As the search for Notre Dame
's 27th football coach reaches Day 7, the Notre Dame fan base received a double dose of bad news with the joint announcement that junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen
and classmate Golden Tate
will forgo their senior seasons and enter the NFL Draft.
While the blow is detrimental to the team's 2010 prospects it was the culmination and ultimate athletic reward for a season of incredible improvement from the pair that leaves the school as the most prolific passing combination in program history.
With former Irish head coach Charlie Weis positioned between the two ("at the request of Jimmy and Golden"), Clausen spoke first, thanking those affiliated with his development over the last three seasons.
"First and foremost I would like to thank my family for everything they have done for me throughout my life. The Notre Dame experience has been something that I'll never forget and its been the highlight of my young career and I wouldn't change it for anything. I want to thank Coach Weis and Coach (Ron) Powlus as well as all the other coaches and staff that include the trainers, the doctors, equipment managers, academic support, and everyone associated with Notre Dame football especially Joe Montana and Joe Theismann."
With the bulk of the team in attendance, Clausen took time to acknowledge them before an emotional final sentence announcing his intentions.
"I want to thank each one of my teammates for coming today, for always being there for me through the past three years through all the trials and tribulations. I would also like to thank my teachers and professors, fellow students, athletics director Jack Swarbrick, Father Jenkins, and the entire Notre Dame nation for their support.
"Notre Dame has the best fans in the country and I will always be a Golden Domer for life…growing up as a kid, one of my lifelong dreams has been to play professional football and the NFL, and with that being said, with the support of my family and coaches, I'll be forgoing my senior year and entering the 2010 NFL Draft."
Tate followed Clausen and added some levity to the situation.
"First off I would like to thank God my savior, without him none of this would be possible. I would also like to thank my family, especially my mother and my father for always being there, and raising a knucklehead like myself. They have done a great job with me and I really appreciate that.
Tate acknowledged his friends from three residence halls on campus "Keenan, Farley, and P-Dub (Pasquerilla West)" before thanking the Notre Dame community, student body and fans and both of his collegiate head coaches, Weis and Dave Schrage as well as both the football and baseball coaching staffs.
He admitted his decision to depart early was difficult.
"This was a very tough decision for me. I made so many friends at Notre Dame and the coaching I received at Notre Dame in football and baseball has been the best. But after talking with my family and Coach Weis, I'm going to pursue my dream and enter next year's NFL Draft. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am to Coach Weis and Coach Ianello and the rest of the Notre Dame coaching staff. The same goes for Coach Schrage and the baseball coaching staff.
Tate noted he planned to return to finish what he started as a freshman in 2007.
"I fully intend to get my degree in the near future. I am proud for all I have been able to accomplish during my time here, but my proudest moment will come when I receive my diploma. The fans and students at Notre Dame are the best in the country and I will always be a member of the Fighting Irish."
The assembled media was informed that Weis would not entertain questions, but the former head man acknowledged Clausen and Tate in a prepared statement dispersed prior to the proceedings.
"First of all I'd like to offer my personal congratulations and best wishes to both Golden and Jimmy, considering the decisions they announced today. Based on all the information that's available, they've both put themselves in position to advance their football careers to the next level and have a great chance to be successful – and that's a credit to how hard they've worked and what they've accomplished."
Weis noted the pair's meteoric rise since the beginning of the 2007 season before offering a last bit of career advice.
"I also challenged both of them to make sure they finish the work remaining on their degrees. I don't think either of them came to Notre Dame without an appreciation for how a Notre Dame degree would benefit them. So I look forward to the day they'll join me as Notre Dame alumni."
Note: Part II of the Clausen/Tate departure will feature the media's Q&A session with the record-setting juniors and will be published later today.
Part I of IrishEyes' coverage of the early departures of juniors Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen to the NFL draft.