Notre Dame Football Returns to Yankee Stadium

BRONX, NY – Notre Dame Football coach Charlie Weis has been a fan of the New York Yankees and always recalls sitting at the old Yankee Stadium and watching a game. The pillars would always be in front of his face. And when the football Giants played there, Weis as a kid sat in the left center field bleachers.

So there he was, Weis, with Yankees General Partner Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees President Randy Levine and Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost, at the new stadium Monday afternoon, in the new conference room downstairs by the new Yankees clubhouse.  So was Army head football coach Rich Ellerson there, to announce what was inevitable.

College football returns to Yankee Stadium. It isn’t Fordham University football, a school with football tradition only 20 minutes from the new $1.5 billion dollar ballpark. The Army-Notre Dame rivalry, a historic game with tradition is back in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium.

And the game that used to pack them in at the old stadium will try and be just as good as it used to be in the Bronx.  “Good to see the game back at the stadium,” said longtime Yankees fan and Steinbrenner family friend Bill Stiners who was in the conference room and smiled when Weis reminisced a bit about the old days of Army-Notre Dame football games in the Bronx at the stadium.

This was a plan that has been in the works. Besides the Yankees, college football rivalries returning to the new stadium, possibly even some elite pro boxing bouts at the new ballpark. The NHL may have a plan to put a rink on the new field, as Trost said, discussions were going on with the NHL about Yankee Stadium hosting an NHL game in the future.

Trost has been in discussion with some of the elite boxing people. Bob Arum, his friend at Top Rank has some of the names that could pack them in at the new Yankee Stadium. On the same day, Arum announced that Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto will have the elite fight of the year in November, but not at Yankee Stadium, in Las Vegas.

“It’s something that could be happening here one day,” said Trost with a smile. Of course it will, because the old stadium that awaits the wrecking ball across the street at one time hosted 33 championship fights, the last one when Muhammad Ali got a decision over Ken Norton on September 28, 1976.

But this day was all about Notre Dame and Army, playing another football game in the Bronx.  The rivalry resumes for the 50th time on November 20 2010 and later this week

-an announcement will be made as to more additional dates for Army in 2011, 2012 and 2014, one game against Rutgers.

Hal, who is now in control of the Yankees recalled the day his father George heard about the idea of their new ballpark hosting another Army-Notre Dame game. “He reminded me how great and rich this rivalry is,” said Hal who has the responsibility of getting this current Yankees team another championship.

Weis is also trying to get his Notre Dame program another college football championship. He may or may not be around to see it if his Fighting Irish, struggling the past few years, fail to revive some history n September as there are always rumors about his job security.

“I expect the locker room to be buzzing tomorrow,’ he said, as Weis was going to meet with his players Tuesday and tell them about their upcoming visit to the Bronx. And it was Weis who approached George Steinbrenner about the idea of Notre Dame playing Army at the new stadium.

Two years ago he met with Steinbrenner at Legends Field down In Tampa Florida at the Yankees spring training complex. “I looked at him and said, ‘Mr. Steinbrenner, you’ve got this new stadium going up. I mean you’re not going to have Notre Dame and Army scheduled for your first football game?’”

Weis said Steinbrenner laughed. But, we all know, when George laughed at a thought it meant something would happen. He always managed to laugh at the idea of getting the players he wanted that brought championships across the street in the old ballpark   The “Win one for the Gipper” term that came from the Knute Rockne halftime speech when the Irish defeated unbeaten Army 12-6 in 1928 was brought up by Hal.

His father played football at William and was an assistant at Northwestern and Purdue. They still have to work on the field dimensions for football in the new ballpark.  They will from the plan of goal posts at first base to the outfield area.  NBC Sports plans to televise this game, and the others, as they have contract obligations with Notre Dame.

This game in 2010 could be “Win one for George,” Said Weis afterwards, “It should be, it was his doing,” he said about George.

MORE YANKEES:  Yankee manager Joe GIrardi and Weis exchanged greetings. Earlier he met with his GM Brian Cashman for the usual update. There are no problems in Yankee land right now. The team is currently tied with Boston for the top spot in the AL East with Boston, though with a Steinbrenner around the ballpark there is always the question of job security,

“We have a championship caliber team,” said Hal who now does the talking for his father. “We have to see come the second week of August,” he said about the Yankees not winning a game against their rivals, 0-8, this season and the Yanks hosting Boston in the Bronx August 6-9.

And as Hal said, something that Girardi has been saying, “I think everybody is contributing….It’s all working,” he said.  The Yankees are playing under .500 against division rival teams, including Tampa Bay with a 15-17 mark. Last year at this time

They were struggling, nine games behind the Sox.

But that issue of job security around the Yankees and their manager is constant. The feeling is Girardi has to take this team to the playoffs and World Series to be successful. If not, his job is in jeopardy no matter where they stand now. “Joe knows where who he is working for,” said Hal who overall is content as to what is going on so far.

Beating the Red Sox and the Angels remains as to the only issue, as to how good are the Yankees. The past week, since the all-star break the Yankees have been getting their one or two home runs, and the pitching has been exceptional with a bullpen also that shuts the door in one run games.

Hal alluded to the Yankees taking series games, sweeping three games or taking two  of three, which is consistency, and the pitching has been a major part of it.  The guys believe they are better than anybody,” said Hal….

And as to his job security, said Girardi, “I knew that when I took the job. That will never change even for the next guy.” There is a difference in the clubhouse from last season. “A different dimension of guys in the clubhouse,” said Girardi. And perhaps a difference on the field as to why the Yankees are a better team defensively.

Mark Teixeira makes the plays at first that Jason Giambi could not.  Phil Hughes has been comfortable now in his new role as a set up man for Mariano Rivera, and for the moment will stay there rather than work him back in the rotation for the injured Chien-Ming Wang.

Hughes has a 0.89 ERA in 15 relief appearances and has not allowed a run in his last 13 outings since June 14th, and the Yankees are 45-1 when leading after eight innings, a reflection on what Hughes and the pen are doing.  Also Alfredo Aceves,(6-1) the right hander out of the pen is not being considered as an option as that fifth starter in place of Wang.

Aceves is tied in the American League with the most wins as a reliever. “Hughes is an important bridge to Mariano right now and we are keeping him in the bullpen,” said Girardi.

e-mail Rich Mancuso:  [email protected]

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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