Notebook > Sports

Tarnished dome

Sports | Some think the Fighting Irish might be headed for an abyss

Issue: "Education: Sick schools," Sept. 18, 2004

About six months ago during his senior year at Indianapolis's Bishop Chatard High School, Ryan Baker dropped his oral commitment to Notre Dame and instead signed with Purdue. It was the latest in a string of defeats for Notre Dame football dating back to the mid-1990s.

From big losses (defeated four times by Boston College in five years) to recruiting losses (in Mr. Baker's case, the Fighting Irish couldn't even win over a top-notch player from an area Catholic school), even her loyal sons must admit Notre Dame isn't winning much for the Gipper anymore.

One former Notre Dame athletic director said the team's three losing seasons in their last five is just part of the ups-and-downs of college football. And third-year Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham insists the turnaround is just around the corner.

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But some think the Fighting Irish might be headed for an abyss. In January, 412 alumni signed a letter sent to the school's board of trustees demanding a change in athletic policy.

The alumni didn't mention it, but Notre Dame could use an elite quarterback. Who has been Notre Dame's best quarterback in the past 10 years? After a few decades with Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Steve Beuerlein, Rick Mirer, and Terry Hanratty, the best the Fighting Irish can do is Ron Powlus?

Frances folly

How worried was Yankees management about the advancing Boston Red Sox? Nervous enough to demand a forfeit from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, whose players stayed in Florida to weather Hurricane Frances with their families rather than embarking on a road trip to New York.

When the Devil Rays didn't show up for the first half of the Labor Day double-header, Yankees president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman held a news conference asking major-league commissioner Bud Selig to award the pinstripers a forfeit victory.

The Yankees demand sounded silly compared to the Devil Rays' concern. "We decided, and we made the right decision, we'll stick by that decision, to stay with our families. We wanted to stay in the Tampa Bay area, wait out the storm with our families," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. The commissioner's office quickly said the Yankees request would be denied.

Can the Yankees be blamed for watching the standings more than weather reports? George Steinbrenner can't be happy after seeing the Boston team cut his team's pennant lead to under three games by Labor Day. New York's fate could be decided during their two remaining series with Boston, starting on Sept. 17 with a three-game series at home.

Around the Horn

  • There is a place on an NFL roster for a 44-year-old-but only if he's a kicker named Andersen or Anderson. It didn't take NFL old man Morten Andersen long to find a job after being cut by Kansas City. Minnesota picked up the veteran, who needed only to wait a few days for a job offer. Last year, kicker Gary Anderson was the league's oldest player at 44. This year, Morten takes the honor.
  • Baseball players and Olympic stars aren't the only people implicated in the growing steroid scandals. They aren't even the only species. Daniel P. Sheddan, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to doping a horse before a race at the state's Freehold Raceway. Police detectives discovered the man injecting the horse with, among other things, testosterone.
  • In calculations that rival only college football's Bowl Championship Series for complexity, Fiji native Vijay Singh finally took over Tiger Woods's spot as the No. 1 golfer after a victory at the PGA Deutsche Bank Championship. Mr. Woods held the spot for five years and one month. "If I'm playing my best, I can beat anybody. I have never been one who is intimidated by Tiger," Mr. Singh said.

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