Notre Dame football: Kelly's not in tune with APU ripples
SOUTH BEND - The debate about whether to pay college athletes, that has percolated for decades, got a bit louder and contentious this week.
The rumblings caught Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly off-guard, and he admitted Thursday he hasn’t yet had any dialogue with his own players about it.
“Maybe I’ve been negligent in it, but I’ve really been focused on my normal tasks on a day-to-day basis with our players,” Kelly said after Thursday’s practice with an eye toward Saturday’s showdown at Notre Dame Stadium between the 22nd-ranked Irish (3-1) and No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0).
“Maybe in the bye week – and I mean this sincerely – I’ll educate myself a little bit more on it.”
In one corner, you have the “All Players United” ripples, mostly symbolic at this point, too small and scattered to qualify as a movement. But the potential is there to make big waves.
Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee and half of Northwestern’s QB tag team, Kain Colter, are the highest-profile players among those who wore the letters “APU” on wristbands or other gear during their games last weekend.
The end game purportedly isn’t just about stipends or salaries for college football players, but awareness and discussion on other issues, including concussions.
At the other end of the spectrum – at least where it pertains to financial compensation -- you have Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who, while not directly addressing APU on Wednesday, took a hard line on the pay-for-play issue.
“I can't tell you the NBA and NFL are going to start minor leagues,” CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd quoted Delany as saying. “I think they should. I think it takes more pressure off us. It lets us be who we are … Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?”
Notre Dame players have talked about the compensation issues in the past with the media, though none have been particularly outspoken about it.
Will APU grow legs and change all of that, or fade?
“I usually take my feed from the American Football Coaches Association and (executive director) Grant Teaff, who generally makes us coaches aware of issues, such that we saw this past weekend,” Kelly said. “And I was not aware of (APU), so it hit me as kind of a surprise.”
Day to play
Kelly said Irish starting defensive end Sheldon Day was able to practice all week and would be available for Saturday’s matchup with Oklahoma.
The sophomore from Indianapolis missed ND’s 17-13 victory over Michigan State last Saturday with a sprained ankle he sustained in the Purdue game on Sept. 14.
Senior nose guard Kona Schwenke slid over to take the majority of Day’s snaps at end, though sophomore Jarron Jones saw significant playing time as well.
Schwenke recorded his first three tackles of the season Saturday against the Spartans, and Jones the first two of his career.
“I see that happening again more this weekend as well,” Kelly said of the backups getting more reps. “We’re going to continue to see that kind of rotation.”
The scariest part of the new UPS Team Performance Index, which is not part of the BCS formula, is that the NCAA refers it as its “Official Logistics Partner.”
Now, many a computer rating are a bit skewed early in the season, when all the teams have not “connected,” but this may be well beyond skewed.
Notre Dame, incidentally, is No. 30, tucked between No. 29 Rutgers and UCLA. Alabama, the No. 1 team in the polls, is No. 13 in the UPS Index, one spot behind future Irish opponent – Navy.
Oregon is No. 1, which you could make a case for, with Florida State, Miami (Fla.), LSU and Arizona rounding out the top five.
There’s more — Houston is 16, Clemson 19, Minnesota 20, Oklahoma 21, Georgia 39, South Carolina 44 and Arizona State 50.
Former Irish coach Charlie Weis’ Kansas team is No. 64, one spot behind Michigan State and four ahead of Texas.. In fact Texas-San Antonio rates two spots ahead of Texas.
The complete list from 1 to 125 can be found at hosted.stats.com/cfb/tpi.asp.
•Kelly attributes the ND defense’s best statistical performance of the season last Saturday against Michigan State to his coaching staff, during private meetings with players, demanding players tackle better and be more productive.
“We don’t embarrass our players,” Kelly said. “We talk to them one-on-one and tell them, ‘Here are the expectations that we have for you,’ and I think all of our players know what’s expected of them.
“I remember last year a conversation we had with (All-America linebacker) Manti (Te’o), where we felt like he was not giving us the kind of production. He was thankful and he appreciated this kind of candid discussion about (his) play. He took it to heart and came back and was a better player. So we’ll continue to do that.”
•Former Irish head coach Terry Brennan and members of the 1957 Irish football team that halted Oklahoma’s NCAA-record 47-game winning streak will be honored on campus at the football luncheon on Friday, the pep rally on Friday night and the game itself on Saturday.