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Notre Dame players say Hawaii a preferred destination

Monday, December 8, 2008

By TOM COYNE

AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Notre Dame players say the Hawaii Bowl was their top choice as a postseason destination, and not just because of the warmth and scenery.

Coming in to a news conference from a campus blanketed in 5 inches of snow, with more expected in the coming days, Notre Dame's three captains said their teammates liked the idea of playing Hawaii (7-6) in Honolulu on Christmas Eve because it fits so well into their schedule.

They finish final exams on Dec. 19, fly out of South Bend later that night, have four days of practice before the Dec. 24 game, then they will have the rest of winter break to do what they want before classes resume in January.

"Some of us will get home on Christmas Day, others maybe a little later, then you have this long break," safety David Bruton said.

Linebacker Maurice Crum said going right from exams to Hawaii is better than players heading home for a few days before heading to a bowl, saying some players might have an attitude of, 'Oh man, I have to go back."'

Among the other possible bowl destinations for the Irish were the Motor City Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26, the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., on Dec. 28, and the Texas Bowl in Houston on Dec. 30. Playing in Hawaii adds little more excitement to the game, the captains said.

"I think there's just a lot of guys happy that we're actually going to a bowl. I think there's even more energy because Hawaii, nice weather, beautiful women," receiver David Grimes said.

The players weren't unanimous on wanting to go to the Hawaii Bowl. Grimes would have preferred playing in his hometown Detroit.

"We have better weather there," Grimes joked.

The captains said they see the game as a chance to help the Irish finish a disappointing season on a positive note and end Notre Dame's NCAA-record nine-game losing streak in bowls.

"It would be great to say we broke that streak," Bruton said.

Coach Charlie Weis was on the road recruiting Monday and was not available for comment about the bowl selection, said Brian Hardin, the school's director of football media relations. Weis had said earlier one of the reasons he thought the Irish should go to a bowl game at 6-6 is the extra practice that will help Notre Dame's younger players.

But because of finals and the early bowl date, Notre Dame likely will only be able to get in at most 10 practices for the bowl game. NCAA rules allow teams to hold 15 practices to prepare for bowls.

Some fans have questioned whether a Catholic university should play on Christmas Eve. None of the captains would comment. But athletic director Jack Swarbrick said it was ironic that people would complain about the university playing on Christmas Eve while most wouldn't mind if the Irish were playing on New Year's Day, a holy day of obligation.

Swarbrick said the university knew the players preferred to play in the Hawaii Bowl and knew they would be able to do what they wanted on Christmas, including heading home immediately after the game.

"It's not ideal, but we're certainly aware of the significance of the calendar," he said.

Swarbrick said the university also is aware that at 6-6, some Irish fans don't believe Notre Dame should be in a bowl game. The university didn't accept bowl bids between the 1925 Rose Bowl and the 1970 Cotton Bowl, and didn't accept a non-Jan. 1 bowl until going to the Liberty Bowl in 1983.

Swarbrick said he understands the sentiment of some that Notre Dame at 6-6 shouldn't go to a bowl, but he believes the extra practice will help the team. He also believes Notre Dame has "a real obligation to the college football industry to participate."

"We have to be part of the industry and help make it work," Swarbrick said. "We can't pretend like there are different rules for us."



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