News and Notes: 5/16/2006

*Football wasn't the only topic discussed with Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White on Tuesday morning. The basketball program, led by head coach Mike Brey, has not been sharing the same success recently as the football team. Last year, the Irish went 16-14 and earned a trip to the NIT, where they were bounced by Michigan on a last-second shot.

This has become the norm lately for the Irish. Brey came to South Bend and immediately was successful, going to the NCAA Tournament in his first three years as head coach. This run included a Sweet 16 appearance in the 2002-03 season. But the March Madness experience has not been seen since as the Irish have failed to make the Big Dance the past three seasons. The lack of success has taken its toll.

"Who isn't frustrated?" White asked. "The guy that is most frustrated is Mike. We have a very high set of expectations for all our programs and we're not going to back down from them. Some days are better than others. We're not going to overreact. I think we're going to try to continue a positive trend line and find a way to realize the expectations. None of that is up for review. We're not going redo the calculus on any of that. That's what we're committed to."

If the calculus for winning is not going to be redone, then Brey better start winning in a hurry. This isn't going to be an easy task. Notre Dame just graduated Big East first-team member Chris Quinn and inside men Torin Francis and Rick Cornett. A fourth straight year without an NCAA Tournament appearance would only heighten the displeasure among Notre Dame fans. For now, Brey has the backing of his athletic director but White didn't mince words as to where he thinks the program can go.

"I think Mike is a very good basketball coach," White said. "I think we have the opportunity to be an elite player in the college basketball community. We just have to find a way."

*One new feature that could turn the basketball team's fortunes around is renovations to the Joyce Center. It's all part of a massive plan by the university to upgrade the athletic facilities. The idea is known as the "Athletics Master Plan."

A lot of Irish fans have been calling for renovations to the Joyce Center for some time. Those wishes appear close to being granted. White was most excited about the Joyce South plan, where the basketball team plays their games. They're planning on creating a new entrance area with an improved lobby area that has a retail store and a new Varsity Club room. The second-floor would be a 4,000-5,000 square foot club room with seats in the area.

As for the Joyce North, that will also be getting an upgrade. This is where the men's hockey team plays. New coaching offices and locker rooms are some of the improvements to be made, which totals around $15 million just for this project. A new stand-alone hockey arena is not in the works. White estimated the cost for that between $30-40 million, too high a price.

Other upgrades include the almost completed indoor golf facility set to open in late August or early September, three practice fields (one turf, two natural grass) for the football team, relocating the softball field just east of Frank Eck Stadium and moving the outdoor tennis courts to the current location of the softball field. These are just a handful of the projects under consideration in the "Athletics Master Plan." White said he could not disclose a timetable for these upgrades that are in the range of $100 million.

"We're well on our way," White said about beginning work on the plan. Top Stories