Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bronx Bound | by Pat

Notre Dame will be returning to the Bronx and subway alumni will once again be able to live up to their moniker. After rumor and speculation earlier in the year, a 2010 game against Army in the new New York Yankees Stadium was made official on Monday at a press conference in New York. The game is set for November 20th, 2010, ND's second to last game of the season. (Hopefully the ground crew won't leave dugout-shaped holes in the endzone.)

ND has played Army 22 of the 24 times it played in the old Yankees Stadium. Notable matchups included the famous "Win One for the Gipper" game in 1928, as well as the 0-0 tie in 1946 which featured three eventual Heisman Tropy winners. The series may not be so competitive lately, but for fans of tradition, the choice of opponent given this famous venue is an easy one.

"Any student of Notre Dame football history knows the meaning of the Notre Dame-Army rivalry and, in particular, the history of that rivalry at Yankee Stadium," said Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. "It's fitting that a Notre Dame-Army game will be the first football event in this fabulous facility -- and it's also fitting that the 50th meeting in this great rivalry will take place in a venue with such great tradition for both programs."
The announcement was a whole-day affair, with Army coach Rich Ellerson and Charlie, Jr. throwing out the first pitch at that afternoon's home game. As the picture in the upper right shows, Ellerson and Weis got commemorative Yankees jerseys, a gesture that echoes Babe Ruth putting on an ND jersey some 82 years ago. In addition, more games in Yankee Stadium for future seasons were announced. Assuming the first handful go off well, it wouldn't be a surprise to see ND return to New York in the future for more games at the new Yankees Stadium.

While on the topic of 2010 games, more rumors started to swirl about the last two open slots on the 2010 schedule. With not much time left and many teams already done filling out their dance cards, the latest internet scuttlebutt has ND lining up games against Texas Christian and Tulsa.

So far, the only official comments have been about the Tulsa game, which seems like it's basically a done deal at this point.
As reported Monday on , TU is close to finalizing a deal with Notre Dame for an Oct. 30 game at South Bend, Ind.

"The two universities are in discussions to play football in the 2010 season," said Don Tomkalski, TU associate athletic director for communications. "No contract has been signed."
Assuming that the Golden Hurricane takes the pre-Halloween spot, that leaves October 16th and November 6th still open for the Irish. TCU might take one of those spots, preferably for ND the latter (colder and gives ND the bye week in the middle of the season).

Up front, I'll say that nothing is wrong with ND playing TCU or Tulsa. Both teams were in the Top 25 at some point last season, with TCU finishing the year in the Top 10.
TCU had the #1 defense in the country last year and Tulsa has had the #1 offense in the country the last two seasons. They certainly aren't as bad as a handful of BCS conference teams. As a bit of trivia, Tulsa is the hometown of some familiar-sounding ND donor families like LaFortune, Warren, and Seigfried. And TCU is a private, religious institution, similar to BYU and Baylor. I have no problem with ND playing games against such universities now and again.

But when looked at in context with the rest of ND's 2010 schedule, the combination of these games leave much to be desired from ND schedule-wise. Look at the second half of the season, leading up to the November 27th season finale at Southern Cal.
Oct. 23rd - Navy (in Meadowlands)
Oct. 30th - Tulsa
Nov. 6th - TCU (tba)
Nov. 13th - Utah
Nov. 20th - Army (in Yankee Stadium)
That's five straight games against non-BCS conference teams. True, TCU and Utah finished the 2008 season in the Top 10 and could very well be highly ranked when they travel to South Bend. But let's look at the bigger picture.

The 2010 home game slate would feature Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Tulsa, Utah, and possibily TCU. For Notre Dame fans, that's not too appetizing. To be clear, this isn't so much of looking down our nose at a Tulsa or TCU as much as wondering where all big name (home) games are. Like nearly every single ND fan, I don't want 12 straight games against the elites of the gridiron, but if you threw in a Texas or Wisconsin or Georgia alongside the Tulsas and TCUs then the whole picture changes. There are still the rumors that ND is trying to line up more name opponents, but until one is officially scheduled, it's fair to question if and when it will happen as long as ND continues to try and make the 7-4-1 schedule model work.