Brian Kelly's eighth season certainly held the interest of fans. From the highs of the season-opening win streak to the low of Miami and back up after Miles' Boykin's amazing catch, there was more than enough for the Fighting Irish faithful to digest. And with the moves of the offseason, we're left wondering what to expect for 2018. Are you curious how Brandon Wimbush and Phil Jurkovec will battle for the starting QB spot? Whether Boykin can build on his highlight-reel moment against LSU to become a force at wideout? If Jeff Quinn and Clark Lea will make fans forget about Harry Hiestand and Mike Elko?
It's been a while since I pulled out the pick and strummed, so I figured I'd give Mike Royko a break for a bit and bring back a little old-school NDN. If it's April and it's Notre Dame, the Blue-Gold game is right around the corner. Well, the event with that name is, anyway, because it's certainly different than it used to be. Notre Dame's spring program has morphed from a standard three weeks of practice and a standard scrimmage to a two-month staggered schedule concluding with players running plays on a field under a scoring system that changes every year.
The 85-scholarship limit the NCAA imposes sometimes leads to more than its fair share of brinksmanship. Players chose to leave for whatever reason, recruits do or don't make their grades, spring football results in injuries, etc. etc. No matter what happens, when the whistle blows this fall, you only can have 85 football players signed for scholarships. When you're currently at 89 players, as Notre Dame was earlier this week, that means four guys who had scholarships last year won't have them next year, and arrangements must needs be made. Players with eligibility remaining won't be able to return. Some are ready to move on, others may not be, but regardless of motivation, the number must be reached.
Outlined against a jet-black Easter Sunday evening sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. Ninety-four years after Death, Destruction, Pestilence and Famine took the names of Stuhldreher, Crowley, Miller and Layden to cement the place of Notre Dame as the most iconic football team in America, Muffet McGraw, Carol Owens, Beth Morgan Cunningham and Niele Ivy took a willing and talented group of women and led them to their own iconic place in NCAA basketball lore. And make no mistake about it. While the senior “glue” to Notre Dame’s national championship team may aspire to a modeling career, there was nothing pretty about the devastation and destruction the Irish left in their path.
Knowing the Irish were in the NCAA Tournament until Davidson grabbed its spot by upsetting Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 championship game is, as Mike Brey said, another gut punch in a season of gut punches. Being the #1 seed in the NIT is cold comfort, but the NIT it shall be. Notre Dame will face Hampton in Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday evening. It’s easy to point at another team that made the NCAA field and make a case for its exclusion and ND’s inclusion especially given the injury losses Brey’s team had to overcome just to be considered.