White had reason to smile. On the field, Notre Dame accumulated a school and conference record 13 Big East Championships to go along with 44 All-Americans. Thirteen sports finished in the top-15 end-of-the-year rankings, 16 of them in the top 25. The engine that drives the main vehicle, football, went from 6-6 in 2004 to 9-3 and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Charlie Weis's first season as head coach.
Maybe more importantly, the student athletes at Notre Dame represented themselves and the university quite well. The Irish had a school record 14 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans. All 24 sports teams had a semester GPA of 3.00 or better in the fall of 2005. Not to be outdone, all 22 teams in the spring (men's and women's cross country not included) achieved the same goal. Notre Dame had the highest percentage of its sports teams with 100 percent Graduation Success Rate scores in the nation. The football team was second only to Navy at 96. They also have had two straight semesters of over a 3.00 team GPA for the first time ever. Despite these spectacular academic numbers, White said that some still want better, a sign of how important hitting the books is at Notre Dame.
"I can promise you if you shadow me (at an Notre Dame workout center)," White said. "I barely get through a routine in there without a faculty member coming over and saying, ‘Kevin, I love this and love that but can we do a little better academically?' They want us to do a little better and they're never satisfied. They have an insatiable interest in us moving up the continuum and do a little better in academics."
In addition to being successful on and off the field, the Irish racked up some serious money this past sports season. White said the school raked in the most money in school history and possibly the most in the history of collegiate sports by an institution for a single year. He called it "Herculean." These were just a few of the topics broached by White, who has met with the media the past two months and plans to hold another get together sometime in August. Some of the other issues discussed by White:
*On improving the facilities: "You really have to have state-of-the-art facilities to compete at the highest level. That's a huge priority. We're continuing to make progress. I would think by August, I would be disappointed if I didn't have something substantive to announce. I could announce something today but I don't have the permission of the donors."
*On the two-sport stardom of Jeff Samardzija and Tom Zbikowksi: "These are two talented, gifted young people who have done all the right things and represent the university quite well. I'm real proud of them. To have that type of skill and talent level to do two sports at that level, is extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary."
*On being diverse and implementing changes: "It's pluralism. It's broader than ethnic diversity. It's pluralism. We need to have a fair number of women in the department either coaching and/or in the administration. The last time I checked with regards to ethnic minorities, 50 or 51 percent of the people who play football are ethnic minorities. I think 63 percent of the people who play men's Division I basketball happen to be ethnic minorities. We need to have an appropriate representation in our program that would not be dissimilar to the percentage of those populations that are represented. That's really important for us. That's the goal and ideal. We continue to work at ways in which we can become a better player in this realm of pluralism."
*On Mike Brey: "At the end of the day, we have to find a way to have a very high end men's basketball program within the context of Notre Dame. We're not going to create special curriculums. We've got to find a way to be a big time player in men's basketball. I would think that about all our sports."
*On the future of text messaging in college recruiting: "The rules are created by the members, not the NCAA. If I find a way to gain an advantage on you, you make a rule to gain one on me. It's chess. That's what this is among the member body. There will be some movement against text messaging, I would suspect. I don't know what the counterattack will be. There'll be 15 rules against text messaging. That's how it'll proliferate to that point because again, if I was successful in gaining an advantage on you, you and your patriots will come up with a rule that'll find its way into legislation. Whether it goes up or down, who knows. But I'll create one to come back. It's a seesaw. I don't know where it's going."