NDN Features

Rock's House | Cartier Field | Back Room | Political | Career | The Pit | Alumni Events | McGraw's Bench | Jake's Field | Jackson's Rink | Olympic | Fantasy Sports | Chat

NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let Them Eat Steak

posted by Scott Engler
(The Rock Report) - Would you put regular gas into a Formula One car and expect it to compete for a championship? The answer is... of course not. When Ruben Mendoza recently lobbied for a training table for Notre Dame athletes, he wasn't just making excuses. In the Irish Eyes article Mendoza opined that nutrition was the missing link in terms of performance. He shouldn't have to make this case, it's an obvious point and puzzling that the last Athletic Director wouldn't take action to fix the situation. Or, given White's history, maybe not.

Elite athletes, which is what Notre Dame football players are, need a high level of nutrition during a debilitating season and need it to develop quickly in the off-season. As Mendoza says, the demands are different.

And just as important, they need to eliminate unhealthy foods that are all too easy to come by in the dining hall. It doesn't take too many days of poor eating to start impacting the body and between the standard college off campus diet and the dining hall, the bad options seem to outweigh the good options.

And Notre Dame football has a greater need for a training table (or some like solution) than most schools. Consider:

  • When Alabama or USC has a hole on their defensive or offensive lines they turn to the JUCO ranks and pluck out a Terrance Cody, Notre Dame doesn't have that luxury. USC did the same thing this year tapping defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo, who at 6-foot-2, 330 pounds is already developed. Plop Terrance Cody on this year's Notre Dame team and you would fundamentally change the prospects for the Notre Dame season. Notre Dame can't go that route, Notre Dame has to develop its players and get them ready early. We have two red-shirt freshmen, a sophomore and a junior on our defensive line. The margin of error with that kind of inexperience is razor thin and a tired or weak player is going to wear down and make mistakes.
  • Notre Dame players don't just have less time to develop, but they have less time all-around because of greater study commitments, which tends to result in less lifting and more junk food consumption.
  • Notre Dame can't bring in 34 players in a class like Alabama and deal with the attrition, we're basically stuck with what we have.
  • The talent pool for defensive linemen with grades is notoriously shallow meaning it's the area where we are most likely to have recruiting misses and therefore an area we are likely to need development sooner rather than later.
In other words, we're already working at a big disadvantage and can't afford another disadvantage from a development or fitness standpoint. Not to mention, it's a liability in recruiting.

Let's be realistic, there' no way linebackers with pot bellies and defensive ends and offensive linemen with muscle mass like a middle aged weekend warrior can compete on a high level. And that's what we have at certain positions (someone sent me the pictures from Hawaii, which I wont' share here.) Part of the problem could be lack of oversight, we've heard the Mendoza staff gives kids great leeway because of their busy schedules. And that's a problem, because we're talking about college kids and I've never seen a big group of kids press themselves to the limit without someone pushing them. In general, for all but the most highly motivated athletes, kids will slack to the extent that you let them.

There's been a heated discussion on NDNation over whether Weis's teams are soft; whether they're tough enough to win at a high level. It's a question some ND followers are starting to ask.

Bert Berry's comments following the Blue-Gold game added fuel to the fire

"I would say, from a defensive standpoint, that the one thing they need to do is get in shape. A lot of these guys, particularly the younger guys, were getting a little winded out there, and when you get winded that's when you find the mental breakdowns. A lot of times, that's just due to a lack of being in shape, so they just need to do a little extra running. They seem to have a lot of talent out on the field. It's exciting to see [Robert Blanton], and the offense looked good. There were some plays out there where they looked very solid at running back. The one place where I saw glaring need was in the endurance level, on the defensive front in particular."
Does Notre Dame need a training table? Tough to say given Notre Dame's history of integrating players with the student body, but we need some solution. Consider two of our peers:


Outside the Northwest corner of Heritage Hall is the $3 million Galen Center, a popular sports-themed dining and activity center that opened in 1999.

The Galen Center serves as the prime dining facility for USC's varsity sports, providing training table, pre-game meals and dinner to the Trojan athletic teams.


UF is the only school to have two fulltime sports nutritionists
• One-on-one nutritional counseling (performance nutrition, weight loss/weight gain, health issues, injury rehabilitation)
• Individually designed meal plans and recommendations
• Nutritionist-designed Training Table meals, a dining facility open exclusively to student-athletes
• Body composition measurement and dietary supplement evaluation.

On the plus side, Swarbrick is already looking into the issue and evaluating options (he's already distinguished himself from his predecessor with regard to proactivity) and Mendoza expressed some hope that change is coming.
| More


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go back and read Bob Davie's press conferences. He spoke at length about the need to institute a comprehensive nutritional program, and he cited Nebraska as a model that we should emulate.

The fact that we so clearly identified such a vital problem with such a straight forward solution, and did NOTHING to address it is absolutely demoralizing. Are we serious about winning championships or not. USC and Florida are.

4/28/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

Athletes need sleep too. Maybe ND should implement athletic dorms with California King-sized mattresses.

4/29/2009 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Joe said...

To expand, how sure are we that Florida and USC have training tables because it facilitates nutritional oversight? Maybe it's just a way to differentiate the athletes from the general students.

The photo of the Galen Center at USC leads me to think it's about more than just nutrition.

4/29/2009 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, I can't fault you for being suspicious of the ulterior motives at places like USC and Florida, but do you think we can focus on our own back yard for a second?

The point is that Bob Davie recognized the need for a nutrition program 10 years ago.

It was embarassing back then that we weren't doing right by our athletes and maximizing their potential, and the revelation that we still haven't stepped up is simply shameful.

4/29/2009 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger todd said...

Through personal (and extensive) experience of Notre Dame's current dining hall situation and a good working knowledge of athletic nutrition, I can say that I'm confident that the facilities are not the issue here. Notre dame's dining halls provide an unbelievable range of food choices that more than fulfill an athlete's dietary needs. Unless you want an athletic food facility that serves filet mignon and the like, there is no problem here. Notre Dame's dining halls are arguably the best in the country in the service they provide. Instead, the issue at hand is one of lack of knowledge and discipline. Far too often I have witnessed some of our star football talent with platefuls of grilled cheeses, hamburgers, fries, corn dogs, and any other fried food the dining halls serve. This is only a fault of either players not being disciplined enough to stick to a good diet, or the athletic program not stressing the proper nutrition. Therefore, I am in full support of a full-time nutritionist, nutritions classes, or whatever needs to be done to get it through the heads of these athletes. However, blaming the dining halls or trying to claim that a separate facility is needed is simply erroneous.

5/01/2009 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous GRC '69 said...

ND won a National Title in 1966 when I was there -- no training table and there was a bond between players and students -- and the dining facilities were primitive compared to today. I doubt that some of the young DL being winded at the spring game is because of the lack of a training table. Maybe their endurance needs to be worked on. And maybe someone needs to give them some nutritional advice. Emulating football factories is not the answer. Next thing you'll be saying is that football players should all be majoring in tOSU-type jock programs.

5/01/2009 06:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. It is *college* football, not the NFL. These guys are supposed to be student athletes, not athletes masquerading as students. Yes, if ND implements a training table and further separates the football players from the student body, the team will stand a better chance to win more games. But at what cost? Already the gap between "normal" students and the scholarship athletes is large in terms of academic preparation. Thankfully, it is not as great as at many "peer" schools, but does ND really want to be more like Florida? The more we treat athletes as hired gladiators, the more they will act that way. And the university will be the poorer for it.

5/03/2009 10:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a good point in your article. To the alum who mentioned winning in '66 without a training table: No one else had training tables then either, so there wasn't a difference.
That said, there's some good food available at Notre Dame. Every week and a half, Peppered Flank steak is served to the entire student body. There's always a gourmet option available for everyone to eat, whether it be rotiseree chicken, Ham, roasts of beef, whatever. There's good food at Notre Dame for students, regardless of whether they are athletes or not.

5/07/2009 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger The Rock said...

To Sigh: Your point is a good one. But it also implies that expectations for the team should be lowered.

And, as pointed out, a separate training table isn't the only solution.

5/10/2009 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what ND should do is get better athletes that endeavor to achieve their potential (and the ND athletes seem to have a lot of it).

Conditioning is primarily coaching. ND has a fat and lazy coach. Look at schools like Rutgers. Their coach is built like a truck and so is everyone that steps on the field. They may not have the talent level of ND, but when their RB's stay in to protect against a safety blitz, that safety doesn't have a shot in hell of ending the play on his feet. The same is true of players at USC.

5/11/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous CAD said...

What is missing from this discussion is the fact that the schools that put in training tables have cafeterias that serve mostly unhealthy food. The student has no choice but to put on the freshman 15 because the food served is low quality. ND food service is recognized as one of the best cafeterias in college. Steak is not on the menu every day, but that is not the case in training tables either. What students at ND can get is their choice; there are many low fat high protein foods available. That is the point of a training table to make sure athletes get the fuel they need. Give the athletes rules to eat by and the ND food service can give them the high-octane fuel. If you know anything about nutrition and if you have ever eaten at the ND cafeteria, you would realize the students have the ability to eat correctly. If you are ever on campus, you can eat at the cafeteria without being a student. It is not 5 star dining but it’s better than you will get at most campuses. I would even say you could eat quality meals on par with most training tables. After all the lack of a training table has not hurt other sports at ND, look at how other teams are doing, go beyond football, there is a lot of success.

5/16/2009 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous dbcsmith said...

We did have a training table in 66. It was necessary in that basketball and football practices would often end after normal feeding times and they made a portion of the North dining hall a training table for these late meals. We often had steak. No other meals were served in the training table. I believe one foundation at ND that may be different than other schools is that we try to teach athletes to be responsible for their own actions and to discipline themselves versus being force fed (pun intended)life and treated like irresponsible children. Each athlete, at least in football, knows the eating regimen that they should be using and it is up to them to do such. I rather like that concept and I think many on the team have the discipline to do this. I would rather give up football than to have our athletes conduct themselves as the prima donnas above all university policies and actions that many of the elite football powers tolerate. I have seen it at many schools where the players strut about the campus like demi-gods, cut into lines feeling it is an unstated privilege and just generally conduct themselves as overaged bullies better than everyone else. I hope we do not ever let this happen at ND. some of the worst cases I have seen were at Tennessee, Clemson, and Alabama.

5/19/2009 09:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's true. The North Dining Hall served a training table for the '66 National Champions, and that was something to see, a room full of All-Americans and corollary legends, behaving like gentlemen. Ara had his finger on the program in all areas, and it was a glorious time.

5/22/2009 12:24:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home