Preps Talk

The new Notre Dame: Is Knute Rockne 'rolling over in his grave?'

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The new Notre Dame: Is Knute Rockne 'rolling over in his grave?'

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Whenever he's asked about Notre Dame's No. 9 ranking or other various national accolades, coach Brian Kelly repeats his mantra: Tune out the noise.

Heading into their matchup against Miami this weekend, though, the noise level has been turned up -- partly because of the opponent, but also thanks to the uniforms Notre Dame will be wearing.

"Knute Rockne is rolling over in his grave and all that type of stuff," Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix said of the talk he's caught regarding the uniforms. "I like them, personally, and I don't too much care about people's opinions because I have to play in them. I enjoy them, I think it's a good change-up. It's like once a year, so it's not really a big deal to me. I think they're real nice, so I can't wait to play in them."

The biggest gripe with the uniforms generally centers around the helmet, about three-fourths of which is gold and a fourth of which is navy blue, with the school's Leprechaun logo gracing the latter side. It's a helmet that would've pushed the limits at Oregon, so having the Irish wear them for a Saturday was bound to rile up the fan base.

In a larger sense, though, that Notre Dame will don such a drastic departure from their traditional look may not necessarily fit with athletic director Jack Swarbrick's goal of making Notre Dame the "Augusta" of college football. Even with unique uniforms -- the helmet design is truly unprecedented -- Notre Dame's acting just like everyone else. And that's a notion that was off-putting to former Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija.

That seems to be the thing these days for recruiting, huh? See how much confetti and hoopla you can put out there to get guys to come to your school," Samardzija said when he heard about the uniforms in August. "But youd think playing on TV every Saturday would be enough."

Notre Dame's Shamrock Series games aren't just about pushing the limits of tradition with different uniforms. Playing the contests at Yankee Stadium, FedEx Field, Soldier Field and next year at Cowboys Stadium could very well be test runs for modernization at Notre Dame Stadium, specifically regarding a video board.

"That's what we're trying to do -- can Notre Dame Stadium still be the Augusta of college football," Swarbrick explained in August, "and provide an environment that allows you to communicate about the school more effectively. That's my frustration. I sort of enjoy it from a football perspective when there's a close call and I watch the opposing coach get whiplash trying to find the video board trying to decide whether or not to call for a review.

"But it frustrated the heck out of me when we honor a professor in between the first and second period by bringing him out to the 30-yard-line, making an announcement about him or her and handing them a football and nobody in the stadium knows what's going on. We ought to be calling great attention and focus to that person. And that's hard to do in our current environment."

Adding a Jumbotron wouldn't just be to highlight faculty members, of course. That's a debate that won't go away, just as the debate over whether Notre Dame Stadium should switch to an artificial surface won't die, either.

Make no mistake, Notre Dame is becoming more modern. They've become hitched with a conference -- not in a true sense, of course, but five games against ACC opponents is a big step -- and have gone in a bold direction with its Shamrock Series uniforms, even if it's only for one game each year. While these changes may rile some outside the team, most everyone who will put on the uniform on Saturday is either excited or generally apathetic toward the digs.

"The uniforms, really, I don't really care what I put on," cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "It's just something I guess that attracts whoever. It doesn't really bother me too much.

"You get to try something different, whatever they want to call it, swag or whatever, but yeah. I like mixing up stuff, throwing in some new stuff here and there."

But whether that's a good or a bad thing may be for everyone else to decide.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.