November 4, 2010

CUA begins journey for South Bend; takes a stop in Canton

From the time he became Catholic University men's basketball coach in 2004, Steve Howes tried to schedule a game at the University of Notre Dame. His persistence will pay off Saturday night when the Cardinals open their centennial season with an exhibition game against the Fighting Irish.

Game time is 7 p.m. at the Joyce Center.

"I'm incredibly appreciative to Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey for making this happen," Howes said. "This is our 100th season of basketball and what better way to kick it off than to play at Notre Dame."

CUA might still be waiting to play the Irish if not for assistant coach Harvey Powell attending an open practice at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., during the summer of 2009. Powell saw Brey there, introduced himself as a Cardinal assistant and shared that they were both graduates of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.

When Brey told Powell to tell Howes that he would play the Cards, Powell left repeated text and phone messages for the CUA head coach.

"I knew it was either something very good or something very bad," Howes said.

After Howes sent an e-mail to Brey the following morning, Notre Dame assistant coach Martin Inglesby contacted Howes to set up the contest. Inglesby had played in high school with former Cardinals Tim Judge and Mike Hartman, two of the five seniors on CUA's 2001 Division III National Championship team.

A deal was consummated the next day.

"I'm not sure there are words to describe how excited we are," said Howes, a lifelong Irish fan who is making his first visit to Notre Dame. "It's a tremendous honor and very humbling to be the first Catholic coach to lead a team against Notre Dame. Our players are jacked up to play them and I know our fans are excited, too."

Senior point guard R.J. Dixon is one of those eager Cardinals.

"It's been a long four years, and to be able to do something of this magnitude is big for our program," said Dixon, who was named first-team All-Landmark Conference last season. "It's a great test for us to see how good we really are."

"I think it's really exciting," said senior forward Jason Banzhaf, a two-time honorable mention All-American. "The transition and growth of our team from my freshman year has been incredible. It's a great opportunity for us to start off our senior year."

Although Notre Dame is best known within athletic circles for football, the basketball team has also enjoyed its share of success. The Irish ended UCLA's record 88-game winning streak in 1974 and count Adrian Dantley, Austin Carr, Bill Laimbeer, Troy Murphy and Luke Harangody among its former hoop stars. The team competes in the Big East Conference.

"It's remarkable for a small school like ours to be on a big stage with such a respected and tradition-rich program as Notre Dame," Howes said. "I can't wait."

Cards Visit Hall of Fame
The team visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Thursday morning. Players and coaches spread out for about 2½ hours, examining the museum's tribute to professional football. Feature exhibits included, among others, the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery, Super Bowl ring case, the Moments, Memories & Mementos Gallery, the busts of all 257 enshrinees and the early history of pro football.

Players, coaches and staff learned that the America Professional Football Association was founded in Canton in 1920. It was renamed the National Football League two years later. The Canton Bulldogs won the NFL championship in 1922 and '23, and the Green Bay Packers are the only team to win three straight NFL titles, which they did twice (1929-31 and 1965-67).

Former Miami Dolphins running back and Hall of Fame member Larry Csonka was being interviewed and filmed by a USA Today film crew. He spoke about life after 60 – he's 64 – his fondness for the outdoors and Miami's 17-0 season in 1972. The Dolphins, who also won the Super Bowl the following season with a 15-2 record, are the only unbeaten NFL champion in league history.

Csonka, who grew up in nearby Stow, Ohio, signed a few autographs for fans and posed for photos.

From the Hall of Fame to Notre Dame
The Cardinals departed Canton on Thursday a little before noon and arrived in Mishawaka, Ind., at 4:55 p.m. They will practice for 2½ hours tonight on Notre Dame's home court in nearby South Bend, Ind.

On Friday, CUA will take a tour of Notre Dame, including the football facility, and eat lunch on campus. They will watch film from 6 to 7 p.m. and then practice until 9. Dinner will follow.

Cardinal Athletic Director Mike Allen arrives Friday. He and Howes will address an alumni gathering Saturday between 5 and 6 p.m. New CUA President John Garvey, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1970 and was a law school professor there, will also attend.

For a complete preview of Saturday's historic game, click here.

Read about CUA's tour of Notre Dame's campus as told by Chris McManes.

Story written by Chris McManes, former CUA Sports Information Director 

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