Notre Dame has found its new head football coach.  Cincinnati head man Brian Kelly will be the Fighting Irish’s new leading man after accepting an offer just eight days after saying on a radio show in the Queen City that he planned to stay with the Bearcats for the foreseeable future. Apparently, eight days was all he could foresee.

Understandably, Kelly’s decision did not sit well with his now former charges.  Cincinnati is undefeated and scheduled to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.  Kelly had just led the Bearcats to their best season in the school’s history, and many players were not pleased that Kelly had led them this far just to leave them before the biggest game in the program’s history (Kelly began work at Notre Dame this afternoon.  UC offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn will be the head coach of the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl.) Kelly told his team about his decision at the team’s banquet last night, but by the time he told the players, the news had already broken nationwide.  The players were nonplussed, to say the least.

“He went for the money,” Bearcats wide receiver Mardy Gilyard told The Associated Press. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long.”

“We already knew what he was going to say. We weren’t giving him a round of applause or anything,” tight end Ben Guidugli said. “It’s like somebody turned their back on us. We brought this whole thing this far. We’ve come this far. To have someone walk out now is disappointing.”

But as disappointed as the players are, this decision was an easy one for Kelly.  Just think about this: Cincinnati just went undefeated and they are not playing for the national championship.  That would never happen to a Notre Dame team that managed to navigate the regular season without losing.  (more…)


Fans behaving badly is not a new trend, but two incidents involving supposed college football fanatics have brought national attention to this disturbing pattern.

Early Sunday morning, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen (pictured) was allegedly punched by a disgruntled fan after having dinner with family members and a female acquaintance at a bar/restaurant in South Bend after the Fighting Irish’s loss to Connecticut.  According to reports, the fan said something either to Clausen or to the female acquaintance, and then sucker punched the Irish quarterback as he left the establishment.  Clausen is said to have a swollen eye, but that will not keep him out of this week’s game against Stanford.

At about the same time, in Tucson, Arizona, a University of Oregon cheerleader was hit in the head by a water bottle thrown by a University of Arizona fan after the Oregon Ducks 44-41 overtime victory over the Arizona Wildcats.  The cheerleader, who has been identified as senior Katelynn Johnson, was carted off the field and taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a concussion.  She flew back to Eugene last night.

According to the Oregonian, the scene at the end of the game on Saturday night was scary.

“As the team was coming in, they were getting bombarded with water bottles, batteries, and various other items coming out of the stands,” Oregon senior associate athletic director Joe Giansante said. “We were yelling at everybody to keep their heads up, but one got through and hit Katelynn in the head. All the kids (on the cheerleading team) are scared, but hopefully she’ll be OK.”

This kind of behavior gives all sports fans a bad name.  (more…)

Back in September, Notre Dame and Michigan played one of the most entertaining games of the college football season.  Rich Rodriguez (top right) and Michigan defeated the Charlie Weis (top left) and the Fighting Irish 34-31 as freshman quarterback Tate Forcier threw a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to give th Wolverines the win at Michigan Stadium.  It would be the second of four straight wins to start the season for the Wolverines, while Notre Dame would win four of its first five games, with its only setback coming in that last second loss.  Both programs appeared to be on the cusp of returning to prominence.

But the two teams have combined for just three wins in their last 14 games combined.  Michigan finished its season on Saturday by losing to arch-rival Ohio State 21-10, a loss that cost the Wolverines any chance of going to a bowl game, while Notre Dame lost to Connecticut at home on Saturday, the Irish’s third straight loss and likely the final nail in the coffin of Weis’ coaching career in South Bend.

“How much does a man got to get humbled?” Rodriguez said after Saturday’s loss to No. 10 Ohio State. “Got humbled last year. Been humbled before and will be humbled again. In this profession, there’s enough humility to go around for everybody. I’m getting tired of being humbled.”

Grammatical errors and repetition issues aside (seriously, Rich, how about throwing in a “embarrassed” or “humiliated” into that rant instead of using the word “humbled” five times in 36 words?), Rodriguez has a point. With the loss, the Wolverines finished tied for last in the Big Ten with Indiana, the only conference opponent Michigan managed to defeat the season. Forcier, who memorably bragged that he never gets nervous after beating the Irish, looked awfully shaky as he appeared to be suffering from his first ever case of nerves on Saturday.  Forcier threw four interception and also fumbled in the end zone to hand the Buckeyes a touchdown early in the contest.

After the game, though, Michigan outgoing athletic director Bill Martin said without equivocation that Rodriguez would be back to lead the Wolverines next season, which is more than we can say for Weis.  The Irish’s overtime loss to Connecticut was the latest heartbreaker in a season of difficult losses for Notre Dame.  Early in the season, most prognosticators looked at the Irish’s schedule and concluded that this team could easily go 10-2 at least without breaking a sweat.  Now they sit at 6-5, with a road game against resurgent Stanford still left on the slate.  The six wins will be good enough to get Notre Dame a bowl bid, but will not be enough to save Weis’ job (honestly, he probably started packing his office and sending out resumes two weeks ago when the Irish lost to Navy.  The two subsequent losses just gave the powers-that-be in South Bend more cover when they terminate Weis probably ten minutes after the Stanford game.) (more…)

Notre Dame Washington Football

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis will have a very good resume if and when he hits the job market this winter after the Fighting Irish wrap up their third consecutive mediocre-to-bad season in a few weeks.  He was a member of the coaching staff on four Super Bowl winning teams (one as an offensive assistant with the New York Giants in 1990 and three as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots in 2001, 2003, and 2004). He also led the Fighting Irish, his alma mater, to major bowl games in his first two seasons in South Bend.

But time is running out on Charlie Weis.  It went down quickly after Weis’s second year, as the Irish struggled to a 3-9 record in 2007, the school’s worst in its illustrious football history. In 2008, Notre Dame started the season 4-1, only to lose five of their last seven games and finish the regular season at 6-6, the epitome of mediocrity.  This season, the Irish were returning a lot of talent and the talk around South Bend was that anything less than 10-2 and a trip to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game would be a major disappointment.  Well, disappointment now reigns in northern Indiana as the Irish have struggled to a 6-4 record thus far this season after Saturday night’s loss against Pittsburgh.  The Irish are already bowl eligible, and will be invited to a post season game no matter what they do.  And that’s a good thing because Notre Dame plays Connecticut and suddenly resurgent Stanford in its final two contests.

It is widely assumed that Weis will be fired either after the Stanford game or after the Irish play in a bowl game, which will bring to an end one of the oddest coaching careers in college football history.  Midway through his first season at the helm at Notre Dame, Weis was given a 10-year extension to his contract to remain the Notre Dame coach, something Weis’s predecessor, Tyrone Willingham, was never offered despite going 8-0 to start his first campaign in South Bend.  Weis bragged that his NFL pedigree would give the Irish a distinct tactical advantage every week when playing against college competition, but in the last three years, the Irish are just 16-19, have lost to Navy two of the last three seasons, and have never beaten USC in Weis’s tenure. We at A Casual Fan have a hard time rooting for anyone to lose a job.  These coaches have families and the speculation must be hard on Weis’s assistant coaches, whose jobs are also tied to Weis’s success.  But Charlie Weis, by accepting that extension and by boasting about his intellectual superiority in the realm of football, has made his own bed.  He’ll probably land on his feet, becoming the offensive coordinator for some NFL team next season.  But we’re willing to bet the house that he will not be back prowling the sidelines for his alma mater next season.


In all honesty, there are very few must-see events on the sporting calendar on Saturday. There is some college football action, but nothing to write home about.  So if you want to do anything with your sports fan we strongly suggest that you do so tomorrow.  The NFL returns on Sunday, and we all know that means.  Add in the fact that the Colts ad Patriots will be going at it on Sunday night, and we would urge you to make alternate plans for Sunday night. Here’s our guide to what’s on tap.

1. The Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots have played each other every year for the last seven years, and the two winningest teams on the decade will renew hostilities on Sunday night.  This rivalry features the two best quarterbacks in the league, bar none, in Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and New England’s Thomas Edward Brady Jr. The Colts enter this game unbeaten at 8-0, while the Patriot are 6-2, but have won their last three games.  This one should be very entertaining.  Don’t expect your average sports fan to be doing anything else on Sunday night.  It’s a good thing the Mad Men finale was last week.

2. If the Colts-Pats game is the main event on Sunday night, the NFL does have a few rather interesting games on the undercard in the afternoon.  The Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Pittsburgh to face the defending champion Steelers at 1 p.m. in a game that will determine the leader in the AFC North.  The Philadelphia Eagles, fresh off a terrible loss to the Dallas Cowboys, will travel to the west coast to face the suddenly resurgent San Diego Chargers.  And the Dallas Cowboys will square off against the reeling Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin.

3. When the best game on the college football schedule is a match-up between Texas Christian and Utah, you know that this is not a banner week on the collegiate gridiron.  But still, there are a few games this weekend that could get in the way of your best laid plans.  Tonight, Cincinnati will put its unbeaten record on the line when the Bearcats face West Virginia at 8 p.m.  This is the beginning of a brutal final stretch for Cincy as they play both the Mountaineers and number 12 Pitt in their final three games, with a home date against pesky Illinois sandwiched between those two league contests.  Speaking of Pitt, they wil go up against Notre Dame on Saturday night in a game that may very well determine the future of Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis. (more…)


Alright, brace yourself non-sports fans.  This weekend is going to be a brutal one.  Not only do we have both the National League and American League playoffs on tap, but there are also a couple of major college football games on Saturday, a quality slate of NFL action on Sunday, and, in particularly hoops-crazed region of the country, college basketball practice starting tonight at the stroke of midnight.  You will have had to have made your plans well in advance to pry your sports fan off the couch for the next few days.  And having made said plans months ago will not prevent the average sports fiend from complaining about missing this weekend’s action while at a wedding upstate. Here’s our guide to the high points.

1. Say it with me: “Sunday belongs to the NFL.” And the headlining game this weekend is the New York Giants traveling to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints.  Both teams are undefeated and feature high octane offenses.  Saints quarterback Drew Brees (pictured) has been having MVP-type season early on, but facing the tough Giants defense will be his stiffest challenge to date.  This game kicks off at 1 p.m., as does the other highly-anticipated contest of the week,  Baltimore (3-2) at Minnesota (5-0).

2. Mercifully, college football’s two best contest will be played in the afternoon, instead of in prime-time on Saturday night (the trend of scheduling big college football games at night has wreaked havoc on more than a few weekend dinner parties thus far this season.) At high noon, Oklahoma will face Texas in the annual Red River Shootout (played every year in at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas).  Texas is one of the top teams in country, but will need to beat Oklahoma in order to stay in the national championship discussion.  Also trying to stay in the national championship picture is USC, who will travel to South Bend, Ind., to face Notre Dame tomorrow at 3:30.  (more…)


Let the Notre Dame hype machine begin.

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen has had a fine season and the Fighting Irish have made a habit of playing dramatic games against some lower-middle class opponents this season.  This week’s game against the Washington Huskies was no exception.  Clausen and the Irish defeated the Huskies 37-30 in overtime at home this weekend in a game in which Washington outplayed Notre Dame for most of the contest (Clausen and the Irish pulled it out after the Huskies twice failed to score from Notre Dame’s one-yard line in the second half.)  Clausen threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns against Washington, fine numbers indeed, but let’s keep in mind that this is a Huskies team that went 0-12 last season.   And yes, we know the Huskies beat USC two weeks ago in Seattle, but they also lost to Stanford last week.  And the true star of the game was Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate, who tallied an astonishing 244 receiving yards on Saturday. The Irish have beaten Nevada, Michigan State, and Purdue this season in addition to the Huskies, not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents, and went down to the wire against both MSU and the Boilermakers (Nevada was a blow out, but then again, they are Nevada.)