News and Notes: 11/3/2005

*The 10-year contract extension for Charlie Weis has received more attention this week nationally than the Irish's game against Tennessee. The deal was cemented last Saturday during the Notre Dame bye week and locked up the new head coach until 2015. Reports have the contract anywhere between $30-40 million.

A piece by ESPN.com and Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock got the ball rolling. Whitlock played the race card and insinuated that a black coach would never get a 10-year extension after only seven games. The columnist wrote that it's way too early in Weis's career at Notre Dame to throw that type of money at him.

People on both sides of the fence have since ensued in a war of words defending their position. National sports radio shows have been discussing the topic all week. This comes on the heels of Air Force head coach Fisher DeBerry comments about African Americans being able to run "very, very fast." Weis responded Wednesday after practice to a reporter's question about the two situations.

"I'm aware of both those issues but I learned a long time ago before I got into the business world, to be color blind," Weis said. "I just know my feelings. Anyone who wants to be successful in life better practice that philosophy. To make an issue one way or another, you don't even need to make a comment.

"I don't care what anyone else says. I know what I expect out of me, how my wife feels and what I expect out of my son. My son's best friend right here is Bernie Parmalee's kid. That's his best friend here. I live in a different world that most other people do. I can handle how I feel. I can't worry about how anyone else feels."

*Weis has usually allotted Monday as the team's day off during the week. NCAA rules stipulate that athletes must have one day away from the rigors of practice. But a bye week changes the equation. Extra time to prepare for an opponent allows the Irish to study up on Tennessee and not cram everything into a small window.

The team has been getting ready for the Volunteers all week and is about done in their preparations. Because of the bye week, Weis said the team is ahead of schedule and Thursday's practice would be a little different than most weeks.

"It gives us an opportunity to tone practice down a half hour or 45 minutes because now it becomes more a clean up mode than an installation mode," Weis said. "That's one of the advantages to having the extra time to get ready. One of the things you have to do when you have a bye week is to make sure at worst you come in physically fresh and have no excuses. To have a long practice on Thursday after coming off a bye week is not practical."

*The Volunteer running back situation was looking dicey when starter Gerald Riggs, Jr. was ruled out for the year with an ankle injury sustained during a 6-3 loss to Alabama. Riggs, Jr. was averaging 88 yards a game before the injury and was the workhorse of a sputtering offense. Tennessee is only averaging 110 rushing yards in 2005.

The mess was cleaned up in a hurry when redshirt freshmen Arian Foster ran for 148 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in Tennessee's 16-15 loss to South Carolina last weekend. Foster is averaging 4.7 yards per carry this season and has two touchdowns on the year. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter expects him to carry the load on Saturday.

"He got dinged up last weekend but all warriors come fighting back strong," Minter said. "They have such a strong, rich history of outstanding runners and big, beefy offensive linemen. I'm sure after having one game to become the starter, he'll be come anxious to try to keep that top spot. We expect their best shot and him to be 100 percent and full speed."

*Which quarterback will Notre Dame see more of this weekend, Erik Ainge or Rick Clausen? Both have been less than spectacular. Clausen has three touchdowns to go along with four interceptions while Ainge is only completing 41 percent of his passes. Neither quarterback has got into a groove with an offense only averaging 16 points a game.

The Notre Dame defense will have to prepare for both. There isn't much difference between the two besides the fact that Ainge is a righty and Clausen is a lefty. The coaches aren't planning on seeing contrasting styles from the two when they're in this weekend.

"I don't think there will be any difference in the way we'll prepare any part of our defense," defensive backs coach Bill Lewis said. "If you look at them, they are basically running the Tennessee offense. It's not like they have an offense for this quarterback and an offense for that quarterback. As the game goes on, it's important to get a feel as to which quarterback is on the field and if they're trying to do certain things with him."

*Notre Dame heads into their game with Tennessee ranked 14th in the all-important BCS standings. As everyone knows, the magic number is 12. If the Irish are 12th or higher with a 9-2 record, Irish fans can start packing for a big-time bowl game. Weis just wants his team to focus on the upcoming game instead of the overall picture.

"We can't look any further than Tennessee," Weis said. "That's how you really have to look at it because if not, you're setting yourself up for a fall. We already have a big enough challenge this weekend. Those things will take care of themselves. We just have to worry about Tennessee."


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