Notre Dame run of Final 4 appearances comes to stunning end

AP Photo

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Wait-til-next-year season came stunningly early for Notre Dame and coach Muffet McGraw.

The perennial bridesmaids, who lost in four of the past five national championship games along with the semifinals in 2013, were upset 90-82 by Stanford on Friday night in a regional semifinal. It was only the second loss by Notre Dame in the past three seasons to a team not named Connecticut, and the loss marked its earliest exit from the NCAA Tournament since 2010, when Skylar Diggins was a freshman and the Irish lost to Oklahoma in overtime in the regional semifinal.

McGraw said the loss to the Cardinal didn’t ruin the season for the Irish, whose senior class won a total of 141 games – two shy of the school record set by last year’s class.

“Our seniors had a great season, a great year and we’ve been on the other side of this, and now it’s our turn to go home early and work on next year,” McGraw said.

The loss ended Notre Dame’s attempt to join UConn as the only team to advance to at least six straight Final Fours. It came hours after the Notre Dame men beat Wisconsin 61-56 in the East Region semifinal in Philadelphia, marking the first time since 1990 that the Irish men, coached then by Digger Phelps, advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than the women, who then were in just their third season under McGraw.

This year’s team was probably the least talented of the Irish in recent years after last season’s leading scorer, Jewell Loyd, left school early to enter the WNBA and captain Taya Reimer, who averaged 10.2 points and 6.1 rebounds, left the team in December for personal reasons. Despite those defections, this year’s squad won 26 straight games – the third-longest winning streak in school history, and its only regular-season loss was at Connecticut while the Irish were without leading scorer Brianna Turner because of a shoulder injury.

McGraw said her message to her players in the locker room after the loss to Stanford was not to put their heads down.

“We’ve had a great season,” she said. “We’ve had a nice run, and hopefully that will motivate us to come back next year.”

Expectations will be high with five of the six leading scorers returning, led by Turner, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year who averaged 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. Two other starters, point guard Lindsay Allen (9.3 points, 5.8 assists) and forward Kathryn Westbeld (7.9 points, 5.6 rebounds) also return, as do freshmen reserves Arike Ogunbowale, who averaged 11.4 points, and Marina Mabrey, who averaged 10.7 points.

The Irish lose Madison Cable, their second-leading scorer at 13.7 points, and Michaela Mabrey, who averaged 6.8 points. But Notre Dame adds 6-foot guard Jackie Young of Princeton, Indiana, who set the state’s high school scoring record and was named the Naismith National High School Player of the Year, and 6-foot-2 forward Erin Boley of Hodgenville, Kentucky, who was named Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.

The Irish also will get back Ali Patberg, Indiana’s Miss Basketball last season, who missed this season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a preseason practice.

The Irish weren’t the only top seed to be upset Friday night. South Carolina was beaten 80-72 by Syracuse. Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer believes the upsets are a good sign for women’s basketball.

“I think it points to more parity,” she said. “It points to more quality players and programs – universities recognizing, `Wow, this women’s basketball is a great thing and supporting women’s basketball at a higher level.'”

For the Irish, the goal next season will be what it always is: to get back to the Final Four and win their first national championship since 2001.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

NCAA College World Series
Getty Images

As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.