All posts by irishmoonj

Stat Sandwich: Notre Dame/scUM Team Breakdown

Notre Dame: 37 – Michigan: 0. Those are the only numbers you really need to know. I thought about making my entire post just that because when you set up the scenario where you may never give up a point to your rival opponent again, what else is there to do? And don’t you dare tell me I got the score wrong. I’ve seen plenty of pictures that confirmed that score. What’s that saying? Numbers never lie? That may be true, but there’s an equally true saying that was in play on Saturday: B1G referees suck. And it’s for that reason that some in the business will insist the final score was 31-0.

When you find yourself in a situation where the numbers disagree, it can help to re-imagine them in a different way. I’ve already taken it upon myself to petition the NCAA official record books to reconcile this discrepancy in a reasonable manner. I’ve asked them to change the final score to: Brian VanGorder Double Fist Pumps – Eternal Sadness. Until that goes official (I’m optimistic it’ll be sometime next week because we all know how efficient the NCAA is in its decision-making process, right UNC and Miami?), let’s dig into this week’s Stat Sandwich.

Like last week, I’ll start off by presenting some of the baseline, team wide statistics. As an added wrinkle, and until enough games have passed to develop more season long trends and analysis, I’m presenting this week’s stats alongside last week’s for comparison purposes. The last column is a general point of reference for whether week-over-week a particular category saw improvement or regression. Of course, this is all relative. So, for instance, I noted that “just” 31 points was a fall off from last week’s 48 (aren’t you glad you’ve read this far to learn 31 is in fact less than 48?), and therefore it’s noted as worse. Don’t take that too seriously. How about you pretend to look at the table, and then jump below for the areas that I was actually interested in.

Rice:

Michigan:

Better/Worse:

Points:

48

31

Worse

Plays:

72

75

Better

Points per Play:

.67

.41

Worse

Passing Attempts:

22

34

N/A

Rushing Attempts:

42

31

N/A

Penalties:

2

3

Worse

FG Attempts:

3

1

N/A

Punts:

3

6

Worse

Total Yards:

576

280

Worse

Rushing Yards:

281

54

Worse

Passing Yards:

295

226

Worse

Yards per Play:*

8.72

4.24

WORSE

Yards per Point:

12

9.03

BETTER

Penalty Yards:

10

20

Worse

Turnovers:

0

0

Same

Field Goals:

2/3. Makes: 29, 36 yards. Misses: 39 yards

1/1, Makes: 43

Better %

Punts: 39 yards (fair catch), 50 yards (touchback), 55 yards (touchback). 47 yards (fair catch), 41 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 39 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 23 yards (out of bounds) No touchbacks. Pinned Michigan inside 10 yard line twice. One shank.
Punt Average:

48

38

Worse

Net Punt Average:

35

38

BETTER

1st Downs:

23

20

Worse

3rd Down Converts:

6/13 for 46%

7/15 for 47%

Better

Red Zone Atts:

6

4

Worse

Red Zone TDs:

4

3

N/A

Red Zone FG’s:

2

1

N/A

RZ Score %:

100%

100%

Same

RZ TD %:

67%

75%

Better

* YPP = (Total Yards )/(Total plays – (Punts + FG Att + Def. Penalties))

Points per play: Last week I introduced some folks to the points per play metric which is a rough guide to explosiveness. Notre Dame’s week one performance versus Rice resulted in 0.67 points per play which in 2013 would have ranked second behind only Florida State. Given the total points, 48, and the explosive touchdowns (Fuller’s 75 yard TD comes to mind), you can get a general impression as to how the two work with one another. This week then it’s not at all surprising that points per play dropped off. Notre Dame’s longest rush of the game was Malik Zaire’s 14 yard scramble at the end of the game on 3rd and 16. Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, and Cam McDaniel all had poor rushing performances. If you’re into that equality of life thing though, this was your game. Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel all received either 8 or 9 carries. They each had a long run of (just) 6 yards. Consider that last game each of the three had at least one rush of 17 yards, and you can quickly start to understand why points per play diminished.

The passing game, while effective, also lacked the firework plays that get the ladies excited like staring at a certain picture of one Cam McDaniel. The 24-yard touchdown pass to William Fuller in the second quarter was a thing of beauty…it was also the longest offensive play of the game and one of just 4 offensive plays all game that netted more than 15 yards. There are other measures to consider as well, but suffice it to say, this week’s team was more efficient than explosive.

Yards per point: While the offense was less explosive and less efficient in terms of yards per play, the team was quite efficient (nearly unreasonably so) in converting yards to points. The four touchdown drives for Notre Dame were drives of 56, 61, 71, and 80 yards. On the 7 drives the Irish had which did not result in a touchdown the longest drive netted just 19 yards. There were no in between distance drives leading to a remarkably strong yards per point. As stated last week, yards per point is not necessarily predictive in that the correlation from week to week is not terribly strong, but in describing how a team can be outgained in total yards but still absolutely dominate a game, this is a big reason why.

Notre Dame Offensive Play Breakdown by Quarter:

First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter
# Plays:

17

25 15

18

Runs:

8

9 6

8

Passes:

6

15 7

6

Penalties:

2 (Defensive)

0 1

0

Punts/FG Att:

1

1 1

4

Touchdowns:

1

2 1

0

Rushing Yards:

20

26 10

-2

Passing Yards:

40

129 46

11

Rush:Pass Ratio*

1.33

0.6 0.86

1.33

Rush Yds/Car.

2.5

2.89 1.67

-0.25

  • Michigan Rush:Pass Ratio = 0.91; Rice Rush:Pass Ratio = 1.91; 2013 Rush-Pass Ratio = 1.02. A Ratio of >1 means the team rushed more than it passed. < 1 means the opposite. A ratio of exactly 1 means the team ran the same number of rushing plays as passing plays.

Most of the scoring occurred in the first half, and that’s where the yards were found as well. The running game never really got going and was abandoned during the middle part of the game. The Irish had just 8 yards rushing in the second half, and the fourth quarter in particular was troubling with -2 yards on 8 carries. Versus Rice, Notre Dame put their foot down in the fourth quarter by running the ball 13 times compared to just 1 pass while averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. No repeat versus Michigan.

It’s worth noting that the Irish frequently used an offset back shotgun formation as opposed to the pistol formation which was effective last week. From my perspective, Notre Dame used read option runs early to gauge how the Michigan defense planned to deal with Golson. Michigan made a concerted effort to keep a contain man on Golson. As such, plays which may have been drawn up as read option turned almost exclusively into offset handoffs. The offensive line lacked any sort of real push to free up these slow developing runs. It also led to increased use of the play action pass. Versus Rice, Golson attempted 4 play actions passes all game. Versus Michigan, Golson attempted 6…in the first half. The offense abandoned the play action in the second half, except for one lone play, but when your defense forces 4 turnovers in one half, the need for consistent offense is alleviated.

Notre Dame Performance by Down: 

1st Down:

2nd Down:

3rd Down:

# Plays

28**

23

15

Run:

15

11

4

Pass:

11

11

11

Penalty:

2 (Defensive)^

1^^

0

Avg. to go for 1st:

9.46

7.57

5.33

Change from previous game average yards to go:

-0.54 yards

+1.30

-0.59

Efficiency %:*

39%

43%

47%

Efficiency +/- previous game:

-14%

+4%

+1%

Eff. 3 > 5yds to go

N/A

N/A

17% (1/6)

Eff. 3 <= 5 yds to go

N/A

N/A

67% (6/9)

* the folks at http://www.FootballOutsiders.com use a play efficiency metric to decide whether a play was efficient or not. It’s easy to think about in the context of third downs: Did the play result in 100% of the required yardage to get a first down/score? For first down, the metric is 50% of required yardage. Second down is 70% of required yardage. These are my calculations based on their formula.

** Excluded kneel down at end of game.

*** Notre Dame was 1/1 on 4th Down conversions.

^ Both defensive penalties were pass interference calls resulting in a first down.

^^ All 3 false start infractions for the offense have occurred on second down.

Down Analysis: The most noticeable difference from Rice to Michigan was the efficiency on first down. Versus Rice, over half of all first down plays gained at least 50% of the necessary yardage to get a first down. That dipped by 14% and led to longer second downs. The Irish had well over a yard more to go on average on second down this week than last. Despite the extra yardage they were slightly improved on second down performance. Over one game this really only means an extra play or two went well. Speaking of oddities….The Irish had one penalty on the offensive line in the game called on Steve Elmer. This also came on second down meaning through the first two games, all of the offensive line penalties have occurred on second down. Weird. Not relevant.

Offensive Player Usage

The chart below shows how many snaps each offensive player was in the game for (regardless of whether they touched the ball on a given play). There were a total of 67 non-special teams snaps. Additionally, in this game, I excluded the end of the game victory snap. The percentages will not necessarily add up to 100% for each position since multiple tight ends or receivers were used on the same play. This information is derived from my personal observation and re-watch of the game. My confidence level is about 98% for this game.

Player: QB Use % RB Use % TE Use % WR

Use %

Most

Golson 96 Folston 36 Koyack 94 Fuller

96

Zaire

4 McDaniel 36 Smythe 7 Prosise

52

Bryant

28 Luatua 1 Robinson

51

Brown

49

Carlisle

45

Holmes

4

The number one take away from player usage was that Will Fuller continues to never come off the field. This game saw more pre-set packages. Notably, Corey Robinson and Amir Carlisle tended to be in on the same plays while Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise served as the other unit. There were a handful of plays where Prosise played with Robinson instead of Carlisle, but that’s about it in terms of mix and match. Robinson and Carlisle were in for the first series along with Folston. I don’t take this to mean those players are the “ones” as much as whatever grouping of plays Brian Kelly wanted to use just involved them.

I’m not separating out package usage this week because there was virtually none. Notre Dame near exclusively used 11 personnel. Tyler Luatua made his cameo once again in the first half in an H-Back set up, but it was for just one play on a third and short. There were only two plays that used an “empty back” set that I’ll discuss below. While I’d like to see some more mix and match in terms of types of packages, the impression I’m getting is Kelly is comfortable with the multiple roles both Koyack and the backs can fill in terms of set-up. While I haven’t been tracking it, Koyack’s getting a good amount of use set up wide in a similar capacity to how each of Rudolph, Eifert, and Niklas were used. While perhaps not quite as dynamic as those guys, I have nothing but kind things to say about Koyack at the present.

Passing Targets:

Player:

Thrown To:

Receptions: Yards:

TD’s:

Will Fuller

12

9 89

1

Amir Carlisle

7

7 61

2

Ben Koyack

4

2 14

0

Chris Brown

4

1* 5

0

C.J. Prosise

3

1 18

0

Cam McDaniel

2

2 17

0

Corey Robinson

2

1** 22

0

Thrown Away

2

N/A N/A

N/A

* Brown drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/4, or 50%.

** Robinson drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/2, or 100%.

My favorite stat of the week involves Amir Carlisle. Despite seeing the field less than any receiver not named Corey Holmes, Amir Carlisle was second on the team in targets with 7, and even better, each target resulted in a reception. While Carlisle was the poster boy of efficiency, C.J. Prosise had another bad drop making it two in two weeks. I would expect to see a greater usage rate for Carlisle this coming week given the diverging performances of the two primary slot receivers.

Will Fuller is quickly turning into the most intriguing player on the field for me. His speed, feet, and skill in releasing off the line is evident. Michigan’s corners were clearly intimidated by that speed allowing Fuller to effectively use slant routes and convert an important fourth down conversion in the second quarter. Fuller’s day could have been even better were it not for some less exciting hands. He bobbled an opportunity in the early going that resulted in a reception but went for a minimal gain. Had the catch been clean, he might still be running given the blocking that was set up in front of him. I’m not sure who Fuller reminds me of at the present. He’s bigger than a pure speed guy which makes him so unique, and his agility was on display on the 24 yard touchdown reception. Fuller served as the field side wide receiver on almost every play while the taller Robinson and Brown took the boundary side.

Speaking of Brown on the boundary side, as noted above, the Irish ran two plays from an “empty back” set. Both had Cam McDaniel lined up as a receiver. Both times, the 4 other receiver targets lined up on the field side in an effort to set up a one-on-one isolation for Brown on the boundary, and both plays involved pre-snap decisions by Golson that the look was there to go to Brown. The first resulted in a pass interference call against Michigan. The second occurred in Michigan’s red zone on the play Golson got called for intentional grounding. Golson was locked into Brown from the outset (as Mike Mayock noted during the broadcast), however, the route was slow developing, and the Michigan defense in the compressed field was able to provide safety help over the top which disrupted the play.

Drive Efficiency:

Team:

Drives:

Avg. Start Pos. Net Yards: Poss. Net Yards:

Net Yard %

Notre Dame

11

Own 36 317 703

45%

Michigan

12

Own 23 275 927

30%

One unusual aspect to the game was that Michigan had 289 yards of total offense while Notre Dame had 280 yards of total offense. Forgetting about the 4 turnovers and the 2 missed field goals for a moment, the chart above explains why the total offensive yard numbers are misleading. Despite fewer total offensive yards, the Irish offense was actually the more effective and efficient throughout the night. First off, Michigan had 9 more total yards with one more full possession. Additionally, once penalty adjustments are included, you can see that Notre Dame move forward more than Michigan by a total of 317-275 net yards.

The Irish also frequently worked with a shorter field and were better at getting those yards. Possible net yards takes the starting position for each drive and calculates the number of yards the team could get if it scored a touchdown. Net yard percentage is therefore a gauge of how absolutely efficient an offense was in getting every yard it could have. Notre Dame was 50% more efficient at claiming available yards than Michigan.

Let me give you one more number:

2 – As in at least 2 first downs on a given drive. On Saturday, Notre Dame had 4 drives during which they claimed at least 2 first downs on a given drive. The Irish converted all 4 of these drives for touchdowns. Basically, if the offense started moving, they were not stopped.

Obviously, Michigan did not do that. In fact, their longest drive of the game was their first one: An 11 play, 47 yard drive that ended in a missed field goal.

And so, we finally make it to my final number: 2006. As in the year 2006 (thank you @andrewwinn for catching my mistake when I cited 2007 originally. Follow him, please.) That was the last time Notre Dame started the season 2-0 without committing a turnover. I won’t speak about what happened in the third game with our rival. Suffice it to say, I’m not as concerned for a similar let down against Purdue this coming week.

Let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams for this article on Twitter @IrishMoonJ. If there’s something you want to see, I’m but 140 characters away.

-Go Irish!

– Moons

Stat Sandwich: Notre Dame/Rice Team Breakdown

It feels soooo good. Football’s back, and this weekend did the things from a pleasure standpoint that certain religious sects swear is a one way ticket to the bad lands. (side note: these same groups probably don’t like swearing, but whatevs). Catholics would at least feel the need to go to confessional. The lusting. The coveting. The want for more. If this is being bad, then I don’t want to be good.

Saturday did many a thing for the Notre Dame collective morale. Everett Golson began the process of changing ND fan vernacular from “Tommy, NO!” to “Tommy, who?” by flashing some sweet skills in a 48-17 dominating performance of Rice at Notre Dame Stadium. The modern-day (selective memory) version of the 4-Horsemen – Golson, Bryant, McDaniel, and Folston combined for 223 yards on 40 carries. Grantland Rice – You’re on the clock to get a new lede. I assume famine and pestilence will be replaced by Ebola and Miley Cyrus, but there’s still room there for creativity. The defense in an uneven but somewhat encouraging performance mandated that the Internet’s collective snark put their dumpster fire memes on hold for at least another week. All and all, it was a good week.

However, I’m not here to bludgeon you over the head with reminders of how awesome Saturday was. Your hangover Sunday should have done that. In addition to bringing shenanigans, tomfoolery, and a charming southern accent to the ladies, one thing I wanted to provide to Down the Tunnel was some fun (pronounced: “enjoyable” to “horribly tedious” depending on your particular lean) statistical breakdowns of the games just passed.

A couple of caveats: Yes, this is just Rice. No need to lose our damn minds over the performance. Lose your mind over something worthwhile, like how Greg Bryant packed two pythons who just ate a baker’s dozen of bowling balls into his arms. Secondly, in the stats world, one game is the proverbial “small sample size.” Percentages, usage patterns, [something] per [something else] are still subject to fairly large variances week-to-week. As the season progresses, things stabilize, benchmarks become more apparent, and we gain a more realistic picture of where the team stands compared to the sprawling array of college football. But don’t go joining reality yet. There’s plenty of time for shattered dreams and references to sipping on Clorox. For now, sit back, and have fun numerically recalling Saturday (Yes, I’m aware your ability to count was ahem “impaired” on Saturday.)

Let’s start with the team stats. Notre Dame’s Overall stat line looked like this:

Points:                       48

Plays:                          72

Points per Play:       .67

Passing Attempts:   22

Rushing Attempts:  42

Penalties:                   2

FG Attempts:            3

Punts:                         3

Total Yards:               576

Rushing Yards:          281

Passing Yards:           295

Yards per Point:         12

Penalty Yards:            10

Turnovers:                   0

Field Goals:                 2/3. Makes: 29, 36 yards. Misses: 39 yards

Punts:                         39 yards (fair catch), 50 yards (touchback), 55 yards (touchback).

Punt Average:            48

Net Punt Average:     35

1st Downs:                  23

3rd Down Converts:  6/13 for 46%

Red Zone Atts:           6

Red Zone TDs:             4

Red Zone FG’s:           2

RZ Score %:              100%

RZ TD %:                   67%

Notre Dame’s offense functioned at an obviously high level. The balance was there from the get go. The general trend is not uncommon for those that have watched Brian Kelly over the previous few years. Versus weaker opponents, the offense will typically skew run as BK attempts to exploit size/depth advantages. Think of Brian Kelly as Gumby. He can stretch himself as needed, but he does have a system he reverts to at the end of the day.

The offense, most importantly, was more efficient than years past. Points per play and yards per point are both rough measures of efficiency. Offenses are inevitably measured by how many points they can score. Points per play gives a rough measure of how explosive an offense is. More points on fewer plays being the natural ideal. Notre Dame’s 0.67 points per play would have ranked second in FBS last season (#1 – Florida State – 0.749). Notre Dame’s Points per play last three years: 2013 – 0.404; 2012 – 0.375; 2011 – 0.412, all middle of the pack.

Yards per point is an efficiency metric. Not perfect by any stretch, and much of the criticism is that it lacks predictive power. However, as a descriptive stat, it tells you how good the team was at converting offensive production to points. I find it to be generally superior to red zone stats in measuring efficiency. The fewer yards per point, the more efficient the offense. Notre Dame’s 12 yards per point would have been sixth in the FBS last season (#1 – Florida State – 10.1). Notre Dame’s yards per point the previous three years: 2013 – 14.9 (75th nationally), 2012 – 15.8 (88th nationally), 2011 – 14.1 (53rd nationally).

The point here is simple. What we think we saw on Saturday was an offense finally clicking, and the stats confirm that to be the case. From an explosion and efficiency standpoint, this is what a good collegiate offense looks like. It would also be a marked improvement from previous years if this continued week over week. The defenses will get tougher, no question about it. The framework is there for consistent performance. Quarterback and runningback are both deeper and more skilled than in recent years past. While the wide receiving corp is young, there is a lot of potential for development. More importantly from a schematic perspective, Brian Kelly has a multitude of options at his disposal to mix and match as he sees fit.

Notre Dame Offensive Play Breakdown by Quarter:

First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter
# Plays:

17

20 20

15

Runs:

10

8 11

13

Passes:

5

9 7

1

Penalties:

0

1 1

0

Punts/FG Att:

2

2 1

1

Touchdowns:

2

2 1

1

Rushing Yards:

38

70 47 126
Passing Yards:

98

124 45

28

Rush:Pass Ratio*

2.0 0.89 1.57

13

Rush Yds/Car.

3.8 8.75 4.27

9.69

  • Rush:Pass Ratio for Game = 1.91; 2013 Rush-Pass Ratio = 1.02

Nothing too exciting here. Notre Dame came out wanting to establish the run, and while it was their least effective quarter on the ground on a per play basis, the team still ended up with 2 touchdowns to show for their work. Everett Golson was so lethal in the first half through the air and on the ground that the Irish only attempted 8 passes in the second half of the game and only one pass in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter’s rushing total and yards per carry were both aided by Malik Zaire’s flamboyant entry to the game. Excluding Zaire’s run, the team still averaged 5.8 yards a carry with a Greg Bryant touchdown.

The uptick in rushing average in both the second and fourth quarters are at least indicative of a situation where one team was just superior in terms of depth and conditioning. While many will clamor for Bryant to be the work horse, it should not be underestimated how important it can be to exploit the ability to send out a fresh back for any series without concern for performance fall off. Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel all averaged at least 5 yards a carry for the game. I have no issue with Brian Kelly continuing to spread the wealth so long as all three backs are effective. Over the course of a game, that advantage shows.

Notre Dame Performance by Down:

1st Down:

2nd Down:

3rd Down:

# Plays

30

23

13

Run:

17

17

8

Pass:

13

4

5

Penalty:

0

2

0

Avg. to go for 1st:

10

6.26**

5.92

Efficiency %:*

53%

39%

46%***

Eff. 3 > 5yds to go

N/A

N/A

50%

Eff. 3 <= 5 yds to go

N/A

N/A

43%

* the folks at http://www.FootballOutsiders.com use a play efficiency metric to decide whether a play was efficient or not. It’s easy to think about in the context of third downs: Did the play result in 100% of the required yardage to get a first down/score? For first down, the metric is 50% of required yardage. Second down is 70% of required yardage. These are my calculations based on their formula.

** Notre Dame never faced a 2nd and >10 yards. Both offensive penalties occurred on 2nd and 3, resulting in 2nd and 8 effective situations.

*** A 46% third down conversion percentage would put you in the top 25 for FBS schools end of year rankings for each of the previous 3 seasons. Notre Dame’s last year? 42%….good for 47th Nationally.

Notre Dame Formation Usage:

The offense ended up using only two types of packages: A 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), and a 12 (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR). By my unofficial count, I only recall 2 plays where the back would shift out of the backfield into an “empty back” alignment. Both of these occurred out of the 11 personnel. Last season, ND shifted to the empty backfield alignment considerably more. It’ll be interesting to see whether the lack of use was just a matter of opponent or whether it’s a philosophy shift. Last year, I speculated that use of the 11 empty backfield was utilized to exploit arguably Tommy Rees’ best attribute, pre-snap reads. In 2012, the offense used the empty backfield more as the season went on to spread the field and create more potential running lanes for Golson. That was different personnel. With the increased skill level at the running back position, my early guess is we see the “empty back” set less this year.

Notre Dame exclusively used 11 in the first half. The first instance of 12 occurred early in the third quarter when the team was deep in Rice’s territory. The two plays leading up to the phantom handoff touchdown scramble were with 12 personnel. The Golson scramble itself came out of the 11. 50% of Zaire’s snaps were with 12 personnel at the end of the game when the Irish were simply looking to run out the clock.

Of the 63 plays in non-end of game/half situations, only 7 were in the 12. The remaining 56 came out of 11. Of the 56, 53 were run with the first team offense. Ben Koyack was the TE on all but one of those snaps. Tyler Luatua made a cameo in the first half deep in Irish territory when Luatua was lined up in H-Back position. That play resulted in a 13 yard run by Greg Bryant up the middle.

Offensive Player Usage:

At the beginning of each season, player usage is always a fun thing to track. The chart below shows how many snaps each offensive player was in the game for (regardless of whether they touched the ball on a given play). There were a total of 66 non-special teams snaps. The percentages will not necessarily add up to 100% for each position since multiple tight ends or receivers were used on the same play. This information is derived from my personal observation, re-watch of the game. My confidence level is about 95% in terms of accuracy overall. Very confident with respect to quarterback, running back, and tight end usage. However, I’m beholden to the game feed meaning there might be a receiver identification or two that is off. The general trends though I believe are entirely accurate.

Player:

QB Use % RB Use % TE Use % WR Use %

Most

Golson 91 Folston 38 Koyack 89

Fuller

82

Zaire 9 Bryant 33 Smythe 18 Brown

71

McDaniel 29 Luatua 8 Carlisle

42

Prosise

36

Robinson

30

Brent

9

Holmes

9

Least Lee

5

While Tarean Folston actually saw the greatest usage of the three running backs, the timing of his use is more telling. Folston was in on 25 plays. Of those 25 plays, only 14 came with less than a 4 touchdown lead being held. In a game dictated by the Irish as much as this one, that may or may not mean anything.

At the wide receiver position, the loss of DaVaris Daniels (for the time being) as well as the hand injury to Corey Robinson, likely led to the high use rates for both Will Fuller and Chris Brown. It will be an interesting trend to watch Fuller’s usage. I expect it to go down as Robinson gets healthier and Justin Brent gets more used to the offense. However, as I noted on the Roughing the Passer vidcast, that Fuller received so much time suggests that he’s more versatile as both a route runner and blocker than perhaps the reports out of spring camp had led many to believe.

So, we’re closing on 2,000 words. So as to not blow your minds in one post, I’ll split up team trends into this post and be back later in the week with some player specific data. If there’s something in particular you’re curious about, please hit me up on Twitter at @IrishMoonJ. We can make this reality whatever we’d like it to be.

 

– Moons

A Reaction to Notre Dame’s Announcement

Yesterday, in something that won’t come as news to most, the University of Notre Dame publicly announced that it is investigating allegations of academic misconduct. Per the Official Release from the University, these allegations first came to light several weeks ago at the end of July. The University communicated the morning of August 15, 2014 with officials from the NCAA regarding this development, and the investigation is in its early stages. As was stated by Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, the NCAA will defer to the university for the time being with respect to the investigation.

First, what do we know? The answer is: not all that much. Swarbrick and University President Father John Jenkins were both necessarily vague in the details released to the public. This is so for several reasons. First off, the investigation is only two weeks old. While all parties involved hope that the matter moves swiftly and decisively, nothing appears to be set in stone or proven to a fact at this point. Secondly, federal student privacy laws (as well as a common sense of decency) both mean the University will be guarded throughout the process, both to protect the innocent and to avoid publicly shaming young individuals who may very well have made a regrettable mistake.

Unfortunately for fans of the program, fortunately for haters of the program, and in a bit of a sledgehammer to pre-season optimism, the team did go ahead and announce that four current players are being held out of football related activities while the investigation continues. The four players, DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell, and Ishaq Williams have not….let’s say that again in giant capital letters…HAVE NOT been suspended, expelled, dismissed, or any other words you might insert suggesting absolute guilt at the current time. That’s not to say they will or won’t be but should still point to the fluidity of the situation at hand.

We also know that the alleged misconduct involves non-athletes as well. In what capacity and to what extent is still unknown, but both Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick reiterated on numerous occasions during a 6 PM press conference (available in its entirety at the above included link) that this is an academic issue and is not, at the current time, being viewed as a problem within the football program on whole.

For what we know, that’s about it. No more, no less. Message boards, alleged “professional sportswriters,” and foaming opposing fan bases have and will continue to expand on what’s really going on without knowing more. My recommendation, since you asked so kindly for it, is to ignore as much of the speculation and innuendo as possible. Unless of course taking a hot poker to your eyes and brain is your thing. In which case, have at it.

The allegations are troubling and certainly cringe worthy. While adversity is an expected part of any season, a team and program generally hopes that the adversity is contained to what happens on the field and not what occurs when the players are away from the team activities. It’s understandable for many onlookers to view what appears to be a mounting number of academic related problems involving Notre Dame’s scholarship sports programs and cast aspersions on the school given the emphasis the University places upon academic integrity. For those looking for a reason to hate the University, each public instance is a new, sharp arrow to put in the quiver for target practice. Fair enough. At the current time, the University has to deal with the target practice. If it’s serious about its underlying purpose and mission (which I wholeheartedly believe it is), then the arrows will miss the mark in the long run.

I’ve also seen many ND fans get a little proactive on their “defense” of the program. One oft heard phrase is “this happens everywhere.” I choose, and encourage everyone else, to avoid using such axioms. It’s conjecture at its worst. Perhaps it’s true, but there’s not a person on earth who possesses the knowledge to say it’s occurring. If three days ago I’d placed on the Twitter the statement “There’s some serious academic fraud going on at Notre Dame. There has to be because it’s endemic to all institutions,” I’d have received a good degree of hatred from the many folks I interact with. Turns out I’d have been (possibly) correct, but it’s unfair and destructive to use that as a crutch. Notre Dame’s dealing with an unpleasant, uncomfortable situation right now. The focus should be on improving things from the inside, not on tearing down those on the outside. There’s only one way to salvation, and it’s not by trying to rip down everyone else.

For those worried about the 2014 season, don’t be. No, I’m not going to suggest that potentially losing talented players is an alright thing. I am going to suggest though that holding people accountable for doing the wrong thing is a long term good. I will also suggest that being a fan of Notre Dame, no matter why you are one, must mean more than winning on the field at any cost. The reasons for becoming a fan of Notre Dame are numerous: Some by family tradition, some by attending the school, some by watching them growing up, some by being Catholic, some because they like the mascot, some for regional reasons, and all of these are great, commendable reasons to root for Our Lady. However, if you do love the program, it should be for something more than winning on the field. I find it hard to believe that any longstanding fan of Notre Dame doesn’t at some point also take pride in what the university stands for. It’s a form of nostalgia in aspiring to do things the right way that unites many of us. Those aspirations are not dead.

To get back on track about doing the right thing though, this investigation may be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and perhaps even retroactively disappointing. That’s the mission this administration now has. I do not doubt for a second they will take that responsibility seriously. Something I said yesterday that bears repeating: I welcome an opportunity to punish or hold responsible anyone who tarnishes the University of Notre Dame. In true spirit, this does not necessarily imply amputation. I’m not saying anything ground breaking when I point out that the greatest storyline of the 2014 season before yesterday’s news was one such redemption story. Personal, programmatic, and institutional responsibility is a laudable goal. Notre Dame can be a place for anyone to succeed who wants to. It can also be a place for those seeking redemption for mistakes.

Yesterday’s news may not be your favorite, but don’t fall into the role of self-righteous vigilante. Despite what some so-called writers have within 24 hours of this news breaking decided to write, the Notre Dame spirit is not dead. It does need to be healed but not with blame or deflection but rather with self-reflection and investigation. While the University investigates this matter, self-reflect yourself about what the University means to you and focus on that rather than the 2014 season. By its very definition, the future has yet to be written. Enjoy the games as they come and try not to be too quick to judge the remainder.

-Moons

2014 Season Primer: Mad Libs!

Can we all agree that pre-season fatigue has set in? While some worthwhile pieces and words still get spilled on endless hypotheticals, I for one am ready to get this season going. It’s been a while since I wrote, and I may do something more substantive prior to the season getting going. In the meantime, I felt inclined to do my own season primer. Too lazy to generate novel writing, I’ve decided to let you the fans do all the work….Well, with a big assist from the numerous ND blogs that have already weighed in in these areas.

Welcome to your 2014 Season Primer Mad Lib! Below, you’ll find arbitrarily selected paragraphs from some of the ND blogs recent pieces. Of course, like all good Mad Libs, I’ve left some blanks for you the reader to fill in. Feel free to go read the actual pieces which I’ve linked to below, but that seems kind of self-defeating. Make up your own reality, man (or woman).

If you’re up to the challenge, complete the mad lib and send your response to DowntheTunnelMadLibs@gmail.com. I’ll select the best segments to re-post prior to the season, and the best overall entry I’ll send out a Down the Tunnel “Too Turnt to Sit” t-shirt.

Enjoy! – Moons

Changes are always happening. What’s new with the revamped ND defense?

Its a whole new year for the Irish defense and its going to look ¬¬___________ than it has the past few _____________. Its time to see life after _____________ and __________ combo on the defensive line. The last few seasons the front seven of the Irish defense has been the _______________of the defense while the back end has been ___________ (Gary Gray, Bennett Jackson). However it seems like that will all be ____________ this year. The front seven has _________________ from the _____________ of the defense to a bunch of question marks. _______________ will be the marque player on the defensive line. The linebacking corps is very ______________ except for ___________ Jaylon Smith, who was moved to __________________ this off season. Meanwhile the defensive backfield looks to be ______________ solid. Kavairee Russell is a bona fide ______________ who will be in the running for the _______________ this season. Cole Luke, and _________________ will all be difference makers on the ______________ while Max Redfield, Austin Collinsworth and Elijah Shumate look to be solid in the back end. All of this with a new ________________ who brings a completely new __________________ to South Bend that calls for alot of ___________ and ___________ on an Island.
– via @DowntheTunnel Down the Tunnel Fall Camp Primer

I’m sure Brian Kelly’s got some thoughts on the upcoming season as well. Coach, what do you think?

The offensive line is a definite _______________. “Getting Christian Lombard back _________________ has been __________________. He’s _______________ and strong and moving ______________.” With four returning starters on the O-line, the Irish are in a “_____________________.” With two quarterbacks who play off the same script, Kelly is eager for that to “____________________” throughout the ________________ — a scenario that has not been there in __________________ past. This should allow the offense to score more __________________, a need Kelly ____________, and to play faster. __________________ is now learning the “why’s” of the playbook, while Malik Zaire is able to play “_____________________.” Kelly wants him _____________________ “championship football.”
– via @HerLoyalSons Brian Kelly Opens Fall Camp Presser

Gotta know your opponents too. USC’s always excellent creative fodder…..

I side with the folks who think ___________________ should be pretty darn ________________ this year. The loss of ____________________ should do nothing but help the _______________________ in numerous ways. I’m not sure Steve Sarkisian is a ___________________ yet he might have the ________________ to make the Trojans a lot better, and _____________________. Even if you don’t think USC is all that right now then you have to ___________________ they have massive ___________________ potential. That’s weird to say since they _______________________ last year, too.
It’s a new ______________________ for USC with a familiar face back _________________ the program. As Notre Dame fans we’ll be watching _________________of the Trojans very closely. If they stay _______________ they are capable of some big things under _______________________.
– via @OneFootDown 14 for 14: Steve Sarkisian and the (Somewhat) New USC

And finally, it’s prediction time!

That’s a fairly wide assortment of ____________________. Using this _______________, one could ___________________ anything from UNDEFEATED to ______________________. YIKES! Even more disturbing is there is a _________________ being formed, and the 2014 ____________________ looks like it is _________________________ towards a 7-6 season with some other ______________ bastard starting the 2015 season ranked _________________ and then going undefeated.
Of course, you can _______________________ the pattern if you like and we could be sitting on the other end of the ______________________. At any rate, I’m prepared to offer this prediction for 2014 based off of this data
– via @TheSubwayDomer Predicting Notre Dame’s 2014 with Science

The King of Wishful Lyrics

(Enter overly dramatic intro set to a backsplash of LMFAO). It all started harmlessly enough. An innocent tweet sent by yours truly claiming that the 1990’s was the pre-eminent decade of upbeat music whose lyrics are sad. Yes, I said: “The King of Wishful Thinking” by Go West is a classic example of this principle. Deep down inside, I knew this tweet would go out into the ether with no response. Oh how you surprised me Internet

Rather than let my tweet stand for the un-researched claim for which it stood, there was lash back. Angry, angry tweets followed (I would not testify to this statement), and I was forced to indulge the notion that I was incorrect. Let it not be said that we at Down the Tunnel don’t listen to our fledgling readership. While those other blogs may ignore you, keep you on task with Notre Dame football, or flat out pretend they’re better than you, we leave no stone unturned.

It’s been a labor of love, time…and outsourcing to bring this to you. Faced with the possibility of being wrong, I did what any good writer would do…deflect blame. I asked others to embrace a decade and give me 10 songs to make this the ultimate offseason competition of “Which decade is best at making upbeat songs that have surprisingly sad/depressing lyrics?” If you find this topic overly esoteric, then you’re on to something. However, I find it a much more worthwhile endeavor than spending 6 months discussing the state of Notre Dame’s playing surface. It’s shocking, but true. We’ll still see football in the fall regardless of playing surface, but without this post, there’d be no answer to the question “what decade reigns supreme?”

Initially, this was to be a four decade debate between the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. However, as the one tasked to do the 70’s, I failed. First of all, I was born in 1983, which brings about a problem of knowing the music well enough. I was cool with that. However, my contributors (pronounced “victims”) came up with far more nuanced lists that made me feel like a sell out for taking the 70’s without adequate knowledge. I’d have stuck to the Billboard Top 100’s and been done with it. I had some good ones too. Among them, “Cecilia” by Simon & Garfunkel, “The Hurricane” by Bob Dylan, and “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. I was, however, being commercial.

The men I recruited used whatever means necessary to make their cases. More importantly, they demonstrated a vault of knowledge about their decades to make me feel guilty about submitting more well known tunes with less substance to the debate. As such, I submit to you the entries for the contest.

The criteria is simple: IT’S A DECADE COMPETITION. No one song gets to win the day. The lists are not in order but rather a compilation of that decade’s music. The goal: “Which decade produced the greatest number of songs that sound upbeat but are actually depressing (if you listen to the lyrics).” Omissions are their own fault. However, direct your ire towards me. These guys dutifully filled their roles to get me top 10 lists, and I’m quite appreciative of that. It was up to them whether they wanted to add commentary or let their selections speak on their face. I add no commentary, as this is for the people and not subject to commentary or editorialism. No need for further delay, it’s time to snap back to reality:

The 80’s – Brought to you by @HLS_BayouIrish

1.) The Smiths “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRtW1MAZ32M

The Smiths were the most important band in a decade that mostly threw the musical lessons learned to that point to the curb in favor of soul-less synth-pop. This song, is a glorious celebration of the anxiousness and jangled-nerves that accompany the moments before the first kiss — and of the preservation of pre-kiss perfection thanks to a ten ton(ne) bus.

2.) The Pogues “Fairytale of New York.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9jbdgZidu8

This is the greatest Christmas song ever written. It swirls like snow and captures what New York City is for the rest of us better than any Macy’s window ever could. The duet between two of pop’s most poignant voices is beautiful. One voice, cut short by a tragic boating accident, is angry and sad. The other, cut short by purposeful poisoning-by-pints, is pleading.

3.) The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwuy4hHO3YQ

Don’t tell me this song doesn’t qualify because it came out in 1979. This was the first video played by MTV, a network that, in its time, was as life-changing and important and iconic as ESPN eventually became twenty (?) years later. This is a thumping dance track that survives intact to this day, as good as, and certainly better than, most any song written since.

4.) Depeche Mode “Never Let Me Down Again.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq428DZI-eg

“I’m taking a ride with my best fried.” “I hope he never let’s me down again.” The video, a live version from Paris in 2001, gives an idea of how well this song has fared over the years — how full of exuberance and life it is. Juxtapose Dave Gahan qua Mick Jagger against the lyrics.

5.) Depeche Mode “Everything Counts” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t-gK-9EIq4

This is an early-80’s track that bemoans the “greed is good” mentality for which the decade is so well-known.

6.) The Smiths “Panic.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMykYSQaG_c

Any song that tells you to “burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ” is a winner. It’s got a children’s chorus.

7.) Nena “99 Luftballons.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Q2VOU4tmY

This song could have been relegated to history’s proverbial dust-bin, if it were not for Vladimir Putin and his Crimean gambit. If you’re of a certain age, you had air raid drills at school and knew that you were a blinding flash of light away from nuclear vaporization at any given moment. You felt so much safer than we do today.

8.) Bruce Springsteen “Glory Days.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vQpW9XRiyM

This is every Notre Dame fan ever. The ones who are still alive who remember multiple championships are miserable and those who never knew them are even worse. Don’t mistake the upbeat tune, folks. You’ll be miserable at the end of the bar soon enough, recounting your past to people who aren’t really listening and who don’t really care.

9.) Peter Gabriel “Shock the Monkey.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnVf1ZoCJSo

The artist says this is a song about jealousy. I don’t know. I just think it fits this list’s criteria really well.

10.) Public Enemy “Fight the Power.” The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PaoLy7PHwk&feature=kp

Over time, it’s easy to chalk this song up to a summer dance classic or Flava’s antics to his nuttiness. This is an angry song that gets white kids lip-syncing along to words that encourage civil disobedience and talk shit about Elvis and John Wayne.

The 90’s – Brought to you by @oaknd1

1. “Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio

2. “November Rain” – Guns ‘n Roses

3. “Spiderwebs” – No Doubt

4. “Jeremy” – Pearl Jam

5. “Long View” – Green Day

6. “Losing My Religion” – REM

7. “Waterfalls” – TLC

8. “Everlong” – Foo Fighters

9. “My Name Is” – Eminem

10. “Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve

The 00’s – Brought to you by @andrewinn

10. Her Space Holiday – “The Good People of Everywhere”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMY0Vopmaxg

Suggested by: Mike Steedle ND ’03 (@theTopsider):

His comment: “I thought it was just a story of kids poisoning their parents to be free, then simply doing all the bad stuff their parents did anyway. It’s catchy, though, right?”

My comment: RIGHT.

9. The Mountain Goats – “No Children”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRP6egIEABk

Suggested by: Melissa Green ND ’03 (@magreen17).

My comment: You put your arm around your friend’s shoulder as they lock arms and shoulders with their friends. Everyone is drunk. Everyone is swaying to this song. And then the lyrics start. GUT PUNCH. THANKS A LOT, MOUNTAIN GOATS.

8. The Format – “Dog Problems”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGHevQoWsGA&feature=youtu.be

Suggested by: George McKay (@JorgesHome):

His comment: “All about coping with a bad break up”

My comment: …as told by hand puppets.

7. Dashboard Confessional – “Again I Go Unnoticed”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbz0FUhTftY

My pick. I literally had a decade’s worth of emo to choose from, but this one always made me laugh. A song that has become a sing-along for fans of Dashboard Confessional…is about unrequited love.

6. The Gaslight Anthem – “The ’59 Sound”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1lq40tR72Q

Suggested by: George McKay (@JorgesHome).

My comment: Hey! These guys sound like Springsteen! What a great sound! What a rocking tune! Hey, what’s this song about anyway? WHAT? The best friend that died when the band was out of town? Bummer.

5. Death Cab for Cutie – “The Sound of Settling”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pphrk6wE5aw

Suggested by: Matt Nania ND ’02 (@mjnania)

My comment: That drum beat. It gets butts wiggling. And yet…this song is about having regrets for not taking chances in life.

4. Ben Folds – “Zak and Sara”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z7x0V5cm-A&feature=kp

Suggested by: My sister

My comment: Well, she actually suggested “Annie Waits” from the same album, but I think “Zak and Sara” fits our theme even better. Driving piano, handclaps. Very light, very fun song about…a crazy girl who has a dumb ass for a boyfriend.

3. MGMT – “Time to Pretend”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9dSYgd5Elk&feature=kp

Suggested by: High school friend Jay Wyatt.

My comment: A song I once considered the 2000s version of #yolo, Jay set me straight: “He spends the first verse being sarcastic about coming of age and the second verse talking about everything he misses from childhood. It’s really sad.”

2. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyUrH_IOgqI

Suggested by: Lisa, the Lovely Librarian.

My comment: A danceable tune about the time Killers frontman Brandon Flowers found his girlfriend with another dude at a bar. (I offer the link to the remix, because it’s one of the best remixes ever done IMO.)

1. Outkast – “Hey Ya”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWgvGjAhvI

Suggested by: Cracked.com 

Cracked writes: “At its core, ‘Hey Ya’ is an incredibly sad song. The lyrics are basically an indictment of the entire idea of being in a relationship. Not just getting married, but being in a relationship at all. The ‘hero’ of the song has found himself tied down to a woman that he no longer loves, and to make matters worse, it’s pretty clear she’s lost that feeling for him also.”

Oh yeah, I also said I wouldn’t add in, but @oaknd1 both impressed me and disappointed me. Some of his selections were inspired choices. His omissions of “The King of Wishful Thinking” and “Semi-Charmed Kind of Life” made me weep. I’m being harsh though, and it’s not for me to decide. It’s for you to decide. Tweet your votes for best decade to @Downthetunnel and let the anger flow freely.

– Moons

5 HOT (and Quick) Takes from Blue/Gold Game

Spring practice is in the books!  Can I use the terms/phrases “practice” and “in the books” for employees? Kidding, kidding…put the pitch forks away. I’ll give you plenty better opportunities to skewer me. While the Sarge continues to lead the DTT Spring game experience on-site, thought I’d provide a few quick observations from the Blue/Gold Game. For full disclosure, I am not of the opinion that a lot can be gleaned from what amounts to a glorified practice. It’s far more special and relevant for those able to make the trip than those of us looking to extrapolate what it means going forward. Nonetheless, people LOVE to extrapolate (even when they don’t know what that word means), so let’s get down to business:

1. QB “Battle”: Unquestionably, the number one “thing to watch” for today was the quarterback position. The return of the prodigal son, Everett Golson vs. the self-confident Malik Zaire. Twitter and Mike Mayock have declared the big winner of the day to be Zaire. I’m critical of Mayock’s analysis though because he did not tell me Zaire’s height and weight. Mayock, when in full lather over a particular player always tells you the size measurements while wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. He did it for Golson pre-game. He did it for Jaylon Smith. Perhaps I just missed it.

Now to the game. I would *generally* agree that Zaire had the better performance. The stats bear that out. His reads came out quicker, he was more accurate, and most importantly to me….he looked like he wanted to compete for the starting gig. Golson was perhaps most disappointing with his reluctance to cut the ball loose. This issue plagued him at times during 2012, and I think many hoped he’d display a greater command of progressions after a one year quarterback boot camp. It’s important to remember a few things though: 1) This is but one practice. Folks need to realize Brian Kelly will not be making any final decisions based upon this one game. However, that Zaire looked ready to compete may create some intrigue for the inter web-professional-football-analysis-society from the summer months. 2) When you have 2 mobile quarterbacks battling in a “game” where they can’t be hit, it’s difficult to assess their true effectiveness. The refs were generally willing to let the QB’s continue to run around (and eventually throw) in situations where they will not be as fortunate in game situations. Golson’s rushing TD was a clear example. He scored. In a game, he’d have been pancaked between two rather large defensive players. To go along with this: Why in the WORLD was a screen pass run????? It happened early, but just seemed ludicrous to me. QB can’t be touched (and knows it), line comes flying through…Well executed(?) I suppose.

My more general take: First of all, I wet myself just a bit (it was early) to see both of our QB’s scramble, look elusive, and demonstrate plus arm-strength on the run. The Tommy Rees era is over, and I for one (all) couldn’t be happier to have it reaffirmed that it is possible to both run and throw the ball. Both quarterbacks exhibited the arm strength necessary to take advantage of the team’s speed and depth at the wide receiver position. While a function of the flag football game atmosphere, there were many deep attempts and routes down field suggesting a perhaps more vertical passing game while utilizing the TE and RB positions as safety valves.

2. FIELD TURF!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG: In a super fun troll job by the ND administration, Jack Swarbrick confirmed once and for all that field turf is a-coming to Notre Dame following Spring commencement ceremonies. So many words and blood have been spilled over this topic over the past few years that there’s no need to re-hash it. It’s a business decision, it’s a completely reasonable decision, and it will not impact game play for the negative in any material respect. Something I’ve harped on in the past is that something is not tradition just because it’s been done for a while. Rockne’s teams played on grass because that was more desirable to playing on dirt. ND never jumped the gun to install the horrendous astro-turf surfaces that led to many an injury in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, field turf’s come a long way. It’s not tradition to embrace a technological advancement that is more economical, provides greater reliability of playing surface, and doesn’t impact injury concerns. Get with it folks, or tell me why I’m wrong in the comments without mentioning the word “tradition.” I *might* listen then.

3. Hello Running backs: Greg Bryant did Greg Bryant things the way we’d all been Greg Bryant’ing he’d do. See what I did there? I used his name like the word “Smurf” was used back in the day. Bryant, of course, is not smurf. Rather, his speed and agility are more reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog coming out of a 360 degree loop and catapulting up into the atmosphere to claim rings and decimate all obstacles in his way. Take the spring game for what it is: confirmation that all angst associated with the unsubstantiated rumors of Bryant’s transfer were well deserved. I look forward to seeing him decimate all obstacles in his way in an effort to claim another type of ring.

In the meantime, Tarean Folston was quite active catching passes. Again, there’s a limit to attempting to extrapolate that this is a new trend, but he demonstrated good hands and improvisation as a safety-valve pass catching option. This facet was missing from ND’s offense last year. However, with a return to a more free flowing mobile quarterback style, a good pass catching option coming out of the backfield should not be under-appreciated. Theo Riddick was good at this in 2012 when, you might remember, good things happen for the team at large. I like to see things that *could* convert to a new offensive wrinkle in the season to come, and this fits the bill quite nicely.

4. The Defense…Lost? Okay…what does that mean? I have a difficult time really grading anything that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to hit/sack the quarterback is such an impediment that it’s difficult to consider the defense’s effectiveness.  Add that to the team still learning a new defensive-system and philosophy and the always straight-forward vanilla game plan, and you aren’t left with too many takeaways. I thought Cole Luke looked generally good and made some great plays on the ball in difficult situations. I thought Austin Collinsworth looked severely under-sized and slow attempting to cover the wide receivers, but I’m not going to read too much into that. Perhaps more telling, Brian Kelly during a second half interview explained that he asked BVG to dial back some of the pressure schemes so the offense could get the “looks” it wanted to run plays. Does that mean the line is better than expected? Does it mean the offensive line is a little bit worse? Perhaps a mixture? Yeah….I’ll go with mixture for the day.

5. The BVG: Finally, the most legit thing I saw all day was in fact VanGorder stomping around the sideline. He’s intense, rocks as legit a ‘stache as any in the business, and I give him bonus points for his 1970’s hair dew. I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised in the short-term with VanGorder’s increased aggression. He comes into a great situation where the experience of the secondary may let him get more exotic up front to compensate for the losses of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. We’ve been down the road of a hyper aggressive defensive coordinator trying to make something out of nothing (I’m looking at you Jon Tenuta), but the caliber of athlete BVG has available is superior to what Tenuta dealt with, and the secondary is an entirely different animal. Perhaps grasping at straws, I also enjoyed seeing BVG on the sidelines. Being cerebral and up in the booth fit Bobby Diaco quite well. The same holds true for seeing VanGorder stalk the sidelines.

We now enter the dark days where there won’t be much to report or look forward to for several months. Share your comments or thoughts and feelings about the B/G Game and what you’re looking forward to for 2014 in the comments below. I’m sure Sarge will be back sooner rather than later to fill you in on the Down the Tunnel Tailgate and the reception to our sponsors the Indiana Whiskey Company being gracious enough to come on out this morning.

Cheers!

– Moons

Irish Mixtape

Now that we’ve gotten past the craziness of the first day of this month, time to get back to (virtual) reality.  With the Blue & Gold game just around the corner, the guys at the Irish Mixtape were kind enough to have me aboard to speak to THE @KnuteSchoolFool about the various story lines/things to watch the spring game might provide. For the record, this is the only use of “THE” that I endorse.  You can catch the podcast here:

http://knuteschoolfools.blogspot.com/2014/03/032914-talking-to-moon-irishmoonj.html

If you’re unfamiliar with these guys, they’ve had a few different names in recent years including “The Irish Coffee and Doughnuts” podcast featured on The Subway Domer’s site as well as the “The Irish Twins” podcast featured on Her Loyal Sons.  Different names, same great content.

If you’re into high quality audio, hot beats, and quality Irish content, this is the best I’ve heard….

Check out their current site at http://knuteschoolfools.blogspot.com

A catalog of their archives can be found at the Subway Domer’s site here.

You can also do as I do and subscribe to them on iTunes.  KSF’s indicated the goal is to continue to add to the archives throughout the offseason months.

Finally, follow them on Twitter at @KnuteSchoolFool and @IrishMixTape to keep up to date on their musings and new releases. If they’re not your thing, then you’re wrong, or a Michigan fan, which is still wrong but also embarassing.

– Moons

What the Northwestern Decision Means

The news from Wednesday that the NLRB Region 13 Director found that grant-in-aid football players from Northwestern were employees for purposes of the NLRA sent shockwaves through the sports world….the problem is, most folks don’t have an understanding of what the decision means, what the next step will be, or what the ramifications of the decision actually are.  This is not the same as if it were announced Brian VanGorder shaved his mustache. It’s not something you can just see and understand the impact.

Many have been quick to say this is the end of college athletics as we know it without having the slightest clue where we stand or what could be the outcome. Yes, a total re-work of the college athletic system is one possible outcome, but we’re a looooooong (I’d have to type 3 pages of “o”’s to truly express this) way from that. So, for those with some time to kill and an interest in being informed as opposed to emotional, let’s take a run down through Northwestern v. College Athletes Players Association (CAPA).

First and foremost, there are two things that serve as an absolute starting point: 1) The National Labor Relations Act, and 2) the decision just handed down. If you’re already spouting about how much players should be paid, you’re about 10 years into the speculative future. Slow your roll, breathe, grab a drink….Drink your drink…are you calmer now?  Hopefully.  Here are links to these two very important things:

  1. NLRA – http://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act
  2. Northwestern v. CAPA http://www.cnn.com/2014/images/03/26/Decision_and_Direction_of_Election.pdf

That’s a lot of words, and I don’t want to make your mind explode all at once. However, to have any concept of where we are, you need to have these things in mind.

Current Status of the Litigation:

The current status of the litigation is quite simple.  CAPA, on behalf of Northwestern’s grand-in-aid football players filed to be recognized as the bargaining agent for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Section 7 of the NLRA gives employees the right to form a union for collective representation. For unorganized labor, the first step is to hold a vote in order to determine if that’s what a similarly-situated group of employees actually wants. We’re somewhere just before this step with the Northwestern athletes.

CAPA, on behalf of the players, has effectively requested to hold an election to make that determination. Prior to the vote being held, Northwestern made a request of the Regional Director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decide whether they had to honor this request for a vote. Northwestern’s position:  Grant-in-aid football players are not employees for purposes of the NLRA.

So far, I imagine that I’ve just provided a lot of extra detail that people were more or less aware of. The public at large has figured out that a gateway inquiry was the question of whether grant-in-aid football players are “employees” of the university. Here’s where it gets sticky. The NLRA defines employee in very broad, vague terms. The definition is found in Section 2(3):

(3) The term “employee” shall include any employee, and shall not be limited to the employees of a particular employer, unless the Act [this subchapter] explicitly states otherwise, and shall include any individual whose work has ceased as a consequence of, or in connection with, any current labor dispute or because of any unfair labor practice, and who has not obtained any other regular and substantially equivalent employment, but shall not include any individual employed as an agricultural laborer, or in the domestic service of any family or person at his home, or any individual employed by his parent or spouse, or any individual having the status of an independent contractor, or any individual employed as a supervisor, or any individual employed by an employer subject to the Railway Labor Act [45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.], as amended from time to time, or by any other person who is not an employer as herein defined.

This was essentially the question the Regional Director was asked to decide prior to requiring the University to permit a vote on whether CAPA could become the CBA representative. These cases are always fact specific and rulings tailored to reflect the specifics which take place at the hearing. As many know, the Regional Director found that grant-in-aid football players were “employees,” and therefore moved the voting issue forward. The decision was based on several factors:

  1. That a player’s grant-in-aid scholarship constituted “compensation” for services,
  2. That these services were contracted for by the employer (Northwestern),
  3. That the University had considerable control over these athletes in their time commitment, their ability to rescind the scholarship if they stopped performing, and in what classes/academic pursuits they could choose,
  4. And that the substance of this agreement related to athletic services provided to the university as opposed to anything related to academic endeavors.

I’m somewhat simplifying. The opinion is 24 pages long and takes considerable effort to explain the factual findings from the hearing, but those are the big brush strokes. Let’s keep things simple/stupid and break down the opinion into many subcategories of analysis:

The Opinion Distinguishes between “grant-in-aid” athletes and walks-ons: This has received very little attention in the media thus far, but the opinion only found scholarship athletes to be “employees” for purposes of the NLRA. The Regional Director found that walk-ons had more control over their academic schedules and were not expected to perform and dedicate time quite as rigidly as scholarship athletes. More importantly, the Regional Director distinguished that walk-ons did not receive compensation for their services and thus did not meet the definition.

Whatever comes out of this decision, a fundamental tenet remains true: non-scholarship athletes are not covered. Assuming arguendo down the road the union was upheld, your walk-on athletes would not receive the benefits of any CBA. They are not even entitled to do so at their election. For any non-scholarship sport, those athletes would have no right to organize or collectively bargain without a completely separate theory of rights under the NLRA. Given NCAA scholarship limits, this means most teams would have about 20% of their football roster that could not organize or receive the benefits of CBA terms even were they implemented.

I’ve heard many proponents of labor organization in the realm of college athletics suggest that player benefits for medical reasons is an important reason to organize. I agree, and yes, one would expect scholarship athletes to be on the field and subject to injury at a much higher rate than walk-on athletes. Additionally, just because a term can’t reach 20% doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile for the other 80% who probably receive 95% of the playing time. Fact remains, there is a component of similarly situated individuals who will never benefit from this “improved” process (in the hypothetical sense).

Further Limitations:  Not only was employee limited to grant-in-aid players, it was also limited to players with eligibility remaining. This underscores a problematic element of the entire process: the covered base of “employees” will constantly be in flux. At most, players are reasonably looking at 5 years of being a part of this union. Leadership will frequently fluctuate. Admission will frequently fluctuate. Additionally, “eligibility” is still determined by the NCAA under this scenario. Were a player deemed ineligible due to NCAA infractions, they’d no longer be covered. It’s an impossibility to give reasonable consideration to what this means other than that the rules on eligibility do not change given this ruling.

Scholarships as “Compensation”:  The Regional Director also determined that scholarships constituted “compensation for services rendered” and pointed to previous case law in pointing out that whether something is construed as “income” is not dispositive of being “compensation” under the terms of the NLRA. If your head is spinning a bit from my use of quotes and distinctions, welcome to the legal world. It’s a sad, word parsing arena of human ingenuity. Fabricated distinctions can and do exist for better or worse.

The problem is, as many have picked up on, this creates a conflict in federal law. Scholarships are generally exempt from IRS taxing under very specific, definitional terms. The decision that a scholarship constitutes compensation for purposes of the NLRA raises serious, and possibly lethal to the athlete’s cause, implications. Should scholarships be recognized as compensation, it is quite possible the tax issue would be revisited as well. College students (not athletes when it’s no longer beneficial of course!) might suddenly be responsible for $10,000 or more of federal income tax liability. The value of a college athletic scholarship far exceeds any measure for national poverty guidelines meaning these folks would owe money. The employer may fairly and rightly feel the need to withhold portions of their scholarship for tax purposes meaning previous fully covered rides could no longer do so.

In the alternative, many colleges may reduce athletic scholarships to 3 groups: 1) men’s football, 2) men’s basketball, and 3) Just enough female programs to be covered by Title IX. In the face of such uncertainty and added expense, schools may rightly decide the only programs they can offer scholarships for are the two consistent profit making endeavors and enough female programs to comply with other federal law. It may no longer be worthwhile or logical for employer universities to subject themselves to possible union activity and federal tax consequences to offer athletic scholarships for anything but the profit making sports. While not a guarantee, this is a very realistic possibility of your future with organized football unions.

There is another pertinent point to this part of the opinion: For all the woe-is-me athlete’s don’t get paid crowd: This decision drew a fundamental difference that athletic scholarships constituted remuneration for services rendered. For anyone claiming that the scholarship does not constitute payment, your victory is hollow and fictional without a determination by the Regional Director that scholarships in fact constituted substantial value. While the long game for this group may be that the CBA would enable the insular minority to achieve a “fair” wage for services rendered, the notion that the scholarship is meaningless or without value should not ring true today. Without the scholarship being seen as a considerable amount of enticement to the potential player, their status would be no different than the walk-on who was denied “employee” status in this opinion.

Are Scholarships Guaranteed? The Northwestern case had a couple of facts which made in somewhat unique. While athletic scholarships are renewable year-to-year generally, Northwestern made a decision in the 2012 year under revised NCAA regulations to offer 4-year scholarships. The Regional Director considered the terms of the “tender” offered by the university in reaching his conclusion that grant-in-aid athletes were beholden to the university to continue serving on the football team in order to maintain their scholarship. While perhaps logistically fair, the Regional Director was persuaded that such conditions gave the football program a substantial amount of control over these individual’s lives.

At Northwestern, a player would not lose his scholarship for injury, even if it rendered him unable to ever play, or for poor performance. However, voluntarily leaving the program or committing any one of a number of other infractions could cause a player to lose their scholarship. An interesting counterpoint would be to know how the outcome may have differed were scholarships fully guaranteed aside from egregious conduct. The evidence presented persuaded the Regional Director to side with the players, but a different agreement at a different university could in fact alter the outcome of the analysis.

Burden of Proof:  Finally, it’s important to recognize that any legal proceeding has a burden of proof. Most will best understand this principle by alluding to “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” That’s a burden of proof which the prosecution must achieve in a criminal prosecution. Absent the prosecution proving facts to at least the level, the default is to find the individual “not guilty” (as opposed to innocent). At this stage of the litigation, the burden was upon the employer (Northwestern) to demonstrate that the grant-in-aid football players did not meet the definition of “employee.” It was the Regional Director’s opinion that they failed to meet this burden. While perhaps a version of legalese in its own right, this is a powerful distinction in legal proceedings. The NLRA is designed to encompass as many employees as possible. Through its process, it’s designed to exclude even fewer. The employer did not win the day, but there’s a long road ahead….

What’s Next?

The decision from yesterday moves the process forward. Grant-in-aid Northwestern football players will now be given the right to vote on whether CAPA becomes their CBA representative. This solely decides whether CAPA becomes the representative. It doesn’t change the functional life of the college players in any meaningful form, and likely won’t for quite sometime.

Eric Hansen of the Southbend Tribune had on attorney Jerry Lutkus to his podcast to explain all the nuances and steps. You can find the audio of the podcast here.

Net result? There’ll be an appeal of the decision regarding “employees” to the NLRB. The decision of the Regional Director will likely be upheld. NLRB members are politically appointed and the current group is pro-union. As such, they’re likely to find the definition met and force Northwestern’s hand. In the meantime, the vote will be held and kept under seal (not counted) pending that appeal. Once and if affirmed, CAPA will be recognized starting the next stage of the litigation. This will involve Northwestern failing to bargain a CBA, being accused of an unfair labor practice, and taken back before the NLRB. Northwestern will eventually appeal to the Federal Appellate Court and re-litigate the issue of whether a union was properly recognized.

Time frame? 3-4 years minimum. Probably longer. For those expecting a swift change in anything are sorely mistaken. The issue of “employee” for these players is far from a forgone conclusion, and probably at least a decade before having long-term impact one way or the other. Expect the university to question the Regional Director on a variety of issues including the scholarship as compensation, the fractured status of the group given the disparate treatment for walk-ons, and the failure of the Regional Director to apply, and apply properly in the hypothetical, the decision of Brown University 342 NLRB 483 (2004)(dealing with graduate students). This type of shockwave decision takes a substantial amount of time to litigate, and we’re nowhere near the end of it. We’ve just passed a beginning hurdle.

What the Decision Doesn’t Mean:

While many have been more than willing to jump to the gun on the impact of this ruling, there are substantial questions which remain regardless of the outcome. Let’s explore them briefly….though I do mean briefly as we start to venture down the road of entirely hypothetical.

This is not a Universal Decision for Private Schools: Regardless of the outcome, as stated at the outset, these types of decisions are extremely fact specific. What cut against Northwestern could cut in the favor of other private institutions. While the decision creates a precedent future courts will rely upon, it is not dispositive of the final outcome. In fact, as the litigation progresses, it should be totally expected that other private institutions may modify their policies in order to create some new space to litigate. In deciding that Brown University didn’t apply, the Regional Director pointed to the court authorized factors such as academic credit for athletic performance and the status of college coaches as members of the academic faculty. While remote right now, what happens if a university reduced the number of credits required for graduation by athletes? What if the head coach was recognized as a member of the academic faculty? As suggested earlier, what if scholarships were structured in such a way as to permit a football player to remain at the university without paying if they decided to voluntarily leave the program?

Again, these possibilities may seem remote now, but as universities consider the brave new world of student-athlete-employees, it’s not entirely unreasonable that they may force these issues if/when the circumstance arises.

Private Schools versus Public Schools: Perhaps more importantly for the grand scope of college athletics, private institutions and public institutions will be very distinct cases. The vast majority of FBS football programs are public, not private. As such, they will command a different analysis and ruling.

Determining that grant-in-aid football players are “employees” for the NLRA in the context of a publicly funded school requires those individuals to be recognized as state employees. In such a situation, state law controls over federal law, and the analysis starts anew. Some states do not permit state employees to be members of a union. Given that publicly funded tax dollars are rolled up in the process, these institutions will fight even harder for their autonomy to decide on state tax dollars are spent. What it will create is a crazy, complicated, nearly incomprehensible  system where depending on what school an athlete chooses could dictate whether they get to be a part of a union or not.

As a corollary to what was mentioned earlier, this also means that the actual “value” of the scholarship could come into question for tax purposes. Private schools are typically more expensive than state schools. Thus, the “value” of the compensation could vary widely between different universities with an impact counterintuitive to what many would think. Practical athletes may decide to forgo a better educational opportunity in order to avoid the increase tax cost associated with the value of their contract. These issues are a long way from being fully fleshed out, but it is food for thought.

The NCAA is NOT a Party to the Process: Finally, and something that has somehow been ignored in the media, is that the NCAA is not privy to these agreements. The ruling handed down did not suggest that grant-in-aid players were in any way employees of the NCAA. It does not bestow upon them previously unforeseen rights to benefit from their image, sign autographs for money, get a piece of television contracts, or anything in that nature.

The decision deems the grant-in-aid athletes to be employees of the university in question. That’s it. Yes, it would (if affirmed) change the dynamic between player and university, but by itself does not radically change what a player should expect to receive. So long as the NCAA rules remain in effect regarding eligibility to play, the players would be subject to the same restrictions or risk foregoing eligibility. As stated earlier, an ineligible player would not be given access to CBA rights or benefits. Therefore, the decision that players were employees of a university would not, by itself, radically change the payment structure available to college athletes.

It’s reasonable to assume that the NCAA, as a voluntary organization of collegiate institutions, might change its regulations in response to pressure from organized labor, we’re even farther off from that than we are from a decision with respect to Northwestern. Again, other private institutions would have an opportunity to dispute whether under their facts, grant-in-aid athletes met the same criteria as Northwestern. Assuming we got there, the various differing public institutions and state laws would take DECADES……let me repeat that…..DECADES to figure out.

Where in that process the NCAA would decide to react is a hypothetical question of the highest order. I might as well ask what would happen if super smart dolphins elected to become land animals and invade India. The number of contingencies is staggering. In fact, it’s entirely plausible under this scenario that universities just stopped offering athletic scholarships altogether. They’d let the NBA and NFL absorb the monetary cost of taking chances on 17-18 year olds and merely deal with the athletes they could more easily control. Take this for what it is….a calculated business decision.

You might dislike what the NCAA and its member universities do, just don’t think they’re dumb enough to keep the status quo in the face of unionization of 18-22 year old transient entities. They’ll adjust, and we’ll all lose. I’ll let others take up the moral mount of what should be. I hope I’ve laid out a more complete picture of what is at the current moment.

– Moons

DISCLAIMER: Down the Tunnel in no way expresses this to be legal advice. Its author does not purport to be an attorney providing legal advice, and any and all opinions should be construed with this in mind. Any individual seeking a legal opinion should consult a licensed attorney in his or her state and not rely upon this article before proceeding. Down the Tunnel in no way endorses or certifies this piece as being a 100% accurate reflection of the law or its implications, and expressly denies any liability for a person acting upon this opinion article’s statements.

A Cuddly Bear Defense of Field Turf

There’s an axiom out there of “don’t poke the bear.”  It’s a good rule of thumb whether that bear is holding a Coca-Cola or a pic-i-nic basket.  Look, it’s already in possession of a commercialized good, and bears are nothing if they’re not commercial.  The Snuggles bear, Winnie the Pooh, Teddy Ruxpin, etc., they’re all vicious killers just begging for you to poke them.  DON’T DO IT.  The axiom says so.  Just leave it be because the results might just be…cuddly.

I know what you’re thinking:

“Moons, you’re an idiot.”

Fair.

I know what else you’re thinking:

“What the f— is he talking about? These are all cartoon bears.”

Also, fair.  Your second thought is more salient to my thoughts about the ongoing debate about Notre Dame daring to defy tradition by installing field turf. Ugh, field turf again.  I know, just like the axiom of “don’t poke the bear” it just won’t go away.  Despite our best efforts, there still rages a debate about what this means for Notre Dame’s program.

I guess it’s best to start with the “argument” against, which is best summarized as tradition.  Want to avoid discussing an issue…particularly one you don’t have a reasonable leg to stand on, invoke the word “tradition” and watch the opinion divide.  This line of reasoning increases in effect at a school like Notre Dame that is constantly chasing its own shadow. Sometimes the detractors mask their arguments in “injury potential” or “aesthetic appeal,” but I’m still waiting on the concrete evidence of either.

Tradition is not a bad thing. However, it should (and does) mean something more than “we’ve done it for a long time.”  Once we associate “tradition” with “we’ve done it for a long time,” we might as well give up on the notion of progress.  I don’t mean to be hyperbolic on this point as I think that degrades it.  However, when I see people espouse the point of we can’t change in the name of tradition, I can’t help but think we’re poking Winnie the Pooh.  Of course what I mean is we’re anti-honey.  Of course what I mean by that is there’s no merit to the notion of poking the bear.

The “traditionalist” sentiment is a fair one.  For many fans, “tradition” is something that binds them (like honey to Pooh) to the University of Notre Dame.  I tend to recoil a bit when I hear this, as what is traditional is a fleeting concept.  That’s a problem of a greater magnitude.  No need to poke the bear. For something like field turf, the equation should be much simpler:  1.  Does it make economic sense?  2.  What’s the impact on the on-field product?

Not to get Snuggles’ fur up in a bunch, but there’s probably a fairer argument against the jumbotron than there is against field turf.  The jumbotron quite directly invites additional commercialism into the stadium by giving an increased opportunity for ads to invade the mums.  I’ve been to my share of college football stadiums, and I’ll admit that this can be an annoyance.  For the record, I’m not opposed to a jumbotron.  Hypothetically alive in the 21st Century Knute Rockne would agree with me.  Even if you’re not willing to join our club on that issue, field turf poses no such issue.

The notion of having a reliably consistent, much more easily managed playing surface should be welcome. What about tradition begs that players be subjected to inadequate playing surfaces? What about tradition begs that Notre Dame not embrace highly improved 21st century technology? We’re not talking about the horrid Astroturf surfaces first introduced in the 70’s and 80’s. To paraphrase the great Allen Iverson:  “We’re talking ‘bout [field tuf].  We ain’t talkin’ about the game.  We’re talkin’ bout [field turf]. A competent argument will have to do more than point to what we’ve done prior to the technology existing.

Lest I be accused though of completely ignoring the “traditionalist” point of view, let me pop open Teddy Ruxpin’s tape deck (seriously, this is what proponents of natural grass are hanging their hat on?  A tape deck wielding bear in the age of iTunes?) and broach the topic of tradition.  When I think of ND, I think of many things:  The National Championships, the Heismans, a sense of community, a sense of academic rigor, and a sense of uncompromising standards.  The question is:  Why would we then compromise standards just to maintain the illusion that natural grass (from time to time) contributes something to the game?  What does natural grass over field turf add that leather helmets over modern helmets didn’t?  Technological advancement, and embracement thereof, is not the same thing as abandoning the ways of Notre Dame. I’ve seen no study to suggest that injury risk increases, that it’s more difficult to maintain, or that there’s any inherent advantage to natural grass over modern field turf.

I’ll admit that I’m posing a whole bunch of rhetorical questions, if you (proponent of natural grass) admits that you don’t have any grounded reason to deny progress.  That you’re just worried that if you poke the bear, you’ll find it to be just as benign and adorable as I do.  It’s okay if you don’t want to do it now.  You’ll probably have to in the near future anyways.  What’s funny is you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between now and then.

I write this because I care.  I care about what the word “tradition” should actually mean.  I love all the things that truly embody Notre Dame and refuse to degrade tradition by suggesting that something like natural grass versus field turf belongs in that definition.  I’m open to good, reasoned arguments, but please don’t tell me to avoid poking the bear on this one.  Tradition is Smokey the Bear armed with a semi-automatic when he sees a car recklessly flick a cigarette into a forest.  What you’re talking about amounts to Yogi choosing between a pizza and a foot long sub.

– Moons

Curling. Irish-Drinking Style

We’re just a year (or so) away from signing day 2015! For the Twitter Recruiting-elite, it’s time to roll up the sleeves, get your hands ready, and start stalking a brand new group of 17 year olds.  Just kidding (kind of) about that.  But seriously, with National Letter of Intent Day behind us, there is this unfortunate dead period for college football enthusiasts.  Fortunately, once every four years, the World bestows upon us a gift called the “Winter Olympic Games.”  Most of the sports are a foreign language to American sports fans.  Yes, they’re foreign languages with an (in)appropriate number of sexually suggestive catch-phrases but foreign none-the-less. 

Included among these sports is a shining beacon of fun that I, in all seriousness, get excited to watch:  Curling.  I know what you’re thinking, so let’s get it out of the way:  Yes, this is the sport where Dick’s Sporting Goods is replaced by the Home Depot as your go to source for equipment.  IT HAS BROOMS!

If you’re interested in learning about the sport’s rules/procedures, etc., what better source than Wikipedia for your authority!

However, if you’re reading this blog, there’s a strong probability you’ve discovered this article by following @mrmayhem75, @goirishglory, or (god forbid) @IrishMoonJ.  My incredibly unscientific research leads me to believe the following things about you then:

  1. You’re real life persona masks an incredibly funny, unapologetically inappropriate online sense of humor,
  2. You’re a degenerate drinker, and
  3. You have a healthy dislike of all things Lane Kiffin.

I’m not quite sure how #3 ties into the point of this post, but it’s true, and I like you more for it.  There is a disconnect however, in that numbers 1 and 2 don’t always lead to you wanting to learn a new sport.  At the same time, it does suggest you’re game for an excuse to drink, and I’m here to accommodate.  Should you run across some men or women appearing to sweep away the dreams of their opponent and want to know when it’s a good idea to take a sip (or gulp) ((or chug)) of your favorite beverage, Down the Tunnel is proud to publish the simple to follow “Curling Drinking Game.”

Step One:  Make sure your volume’s on.  Seriously, this game won’t work otherwise.  Not to mention, the intricate, subtle dialogue of a curling match is quite interesting, and you won’t be able to get mad at the commentators because you’ll only vaguely know whether what they’re saying is cliché or not. 

Step Two:  Take a sip of your drink each time the “skip” (pronounced:  “person yelling at everyone else”) yells: “HARD, HARD, HARD…..whoa, whoa.”  Mmmmhmmm…this is suggestive.  Also, take a small sip because this happens FAR more than you might think.  This is a drinking game, so be liberal in your interpretation, but these are the key words to be listening for.  Finally, thank (and follow) @IrishRyg on Twitter.  He’s the president of the Notre Dame Curling Club and also developed this rule.

Step Three:  Each time the stone (the funny looking disc they throw) comes to rest in the bullseye, finish your drink.  This is a command from Down the Tunnel’s commander and chief Mayhem. 

That’s it.  The rules are simple.  The results are devastating.  Curling matches are looooong, and given that the IOC was blackmailed into giving Russia the Olympics, the curling matches are on at crazy times of the day.  It’s fine by me if you drink and go to work, drink at work, or neglect Valentine’s Day to participate.  I probably don’t have your best interests at heart, and telling your boss/significant other/family that the Internet told you to drink just never goes as well as you might hope.  Take it from me.

Finally, curling lasts most of the Olympics, and if you’re not opposed to paying exorbitant shipping costs, ND has a shirt for you via @thereidy (another person you should be following).  Hey, it’s Adidas brand, so it’s bound to be a collector’s item in the very near future.

Over the weekend I’ll try to put together a full television schedule for the curling matches.  You can also stream the matches live, and we might even set up a U.S. match “live” (pronounced:  featured replay) tweet/drinking event depending on how things go. 

In the meantime, LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

 

– IrishMoonJ