This was one of several topics breached by Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White during a breakfast with the media on Wednesday morning. White discussed the logistics of the January 3rd Sugar Bowl against No. 4 LSU down in New Orleans, LA along with other pressing issues in Notre Dame athletics.
The main feature for the Irish is the upcoming contest with the Tigers in the Louisiana Superdome. Here are some of the numbers: 5,563 meals will be consumed by the traveling athletic contingent between December 27th and January 4th. It also includes 63 bus transfers during the course of the week. This entails not just the football team but staff as well. Two charter planes will depart South Bend for New Orleans. The first will have coaches and other football staff only. The second plane will have the remaining athletic staff, official party members plus families a few days later. This is the first time there have been separate charters on different days and it's for a good reason.
"It's an opportunity for the football team to concentrate on job number one," White said. "And that's to win the game."
While down in New Orleans, the players will be involved in two service projects. The first is to visit hospitals in the surrounding area. The second is more ambitious. The Irish players will restore a facility for troubled youths. White said it's the biggest service project that he can remember the team being involved in a bowl week. Because of the damage Hurricane Katrina wreaked on the city in August-September 2004, deputy director of athletics Stan Wilcox said head coach Charlie Weis wanted to give his players an experience that lasted a lifetime.
Another aspect of the trip to New Orleans is the safety of the team and fans. This is always a concern whenever traveling on the road. An article by Laura Maggi in The Times-Picayune online edition on Wednesday stated armed robberies and other crimes are on the rise the past three months.
The piece also starts that New Orleans, once a city of 450,000, is now populated anywhere between 180,000-250,000 residents. Not everybody who was displaced by the disaster has returned. Some parts of the city still lays either in ruins or completely void of occupants. Most of the action occurs in or right around the French Quarter. White is pleased with the safety preparations and the job the city does to watch over the incoming visitors.
"I wouldn't want people from New Orleans to read that we're concerned," White said, who used to live in the city. "That's certainly not fair. When we went to Phoenix last year, we really prepped the kids. There are some areas in the Phoenix area that are challenging and somewhat dangerous. I think we've always done a good job. I think most teams do that with their players when they travel in telling them where they should go or shouldn't go.
"Having lived there for years and with tourism being such an important economic base for the community, I think the protection mechanism and the undercover police in the French Quarter would really surprise. They take every precaution to keep visitors safe."
Here are some other topics hit on during Wednesday's breakfast:
*On reaching the final goal for the basketball arena renovations to begin: "I think we're incredibly close to raising all the resources we need. Our target was $25 million. We've made some presentations to a couple of parties lately. I think we're just waiting for a response."
*On possible face lifts to the hockey arena, located in the Joyce North dome: "We're working very hard at that as well. We're trying to identify a lead donor. In all of your print column, if it said, ‘Notre Dame is trying to find a lead benefactor for the hockey facility,' I'd be very happy. We need someone on the hockey side to give us that momentum. To borrow one of my kid's expressions, we're all about that now." (White said that if a project was done for hockey, the plans now are to redo the Joyce North dome, not a stand alone arena.)
*On the 9-1 start of the 20th ranked Notre Dame men's basketball team: "I'm real excited about our fast start. There are so many things about our team. I like our unselfishness, the tempo we play at, the fact that we can go deeper into the bench and we can score in bunches. Because we can go deeper in the bench, I think we're a little more athletic. That combination allows us to defend better. It's just exciting. I think the atmosphere at the Alabama game in the Joyce was the best we've had since I've been at Notre Dame. I can't wait for the Big East schedule."
*On finding opponents for the off-site football games, which will start in 2009 and be treated as Notre Dame home contests: "We're about in the same position we were last time. We've identified the places. We've identified the opponents. We're not ready to make an announcement yet. We haven't contracted the opponents yet. We have a number of verbal commitments. Until we have that in contract form, we'll be very public about it."