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Polian returns to South Bend, this time as head of opposing team

| Friday, September 9, 2016

No. 18 Notre Dame last played Nevada in 2009, when they dominated the Wolf Pack to the tune of a 35-0 shutout victory.

2009 was also the last of the five seasons that Brian Polian spent as a special teams coordinator for the Irish (0-1). Now, as the head coach for the Wolf Pack (1-0), Polian will be returning to Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since taking over the reigns in Reno, Nevada.

“That’s the longest we’ve ever stayed in one place professionally — five years,” Polian said.

Over the course of his career, Polian has spent time at Michigan State, Buffalo, Baylor, Central Florida, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M and, since 2013, Nevada. Yet, given the relative extent of his time at Notre Dame, Polian acknowledged the importance of his time with the Irish.

“It was an incredibly formative time in my life and my career,” Polian said of his time at Notre Dame. “I do have personal feelings for the place — you can’t help but to. My wife and I were very young in our marriage when we got hired there. We welcomed our son when we were there — he was christened in the log chapel on campus.

“ … I’m forever indebted to Charlie Weis for giving me the opportunity at 29 years of age to go coach there. And my memories at the University and my times there are very fond.”

Polian’s connection to the blue and gold extends beyond his coaching tenure with the Irish, however. Which is why Saturday’s game will be a highlight of his coaching career thus far.

“I grew up as a kid — Notre Dame was my team,” Polian said. “… And then when you get hired there at the age of 29, it’s a dream come true.

“ … So to walk back in to Notre Dame Stadium as a head coach is a really cool thing.”

But, despite all the attention that has been paid to Polian’s personal connection to Notre Dame in this game, the Wolf Pack head coach has said he’s made it very clear to his players that Saturday’s game is about taking care of business above all else.

“[I told my players], ‘Hey, there is going to be some stuff for me here personally, but those are not your distractions. That’s got nothing to do with you. … All of those guys I was connected to have been long gone,’” Polian said. “So I’ve made it very clear to the team that my ties there have nothing to do with them. They’re going to try to win a football game.”

And now, as he and Nevada ready for Saturday’s showdown with Notre Dame, Polian says he’s right where he wants to be: on the opposing sideline at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I’m walking down the tunnel and I’m wearing silver and blue, and I couldn’t be prouder,” Polian said. “I’m going to be on the correct sideline, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to go with these guys that are my family now here — I’m blessed every day to come to work and coach these guys and be with these coaches and support staff.

“If this was the way it was all supposed to play out when it’s all said and done, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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