right?  

Well, I don't.  

And that's all that really matters.

1)  Kelly.   There'll be enough time for the ritual tar and feathering of Kelly. While I find his Irish goodbye utterly despicable, adjudicating his decision no longer interests me.  

But I do think it's worth recalling what he did do for the program.  Let's remind ourselves of the state of the program, pre-Kelly:
  • 2007:  3-9
  • 2008:  7-6
  • 2009:  6-6
Can you say, "mediocre at best?"  

So, in hindsight, was he something of a mercenary? Undeniably.  But a pretty damn good one.  Let's give him that.  Moving on...

2) Freeman.   Is it a risk hiring a first time head coach?  Absolutely.  Has ND had success hiring first-timers before?  None whatsoever.   Does that make this a bad, rash decision?  Not to me.
  • Fun fact:  9 out of the top 14 ranked teams this year are headed by guys who were internal hires, promoted into those positions.  It's not an anomaly for this to work.  
    • And it's not like hiring away Stanford's head coach worked out for us.
  • The State of the Program.   Exponentially better than it ever was for any of those other missteps.  
    • The continuity of a skilled, proven staff is huge.  Marcus won't be in this alone, especially with Rees in his 3rd year.
  • Recruiting.  Talent doesn't just matter.  At the college level, it's everything. (One need only look at Georgia for proof of that.) 
    • Freeman is a freaking machine here - as will he make his staff.  And if I were Ohio State I'd be a little nervous about how strong that wall you think you have around the state.)
    • Final thought:  knowing how well Freeman connects with recruits, don't you think hiring him clarifies his status with for those kids?  They now know he'll be there for them.  That's a huge positive. 
Note:  With an eye towards next year's opener vs. the Buckeyes (in Columbus) and the possibility of the Freeman honeymoon coming to a screeching halt by halftime, it bears remembering Holtz started out his first season 1-4.

3) Balis.   After Rees, quite possibly the most important retention to Freeman's staff.  I'd make this guy's job a lifetime appointment. And if you haven't seen it, do check out the video here of his announcing to the team his return.  Pretty awesome.

4)  Timing.  Of course, I'm a card carrying pollyanna - Jerrence's glass is always half full - but I'm of the opinion that timing-wise, this change - while certainly not optimal,  ultimately... why not now?  

We were gonna be facing a transition in 2-3 years any way. 

And there's a good chance we may have lost Freeman this year.  

Next year latest. 

5) Upgrades?  As dick-ish a move as Kelly pulled, Notre Dame does not seem to come out of this wholly unscathed. Let's hope this blindside spurs a greater sense of urgency to getting to parity with the other elite programs on off the field issues, like facilities (e.g. training table) and staffing  (e.g.  back office recruiting support) that they appear to be woefully behind. 

6)  Savvy Jack.  After - or perhaps along with - Kelly, he was Pinhead ND Nation's favorite whipping boy.   Who's laughing now?

7)  Saturday.   If you're interested...

11pm CST:         Baylor / Oklahoma State in Arlington (ABC)
3pm CST:          Georgia / Alabama in Atlanta (CBS)
3pm CST:         Houston at Cincinnati (ABC)
7pm CST:         Michigan / Iowa in Indy (FOX)

8) Going bowling.  More than likely, we'll end up outside the BCS Playoff candy store, face pressed against the glass.  The latest odds suggest:

Fiesta Bowl (January 1st)

                     Notre Dame vs. Michigan State,  1pm EST 


Buddy's Buddy

Well, we know ONE GUY who isn't in the running to be this week's Buddy's  Buddy.

And what an interesting week to be even evaluating this - the least of which had anything to do with Saturday's on-the-field performance. 

Early in the week, there was a groundswell of support from the nominating Committee for Jay Bramblett.

What, the punter?  Why? Isn't he the guy that's actually leaving the program?  Yes, he is.  In fact, it's specifically because of how he's managed his leaving that made him an attractive candidate.  This may have escaped your attention but it came to light that he gave the coaches a heads up in early October that he planned to graduate and transfer back to Alabama - allowing the leadership to plan for this loss and eventually attractive the #1 punter in the country to sign on.  Nicely down, JB.  

And oh, say hi to Kelly when Bama plays LSU next year.

A passing notion was to make Jack Swarbrick the guy this week.  Everyone in leadership is, to some extent, a control freak.  And no one likes to be backed into a corner and forced to break a process you believe in.  Well thank you, Brian Kelly for destroying that routine:  two weeks from early Signing Day and 4-5 weeks from your bowl game. 

Plus, it must be pointed out:  Freeman out together a helluva coordinated campaign for the position.   Everyone coming out of the woodwork calling for his hire was not some random social media flash mob.  

Yet, Savvy J - if he were a hip hop DJ, I'm certain that would be his moniker - hung tough, worked the problem, surely recognized the risk-reward equation and the sense of urgency... and pulled the trigger.  Bravo, Jack.

Yet, the call this week is Tommy Rees.   Call it a season achievement award - only in his 2nd year as OC, he worked through a ton of offseason turnover, an offensive line in flux for half the season, retooling an offense to fit Jack Coan (and probably having to deal with Kelly's inexplicable 2-QB rotation).

I think the offensive efficiency one saw vs. Stanford was proof of his ability to adapt and create, using the personnel he's got, be it freshmen or graduate transfers. 

Ultimately, turning around an anemic offense and making them a varied, multi-dimensional legitimately threatening force.  The future looks very bright with TR. 

RE-PETE (A shameless, illegal lift of Pete Sampson's weekly mail-bag)

No Mailbag this week - one can comfortably presume that Pete Sampson has zero time these days to be worried about anyone's pissant questions about BCS Playoff odds, preferred Jan. 1st opponents or last minute recruiting flips that ND might bag.  

If you didn't know, there's been slightly bigger things afoot for him to be covering. 

So as much as I'm going to assume that most of you have been mainlining all the Kelly fallout dirt, I thought it worthy to share (read steal) one of  Mr. Sampson's articles this week on the Tommy Rees re-recruitment.

While I may have been fooled by Tommy's appearance on TV in the upper deck coaching box - with his taciturn, knit capped "If John Wick Were A Lumberjack" visage, it turns out that a) he's pretty much beloved by the entire team and b) he's kind of a bad ass, coaching and recruiting.

So, enjoy if you haven't already seen this.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The sentiment summed up the last 37 hours of Notre Dame football succinctly.

“So that video had a little different response from yesterday’s, huh?” said a program source not long after Tommy Rees told his players that he was staying with the Irish.

Notre Dame scored its second win over its old coach in as many days on Wednesday night when Rees chose to remain in South Bend over following Brian Kelly to LSU, turning down an offer that would have made him the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the SEC, sources told The Athletic. Not long after the move was announced, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was expected to become the next Irish head coach. 

Rees’ message to his players, delivered a little after 8 p.m. and tweeted by the program at 8:29, came one-and-a-half days after Kelly’s awkward exit speech at 7 a.m. Tuesday — a speech that, a source told The Athletic on Wednesday, was even more uncomfortable than the leaked video of the exchange had let on

Kelly, out of the clip’s shot, chose to take the long route out of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex’s auditorium, walking a long flight of stairs to the second floor while passing his silent players and not making eye contact — the final scene of a meeting that turned out to be a gross miscalculation of how the ex-coach felt his players would respond to him leaving.

Now, with a new head coach at Notre Dame, Rees is expected to have total autonomy running the offense, a new element to his old position and one that appealed to the 29-year-old coach and former Irish quarterback.

For as much as Kelly had let loose in recent years, delegating play calling to his coordinator, this was still an offensive-minded head coach who was not above putting in play suggestions to the offensive staff as late as Thursday of game week, regardless of whether it had fit into Notre Dame’s weekly preparation or not. 

According to sources, Rees deliberated the move Wednesday night at his home in South Bend, flanked by some of the program’s quarterbacks. Tyler Buchner and Drew Pyne both tweeted out #PayTommyRees during this time window before a mandatory meeting for offensive players was called at the Gug.

Rees, multiple sources told The Athletic, was on the verge of leaving for the lucrative offer in Baton Rogue before Notre Dame finally stepped up at the 11th hour and made him a competitive offer to stay at his alma mater.

“I love you guys. I love this place,” Rees told his players, according to the video. “I believe that we can win a national championship here and I’m committed to doing everything we can to get to that point.

“I know it’s been a hell of a week for you guys. I know it’s been a hell of a week for a lot of us that are a part of this place. This is where my heart is. I care too much to leave this place. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to win a national championship.”

The players applauded Rees’ announcement afterward, in stark contrast to Kelly’s pre-dawn meeting Tuesday. Rees hugged several players after his announcement.

From there, the first staff of the Freeman regime began to take shape.

Irish Illustrated reported that tight ends coach John McNulty was also expected to remain on staff. McNulty joined Notre Dame’s staff two years ago after working with Rees on the NFL level. The veteran assistant is popular among his position group, including with All-America candidate Michael Mayer.

The Athletic’s Feldman reported that running backs coach Lance Taylor would be staying at Notre Dame. Defensive line coach Mike Elston tweeted his intention to stay as well.

And all of this came one day after strength coach Matt Balis — in a colorful video of his own — told his players that he planned on staying put.

Make no mistake: Notre Dame would still be searching for a new head coach right now if not for Rees, whose decision to stay lends continuity to an Irish roster that is amid the winningest five-year stretch in program history, and whose opt-in was the most critical factor in Notre Dame deciding to move ahead and make the 35-year-old Freeman a first-time head coach.

Terms of Freeman’s deal to become head coach had yet to be ironed out as of late Wednesday night, a source told The Athletic, with Notre Dame still needing to run the process through proper university channels.

In separate individual interviews Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, respectively, Rees and Freeman impressed AD Jack Swarbrick with their visions for maximizing the potential of a program that has made the College Football Playoff in two out of the last three seasons, providing detailed plans on how to take Notre Dame to the next level.

In Rees, Notre Dame retains one of the bright young minds in the sport, a coordinator who has built three distinct Irish offenses in the span of two seasons. Last year, that meant building around a veteran offensive line and three-year starting quarterback Ian Book, a ground-first approach that got Notre Dame to the Playoff. This season, that approach changed to a more vertical pass game with graduate transfer Jack Coan at quarterback. When that approach struggled behind a young offensive line, Rees adjusted his approach to a quick, tempo passing game that brought the best out of Coan, and Notre Dame finished 11-1 with an outside shot at returning to the Playoff.

If the first 24 hours after Kelly’s departure were defined by shock and confusion over what Notre Dame had just lost, the ensuing 24 hours have turned out to be a blueprint of how Notre Dame will win moving forward.

“We have work to do this year,” Rees said. “And for the guys that are coming back, let’s go win a f—— national championship at Notre Dame.”

Source:  The Athletic
December 1, 2021

Cocktail of the Week

Have I ever shared my one experience on Stanford's campus?  It was recruiting for Quaker Oats, circa 1988, for a fairly menial summer internship marketing position.

Or at least that's the perception my full-8-hour-slate-of-candidates made sure I felt about the opportunity that I was presenting.  

Each kid, a scion of some captain of industry or daddy ran a 3rd World banana republic and they were led to believe this interview fulfilled some sort of community service obligation.

Because the Stanford student was all about demonstrating their high social conscious IQ and what could be more altruistic than spending 45 minutes with a pedestrian Consumer Package Goods company representative who travelled so far, from some Godforsaken place in our country's cultural wasteland, and oh could you sign this form so I could get credit for my course?  

And where is Chicago, anyway?  Is that, like, outside of New York? 

At one point, it almost occurred to me to say, "Look, motherfucker, do you even grasp the concept of selling yourself?  Because you're doing an impressively shit job of it."

Maybe some of this blog's readers have run into this type of creature, perhaps of the Ivy League douche bag strain - the kind that feel they are destined to be a 'player', working in tech or venture capital or investment banking or if they must, consulting ("I already have offers from BCG, McKinsey and Bain...") 

Well, what the fuck are you doing here, dip shit, other than wasting both of our times?

As you can see, that particular campus visit was a landmark experience for me - equal parts  pretention, condescension and apathy.  Jerrence hits the trifecta!  

So a Sylvia Path cocktail seems pretty freaking apropos. 

The Bellini Jar
The Bell Jar (1963)
By Sylvia Plath

A dark and dizzyingly talented poet, Sylvia Plath struggled for years on this semi-autobiographical novel before finally dashing off the complete text in 70 breathless days.   

A former magazine worker, Plath's severely depressed protagonist was a fictionalized version of herself.

Plath's own mother requested that she publish the book under a pseudonym - which remained in place until years after Plath's death by suicide, when the world would learn her true identity.

Serve up something sweeter than the fate that befell one of America's most talented, widely taught writers.

4 oz.  prosecco                                               

2 oz.  elderflower liqueur (e.g., St. Germain) 
3 oz.  peach puree 

1 peach slice, for garnish                                             

Pour all the ingredients, except for the peach slice, into a mason jar and stir. Garnish with a peach slice and think happy thoughts.

Source:  Tequila Mockingbird
Cocktails with a Literary  Twist
by Tim Federle


 5                     @Florida St.    W
11                    Toledo              W
18                    Purdue             W
24                    Linipalooza X   W
25                   @Wisconsin    W

 2                    Cincinnati        L
 9                    @Va. Tech       W
16                    BYE            
23                   USC                  W
30                   UNC                 W

6                     Navy                W
13                  @UVA              W              
20                  Ga. Tech          W
27                  @Stanford.     W


Congratulations, Team 11, while yours was not the most linear path to The Finals, it was the most successful.  Too bad, you're not quite across the finish line.

A couple reminders:  

The main tenets of Plato's Republic?  Nailed it. 

1)  The next step will be a bowl-related tie breaker, continuing the practice of picking the primary January 1st games including the spread.  

And of course, there'll be a few cultural questions to answer. 

Arts & Letters majors will view those as lay ups.  

The rest of you will be sprinting to your Google machines.

Stay tuned.

2) Those of you who haven't ponied up the $25 entry fee, now would be a nice time to do so. If your name is not highlighted, I do not think you've paid.  And I could be wrong (especially if you gave me $ at Stayer Lot) so please correct me if I've neglected to record your payment.


What a long strange trip it's been..... 


Archetype (Embodies)



Miracle On Ice


To be clear, ND running the table wouldn't come remotely close to approximating the USA ice hockey victory over Russia in '80.  

Nothing in my lifetime will beat this.  Nor will anything exceed the guilt I still have for ruining this for Castellini.

Still ND going 12-0 seems similarly tough to envision with the little we know right now.


Brian M.


John P.

Bryan G.

Gary H.

Pat B.

Dave M.


Kerry Strug

One final vault.  Hit it, basically perfectly, and your country wins the gold medal.

No pressure.  Oh and you just tore two ligaments in your ankle on your prior attempt - you can barely walk.

But apparently, you still have one more sprint in you.  Boom!  Done.

ND winning 11 games is not really analogous to this but right now, it's looking just as iffy.


Jay F.

Bill B.

Bob J. 

Dave G.

Peter B.

Jim S.

Jim B.

Daryl M.

Dennis R.

Mike C.


Super Bowl III


In hindsight this probably wasn't nearly the shocker it was at the time - but it sure made the NFL sit up and take notice.

At this point in the Kelly regime, ND winning 10 games is no longer unexpected. 

And yet, they have a similar imperative (as the AFL did) to do this in order to get the football world to really buy in that ND is elite again. 

Sloane B.
Phillip S.
Jerry P.
Kevin M.
Jim T.
Tim S.
The Dim One
Bob S. 
Blair R.
Alex S.
Ted C.
Tom F.
Randy R
Mike G. 


NC St over Phi Slamma Jamma


The 'improbable' relevance to ND success gets shakier as the win total gets lower... 

A great game but unless you had money on it (I didn't), it was a fleeting feel good. 

Relevance to 9 wins? None. But on this continuum this is where this sits.


Brian W.

Garrett R

Mike B.

John L.

Ward H. 


Villanova over Georgetown

 In terms of improbability, you could probably flip this game w NC State's victory - they were both pretty awesome in a vicarious way.

These rankings all being relative vs. the others, it's feeling 8'ish even if it probably deserves better.  



Albert B.


ND over Miami, 1988 

Was this improbable at the time?  Depends on who you ask - and if they're honest.

Miami owned ND in the '80s.

And yet, Holtz & Co. made everyone believe.  

Impressive, definitely.  But on a scale of 1-10 as unlikely, maybe a 7.



ND over Clemson, 2020

This victory - as necessary as it was for the program - gets somewhat devalued in terms of improbability:

1) ND was genuinely really good last year.   And playing at home.

2) Candidly, no Trevor Lawrence.



ND over Florida St., 1993


After the '88 Miami win, with Holtz still in charge... while never a 'lock', beating FSU was certainly no great surprise.

And ultimately tempered by spitting the bit the next week against BC.



If anyone wishes to play down here... 


3 my guest.


Schadenfreude of the Week

The weekend was going pretty well...

We knew Ohio State - Michigan would yield some level of satisfaction, even if the occurrence of a rogue meteorite laying waste to the entire Big House was the preferred outcome.

Maybe next year - the game will be in Columbus, perhaps a more target rich environment for a timely natural disaster. 

Be that as it may, if we could just get a couple of this weekend's championship games to go our way...


Category 1)  I've never liked you.  I will never like you. Like Defcon 1, it's 'go time' and with every loss an angel earns its wings so I feel super justified in reveling in your failure.

Category 2)  Defcon 2 - there are other issues I'm having trouble dealing with, my therapist isn't taking my calls and that nuclear football is sitting right in front me. - where are those codes? Sorry all, I just want to see the world burn

Category 3)  It's not personal, just business.  Defcon 3 - there's not a white hot intensity of emotion tied to this.  I'm just being very pragmatic.  I need you to go away.

1)  Ohio State.  Category 1 and 3.  Near complete ambivalence of who lost as long as the winner suffered a couple season ending injuries to key players.

1 for 2.  

UM looked very good and it was really nice to see THE Ohio State get absolutely dominated. 

2)  Texas A&M_.  Category 2.  Jimbo,  I'm guessing LSU didn't really pursue you all that hard.

3)  Oklahoma.  Category 3 and honestly, not my preferred loser of that game.  By rights, they should be at the top of this list, given the week they've had.  Not only did they:

-  lose the game that would've put them in the Big12 Championship game (and how might that have changed recent events?) 

-  lost their highly regarded coach (and several of the assistants).

-  losing their highly ranked recruiting class.  Almost, literally, overnight. 

Join the club, Joe. 

4)  USC.  Two thoughts: 

                a)   USC losing never gets old and 
                b)   We should probably enjoy this frequency while it lasts.

Terry's Tools

It's rare that one gets such consistent, single-mindedness, categorically, of candidate. 

Lucky me (us). But this week, it sure seems fitting.

At any rate, this is the "College Head Coach" edition of  Terry's Tools

And I am inclined to reiterate one my favorite expressions, of which there are a few permutations:   "Crisis doesn't create character, it reveals it."

Well, consider us now paying attention. 

The companion thought, which apparently doesn't apply to coaches, is this:  It takes a lifetime to establish a reputation but only a minute to destroy it. 

I won't ever leave 
If you want me to stay...
Ain't that what you said?
Liar, liar!

1)  Brian Kelly.
 Earlier, I praised Kelly, now let's bury him.  Clearly he always saw himself as just a hired gun who felt like he did his job, restored a flagging program to Top 5 status.  Time to move on. 

Gee, coach, it would've been nice to have that remit clarified a little earlier in your tenure.  

Here's what really bothered me the most about his move:  

* The timing.  You couldn't have made LSU wait one freaking week, to see if you made the playoffs?  (They were the desperate ones, not you.) Especially this year, where no one looks entirely unbeatable.

* The message.   Essentially you told your team, you're never going to be good enough to win a national championship.  So I'm out of here.

Yeah, you're a true leader of men.  No wonder no one wanted to follow you. 

2) Lincoln Riley.  Riley is like the 2nd half of a "Buy One Weenie*, Get One Free" promotion - except it feels like Riley is the more morally upright of the two.  At least you didn't abandon a potential playoff team, right?  


And one has to love how these coaches say, "the offer / agreement came together quickly, I wasn't looking for it..." 

Okay, as if we don't live in a world of agents working back channels all year round.  

But that's your story and you're sticking to it.   

BTW, the fact that you'll probably have USC really good within two years is another reason to hate this move. 

I happen to subscribe the theory this move was largely motivated by you're fear of being the SEC's bitch in 2-3 years. 

3) David Shaw.  As I shared with a few of you during last Saturday's game, I began to feel the slightest smidgen of sympathy for Stanford - don't judge me - maybe halfway through the 2nd quarter.  They are really bad.  

Then they would cut to a sideline shot of über-smug Shaw and the spell was snapped, only further reinforced in the post-game presser.

Final Thoughts

Who are you?
I really want to know...

To say that Brian Kelly is an enigma is probably the understatement of the year.   Or maybe just a totally different species of... professional... of which I am unfamiliar.  His value system is clearly very different than most.  Personal legacy meaning nothing.

Whatever.  This is my last word on him until he / they become a frequent guest in the House of Schadenfreude.  There will always be a room ready for you, coach.