News and Notes: 3/22/2006

*Spring practice begins later today for the Notre Dame football team. The Irish will practice 15 times in the next month concluding with the April 22nd Blue-Gold game. Still, the lingering disappointment of the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State was evident yesterday at Media Day. The Buckeyes totaled 617 yards of offense en route to a 34-20 win over Notre Dame. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter did not mince words about his unit's performance.

"It was embarrassing," Minter said of his defense. "It was embarrassing for us to play the way we did. It was a game of big plays. The biggest difference in that game, in which there were four big plays, they all went for touchdowns. During the year we gave up big plays but they didn't always go for touchdowns. We could rally, pursue, drag somebody down and invariably, maybe the luck of the Irish, something fortunate would happen.

"It didn't happen in that game. All the big plays went for scores. That was 28 points on the board right there and there's no excuse for any of them. We'll never concede excuses for big plays."

The loss magnified national doubts about Notre Dame not quite being fully back in college football's elite. The Irish have not won a bowl game since the 1994 Cotton Bowl and look overmatched at points during the Ohio State contest. The image of a streaking Ted Ginn, Jr. racing free in the Notre Dame secondary by 20 yards or Antonio Pittman ending any hopes of an Irish comeback with a 60-yard touchdown scamper are still fresh in people's minds.

One person who was not making excuses was head coach Charlie Weis. After losses to Michigan State and USC, he took full blame and responsibility. That didn't change with the Fiesta Bowl defeat. Weis was more concerned with his team's frame on mind heading into the contest and the fact that they were not crisp in their efforts.

"I think any time your team apparently is not ready to go, after a long layoff, you really can only blame it on one person," Weis said. "Who else can you blame it on? The game is November 26; you have got ‘til January 2. You got nothing left to do. It's your last game of the year. You have got five weeks to get ready to go and I just didn't feel it was a very good performance. I can sit there and say well, you know, if we get the ball back at the end of the game...well we didn't."

Will the plan change before next year's bowl game? Bank on it.

"I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I'll do it differently next and I will do it differently," Weis said.

*Blue-Gold game tickets go on sale Monday, March 27th at 9:00 EST. Fans get can them either through the Notre Dame ticket office or online at (click on "Tickets). The 77th annual Blue-Gold game is set for Saturday, April 22nd at 1:35 p.m. General admission tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children (18 and under). On game day, those prices go up from $12-$15 and $8-$10. If fans want reserved Gold Seats on the west side of Notre Dame Stadium, those will be going for $25.

Weis also announced the honorary coaches for the Blue-Gold game. On defense, Bob and Mike Golic will do the honors while Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and Jerome Bettis will be on the opposite sidelines helping the offense.

*A slight change occurred in the job title for one of the assistant coaches. Brian Polian, who heads the special teams, is making the switch from defensive backs assistant, where he helped Bill Lewis last season, to linebacker assistant. With two of three spots open for competition, the linebacking position figures to get a lot of attention this spring. The move was a natural one, according to Polian and Weis. Polian played linebacker in college and lettered three years at the position at John Carroll. It was simple for him: Weis asked and he accepted.

"There is a comfort level there that might not have existed working with Coach Lewis," Polian said about the switch. "Coach Weis has his reasons for it and I wouldn't try to imagine what they were. He has a plan. It was a simple conversation. He asked me and I said absolutely. I'm back home where I feel comfortable. At some point, it'll free up Coach Minter to spend some more time as coordinator with defensive backs and the defensive line knowing that I'll be able to handle the other three knuckleheads. I'm going to do whatever he asks me to do."

Jeff Burrow, the graduate assistant on defense, will help Lewis with the defensive backfield. Burrow was a two-year starter at cornerback with the University of Cincinnati, where he played under then-head coach Rick Minter. He spent the last two years as a graduate assistant under Glen Mason at Minnesota. Top Stories