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84th annual ND football banquet cancelled

Pat Leonard | Thursday, December 2, 2004

Due to the firing of head coach Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame cancelled its 84th annual football banquet scheduled for Friday night.Irish players agreed with the coaching staff and their families to modify the banquet to a private dinner.The banquet is normally open to the public, with tickets sold for a dinner and the presence of a prominent guest speaker.Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said as early as Tuesday’s press conference that closing the banquet to the public was a distinct possibility.”The football banquet will proceed,” White said. “We are in conversation about making the banquet a players, family and coaches banquet only. We’ll have an announcement about that here shortly.”The weekend of the banquet also serves as an important recruiting window for Irish coaches. On the weekend of Jan. 16, 2003, Willingham welcomed 10 recruits to a banquet that helped secure the coach’s best recruiting class in his tenure as head coach.Last winter, Bryant Kramer, Ronald Talley and John Kadous were the only three recruits to visit on the weekend of the banquet. Kramer (who signed with Illinois) was the only player not to commit to Notre Dame.”I’ve talked to a number of the guys that were supposed to be in,” Mike Frank of IrishEyes.com said. “For the most part, most of these guys are taking a wait-and-see approach to what’s going on with the coaching staff.”Frank said two recruits in particular, Dan Doering (Barrington, Ill.) and Raymond Henderson (Oak Creek, Wisc.), could slip out of Irish hands.”I think Notre Dame might be hurt on a couple guys because the players want to make an early decision,” Frank said. “The problem is Notre Dame doesn’t have an actual recruiting weekend until January.”By then, Frank said, many recruits will have made verbal commitments. A number of players announce their intentions in early January at the U.S. Army All-Star game on national television.”In all reality, if they really want to go to Notre Dame, they’re going to wait and see who the coach is, develop a relationship and see if they still want to go,” Frank said.Former Irish Heisman Trophy-winner Raghib “Rocket” Ismail was scheduled to speak Friday.Former Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana spoke at the 83rd annual banquet on Dec. 12, 2003. The Notre Dame ticket office staff is contacting members of the general public who bought tickets to provide automatic refunds via the initial payment mode.