Posted by BrianBoru at 11/25/2009 12:25 AM EST
I'm back from South Bend, where I attended the Notre Dame/Connecticut contest, and there is much to discuss.
Glossing over the ho-hum train wreck that was yet another Notre Dame defeat, let's get to the off-the-field news...
Firstly, Jimmy Clausen, as you all know by now, got sucker punched by some hooligan as he was exiting a bar. Details are sketchy, and I won't post the specific rumors which I've read and heard, but it's safe to say that the coward who hit Jimmy is lucky that he is not sitting in a jail cell right now.
Incidentally, for all those holding out hope that Jimmy would return to Notre Dame next season: the slim chance of that occurring seems to have vanished with the news that his family has sold their home, which sits just a stone's throw from the campus of Notre Dame. Fueling the speculation that he will not return to Notre Dame next season, Clausen and his family posed for pictures on the field before the game against Connecticut. Why is that noteworthy, you may wonder? Because it was senior day at Notre Dame and the only other players who were on the field with their families were seniors. Senior day, of course, is recognition of each member of the Fighting Irish playing in their final home game.
Clausen is on schedule to graduate early—he was an early enrollee—and he appears a cinch to be drafted in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft in April. Glancing at his statistics and given his unmistakable fortitude, one can hardly scoff if he were to decide to enter the draft. Clausen's stat line reads like a practical joke: 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions and nearly 3400 yards passing. Capping his impressive numbers, he boasts an astonishingly-high 67.3 completion percentage.
Watching him during pre-game warmups, I was struck by how big he was. Perhaps it was because I was seated in the tenth row of Section 3—usually I am seated much higher up—but his sturdy frame appears ready to take a beating on the next level should he be drafted by a team with a dearth of quality offensive linemen to protect him.
Golden Tate. What else can be said? The kid is incredible. Unfortunately, I think he will follow Clausen into the NFL Draft. No other receiver in the country can make the terrific Michael Floyd take a back seat—as Tate has done. He has it all. He can field punts with the best of them. He can run after the catch better than any receiver in the country. He can line up in the Wildcat formation...okay...that conjures up bad memories of Charlie Weis' ill-conceived offensive game plan.
As for Weis, barring an unforeseen event during which Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is hypnotized by Charlie, he will be coaching his final game against Stanford on Saturday evening. Earlier Tuesday, Jack Swarbrick announced that upon conclusion of the game against Stanford, Weis will not remain in California to recruit but will instead fly back to South Bend.
The tea leaves would suggest that Swarbrick will then fire Weis. But I believe Weis has already been informed that he's been fired and that a financial settlement has been reached. Coming off last season's disappointing season, Swarbrick must have known there was a decent chance that Weis would not reach his established goal of a BCS bowl bid in 2009.
Swarbrick wants to name Charlie's replacement sooner than later, which leads me to believe that Florida's Urban Meyer is off the table. And because Meyer is in the stretch run for a National Championship, I can't envision any scenario where Meyer would hasten his time frame to make a decision thus eliminating him from candidacy. Before moving beyond Meyer, if I were Jack Swarbrick, I would convey to Meyer that he could win five National Championships at Florida and still not reach the iconic status he would achieve by winning just one National Championship at Notre Dame. Sure, it's arrogant. But it's the truth. And nobody knows it more than Urban.
Even during these dark times for Notre Dame Football, the media frenzy is abuzz in anticipation of the next coach in South Bend.
Could it be Cincinnati's Brian Kelly? He would be an upgrade over Charlie Weis. Then again, that can be said about nearly every coach in the country. Kelly's teams are a bit too pass happy for my liking and his defensive prowess is redolent of Rick Minter defensive units. Though there remains question about Kelly's ability to recruit, at Notre Dame recruiting requires merely a pulse and a personality, both of which I've no doubt Kelly has. If Notre Dame were rebuffed by Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops, I guess I could live with Kelly.
Entering this season, Stoops would seem like a long shot to land in South Bend. He has won a National Championship at Oklahoma. He's won well over 100 games since he began his head coaching career in 1999. However, his Sooners outfit has limped to a 6-5 record this season after a spate of injuries. The Oklahoma natives are reportedly restless. Also, Stoops is Catholic, and though that should not be a determining factor in the coaching search, it could explain his rumored desire to coach at Notre Dame.
Landing Stoops would signal that Notre Dame is indeed serious about chasing its 12th National Championship.