Friday, February 09, 2007

Is Notre Dame Saying Benn and Tez Can Be Bought?

Ron Zook did the rounds with the Chicago media yesterday. Meanwhile, Charlie Weis was unreachable. Could it be because just about every sports commentator out there, save Jim Rome, said the NY Times story that slammed Illinois on signing day wasn't worth the paper is was printed on and therefore they knew the source? I think one prominent TV personality even went as far as to say that he wouldn't use the story to wrap dead fish in. Classic.

MAJOR SIDENOTE: Consensus in the papers today seems to be that Notre Dame is the source of the mud being thrown at Zook. If that is the case, Notre Dame is actually hurting Benn and Tez even more than Zook.

First of all, the Domers look like sore losers.

Second, and most importantly, they are basically saying Benn and Tez can be bought. Way to try and destroy the character of a couple of young teenagers.

And finally, if all of this is true, Notre Dame lost a bidding war to Illinois? Wow. How pathetic.

But all that seems to be Notre Dame values today.

Below is a summary of some of the great stories out there today with key excerpts from each:

Orlando Sentinel:

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, the man who hired and fired Zook at UF, has seen this sort of thing before when Gators basketball coach and recruiting dynamo Billy Donovan first began luring top-caliber recruits to downtrodden UF.

"Ron and I may have had our differences, but not for one second do I think he cheats," Foley said. "These are the same sort of knee-jerk accusations they made about Billy at first. They didn't take into consideration that maybe Billy was a great recruiter for a great university in a great league with great facilities and great weather. They just said he must be cheating."

Foley was speaking of established coaches such as Roy Williams (then at Kansas) who began to complain about cheating only after being out-recruited by the young, hard-charging Donovan. According to those close to the Illinois program, it is Notre Dame officials who are leaking negative information about Zook.

This is typical Golden Dome arrogance. How could high-and-mighty Notre Dame lose a recruit to those lowly bumpkins in Illinois?

As somebody who once went on a recruiting trip with Zook, I can tell you how: Because the guy works harder and cares more. I still remember that 13-day span during the May recruiting period before his first UF season when Zook jumped in a car and visited 71 high schools in the state (an average of almost six per day) and gave speeches to 12 Gator Clubs. I'm just guessing Charlie Weis isn't driving alone at midnight through the back roads of Indiana, gulping down convenience-store coffee to try to stay awake.

That's what Ron Zook once did at Florida, and it's what he's doing now at Illinois.

Chicago Sun-Times:

Wilson's father, Michael Whitehead, told the Sun-Times he was shocked when a Notre Dame assistant coach got into a shouting match with a Simeon assistant at their home. The discussion centered on what Illinois football would accomplish during Wilson's time there.

'It was like we weren't even in the room,'' said Whitehead, who was taken aback by the argument.

Chicago Tribune:

Zook saw where Irish coach Charlie Weis said the word "commitment" needs to be redefined in recruiting.

It is believed Hughes gave Illinois a "silent" commitment before settling on Notre Dame.

Zook wouldn't confirm that but did say of Weis, "One of those kids that committed to him committed to me before he committed to him. Do I cry about that?"

Through a university spokesman, Weis could not be reached for comment.

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