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Hitting The Links: April 1, 2015

There’s been a lot going on the last few weeks around campus and the college sports landscape at large. Get caught up with the April 1st edition of Hitting the Links.

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Irish in the NCAA Tournament

CBS Sports is reporting that Kentucky is forfeiting its place in the Final Four to focus on the team's groundbreaking nano-technology research. Fans are obviously shocked, but those close to the program were surprised it's taken this long.

"These guys are much more than just basketball players," Coach Calipari said."They've been spending more and more time in the lab recently, frequently missing practice, and have been very close to a breakthrough. After a set of tests finished up over the Regional Finals weekend, the players felt there was no way they could be away from campus at such an important time of the project."

While it was assumed that Willie Caulie-Stein and the Harrison twins returned to UK to improve their draft stock, they revealed that it was actually their work in the lab that brought them back to Lexington. "The work we've been doing with nano-technology will have a huge impact on the future of this planet. There are wide-ranging applications in the aerospace, medicine, automotive, and transportation industries. I couldn't abandon this work for something as trivial as the NBA," Caulie-Stein said. "Besides, I was projected to go to the Knicks which was completely out of the question."

While the Irish would be next in line to replace the Wildcats, it is unclear whether they will take their place at the Final Four in Indy. Members of the Notre Dame discussed the potential outcomes of the project with the UK players after the game in Cleveland. After the meeting, many of the Irish players , who are also Mendoza College of Business students, have already begun working on business plans for the Kentucky project. "We feel that we're uniquely positioned to help bring the work of the UK team to market with our entrepreneurial spirit that is rooted in the strong ethical foundation instilled in us by our Notre Dame educations," sophomore Demetrius Jackson stated. While neither team may end up playing in the Final Four, the meeting last Saturday seems to already be paying off for both schools in the form of  a mutually beneficial research agreement.

Spring Practice

In a surprise move that is surely to be the biggest news of spring practice, Irish head coach Brian Kelly has announced that he's relinquishing play calling duties. Instead of handing over the reins to new OC Mike Sanford, Kelly's visor, known as "Vicke" by those in the program, will be calling plays in the fall. Kelly mentioned that his visor has great experience having been with him every day of his coaching career, and that no one knows how to run the Kelly offense like the 12 oz piece of cotton that surrounds his head 24 hours a day. Quarterback Everett Golson was surprised by the move, but expects it to have a positive impact on the program. "While there's always an adjustment period with a new coach, all of us are familiar with Vicke. The visor has always had coach's ear since I've known him."

Mark Relibas - USA TODAY Sports

That wasn't the only shakeup to come from spring practice. Scout team players everywhere work hard in practice in order to push the starters to be all they can, and at ND that's no exception. Earlier this week, Coach Kelly made a major shakeup by replacing the scout team's entire defensive unit. On the advice of QB guru George Whitfield, the scout team defense will now be made up entirely of the Notre Dame's club quidditch team. Whitfield frequently has defenders wave brooms in drills teaching QBs to be mobile in the pocket, and Coach Kelly felt the team would best be served by replicating this every day in practice. Kelly stressed that those previously on the scout team would remain with the team, but serve in a different capacity.

Kelly addressed the critics with this: "George is the best in the business at what he does, and spent ample time with Everett during his year away from the program. He said that Everett looked ‘as good as any college QB he's ever worked with' during their time together. I felt it was of utmost importance to recreate that environment for Everett's and the entire offense's benefit. Futhermore, who knows their way around brooms better than the Quidditch student-athletes that use them as part of their chosen sport?"

The Quidditch team has had a bit of difficulty adjusting to the "muggle" sport, but DC Brian van Gorder is happy with their progress. The shake ups to spring practice aren't expected to end there, however, as large construction equipment was seen at the Loftus Center the past few days. While it is unconfirmed, Kelly is believed to be installing an artificial beach and wave pool for Golson to practice throws while being battered by surf.


On the recruiting front, the university has received a verbal commitment from Mitch Halstott, a consensus 5-Star fullback in the class of 2016. The signing heralded acclaim across the ND blogosphere and on Irish message boards. Kelly has also hinted that Halstott’s signing will lead to drastic changes to the Irish offense. "While I've always run an offense with spread principles, it’s been mostly due to personnel. With Mitch and his blue-collar attitude coming aboard, I think you’ll see a drastic shift in how we move the ball on offense," Kelly said at a press conference.

In addition to the commitment of Halstott, Kelly said the philosophy change was also influenced by posts from "IrIsHfAn4EvEr_47" on a popular Notre Dame message board. "IrIsHfAn4EvEr_47’s ideas regarding the offensive side of the ball were really influential in shaping my new philosophy," Kelly said. "His post about ‘how back in Ara’s day we always had 3 RBs on the field’ really changed my worldview." Despite stating in a different post that the continued absence of a jumbotron and fewer night games are the most important aspects of the Notre Dame Football program, and that he "doesn’t really watch much college football", Kelly is 100% committed to implementing IrIsHfAn4EvEr_47’s ideas. The Irish head coach also complimented the poster’s generally solid spelling and grammar. Recent Fighting Irish Digital Media spring practice footage seems to hint at the change in philosophy. The latest practice video showed extensive work in the I-formation, numerous fullback dives, and absolutely no passing.

Other Football News:

Although it was originally lost in the shuffle of position changes at the start of camp, Irish Illustrated is reporting that junior Jaylon Smith has been moved from his original position of linebacker to placekicker in order to maximize his impact on the game. While he'll get fewer snaps at the kicker position, the staff feels he'll be able to make more game changing plays in his new role. "Kickers frequently lead their team in points, and can have a huge impact on a game. Jaylon is a special player and we want him to be in position to cause the biggest affect on the game as possible," said DC Brian van Gorder. While there's been limited opportunity for Smith to kick this spring due to time indoors, PunterBro will have an extensive post about Jaylon's kicking ability as soon as tape becomes available.

In a move certain to change gameday atmosphere on campus for years to come, AD Jack Swarbrick announced to that the athletic department is planning to hold all future home games at the LaBar Practice Complex. Swarbrick cited the invite only guest policy and the lack of distractions associated with the warehouse-like atmosphere of the complex as part of his reasoning for the decision. "By limiting the audience to only a few hundred guests, demand for ND football tickets will skyrocket," the Irish AD stated. Coach Kelly was supportive of the move saying that since the team practices at LaBar free of crowds and noise, the team would be more comfortable playing under similar conditions. There is no word yet on how the change will affect the ongoing Campus Crossroads project, but President Jenkins indicated that the stadium could be used to house the school's Ultimate Frisbee teams without significant changes or delays to the project.

Women's Basketball

Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA is considering drastically altering the format of the Women's NCAA Tournament next season. In response to ND's fifth straight Final Four appearance, as well as UConn's recent run of titles, the 64 team format could be on its way out. NCAA President Mark Emmert plans to change the tournament from a 64 team single elimination tournament to a best-of-65 series between the Irish and Huskies.

Emmert: "It's a waste of time to make Muffet play the first four games of the tournament since we know her team will make it to the Final Four anyway. UConn is a similar story. While I wanted to just have them play a seven game series, our corporate and TV partners were worried the drastic drop in the number of games during the tournament would impact their bottom line. As such, we felt the best-of-65 setup worked best in insuring the best matchups between the best teams for fans while presenting an attractive package to the networks and potential sponsors."

Irish Coach Muffet McGraw was surprised by the change, but is thrilled at the chance to coach her team to future ACC and National Championships. UConn coach Geno Auriemma was less happy with new format. When question by reporters, he began a long winded rant that explained his unhappiness with the American Athletic Conference, Daylight Savings Time, the Dewey Decimal System, and his "haters." After his statement left the assembled media baffled, he retreated back to his underground lair beneath Storrs.

National Links

North of South Bend, Harbaugh fever is sweeping Ann Arbor and the rest of the state of Michigan. The new coach was hired from the San Francisco 49ers where he was largely successful NFL coach. Since his hiring, Michigan residents have been swept up into a frenzy "previously unknown to mankind." The excitement surrounding Harbaugh has spread all the way to state capitol where the state legislature is expected to pass legislation making "Harbaugh" the state everything of Michigan. This ranges from Harbaugh replacing the American robin as the state bird, the apple blossom as the state flower, and white pine as the state tree. The Harbaugh State (previously Great Lake State) will also rewrite the lyrics of the state song "My Michigan" to "My Harbaugh." The actions of the legislature infuriated Michigan State coach Mark D’antonio who angrily announced his plans to beat the Wolverines for the seventh time in eight years come fall.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, an SEC program has introduced a new method of roster management that's sure to infuriate fans of programs outside the conference. While many schools have used grey shirting to oversign players, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze announced that he plans to "Amazing Technicolor Dreamshirt" a few members of his incoming class to get down to the NCAA's 85 scholarship limit. The practice, based on the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis, involves the Dreamshirted player being exiled to Egypt for at least seven years before reuniting with the program.

While the player is in Egypt, he is expected to keep in shape by performing workouts sent from the program's strength coach. Instead of sending the workouts via email or fax, Ole Miss will use a groundbreaking new dream-based messaging system. Freeze defended the practice to reporters saying, "We're a family here at Ole Miss, and my faith has played a huge role in my life. If we can't use the Bible's example to decide to betray one of our family members and send him to Egypt for a number of years, the NCAA is clearly overstepping its bounds." Nick Saban has already been seen pricing flights to Cairo, while Les Miles was overheard talking on the phone with someone he referred to as "my main mummy Tut" after his team's practice yesterday. The NCAA has yet to comment on the new practice, but is expected to put Southern Miss on probation in response.