With just a few days of the current transfer window remaining, Hughes has promised Butland he will try to get him another loan deal – with the right club. “We’ll look at every player’s individual circumstances,” said Hughes. “Jack’s an outstanding ‘keeper – I’m very fortunate I’ve three outstanding ‘keepers. In that respect we are well served. “The important thing for Jack is his development, and we have to make sure the next stage of his career is correct so he progresses at the right level. “Ideally we would probably want to get him out and get him some game time, but it has to be at the right club with the right philosophy. “If we have that opportunity of a club that would benefit Jack, and vice versa, then we will look at it. “If that’s not the case then he will stay here and work with an excellent group of goalkeepers and he will learn doing that as well.” Asked whether he would consider another Barclays Premier League club for Butland, who played for England against Italy last year, Hughes added: “It’s about circumstances. The 20-year-old was signed by Hughes’ predecessor at the Britannia Stadium, Tony Pulis, for £4million from Birmingham on the final day of the January transfer window. Butland was immediately loaned back to Birmingham for the remainder of the Championship campaign, but is back at Stoke where he finds himself as third choice behind Asmir Begovic and Thomas Sorensen. “We’ll look at every individual situation and see whether the benefits outweigh the negatives.” Butland has been linked with a switch to West Brom in light of Ben Foster being out for 12 weeks with a stress fracture of a bone in his right foot. West Brom head coach Steve Clarke, however, is keeping his cards close to his chest as he said: “It’s disappointing for Ben because he worked hard all pre-season, and we saw with his level of performance he was in a really good place. “But these things (injuries) are a part and parcel of football, he has to deal with it, and we’re looking at 12 weeks maximum. “Looking at the market we’ll see if we can get an experienced back-up, but I’m not going to speak about names. “There are a number available, some out of contract, and so a number of ways to do a deal.” Stoke manager Mark Hughes is considering loaning out goalkeeper Jack Butland. Press Association
Yogi Berra must’ve had Notre Dame in mind when he let loose maybe his most famous “Yogi-ism,” “it’s like déjàvu all over again,” because the college football world is yet again welcoming Notre Dame back among the college football elite (some other classic “bonus” Yogi-isms: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” “When you come to a fork in the road…Take it,” “The future ain’t what it used to be,” “Never answer an anonymous letter,” “A nickel ain’t worth a dime, anymore,” “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else”). Following back-to-back road victories against ranked opponents Pittsburgh and Michigan, and the addition of new head coach Charlie Weis, college football writers and pollsters everywhere are proclaiming the rebirth, revival and return to greatness for one of the sport’s most storied programs.Sound familiar? Feel like you’ve whacked this piñata before? Well, you should, because ever since Lou Holtz left Notre Dame after the 1996 season, the same folks in the media have had similar “back to prominence” parties (complete with piñata, of course) seemingly every year, sometimes even multiple times a season.The problem, of course, is that Notre Dame has been very consistent over the past decade; consistently mediocre, that is. They have been entirely un-deserving of the annual hype they get by upsetting a top-ranked opponent, but we’ll get to more on that later. You see, the current Golden Dome hype period isn’t simply déjàvu from 2002, when another first-year coach took the Irish to a top-10 ranking (also the last time Notre Dame has sniffed the AP top-10), but another example of the perpetual déjàvu in which Notre Dame finds itself encased.That doesn’t make much sense now, but give me a second here: Notre Dame is still considered by many to be the premiere college football school in the nation (usually the older crowd, to be honest), and the reason is the rich tradition the Irish have that no other school can touch. What exactly is that tradition, you ask? How about 11 national championships, 22 seasons in the top-5, 35 in the top-10, seven Heisman Trophy selections, winning one for the “Gipper,” hitting a sign en route to the field (“Play like A Champion Today”), a movie (“Rudy”), a football loving deity (Touchdown Jesus), unpainted end-zones, the luck of the Irish and maybe the most recognizable uniforms in sports (at least they used to be).Notre Dame was on top of the college football world, was being the key word in the statement. From 1924-1977 the Irish won 10 national titles, finished in the AP top-5 18 times and produced six Heisman winners. From 1978 on, however, it has been a different story, with the Irish winning only one national title (1988), producing one Heisman winner (Tim Brown in 1987) and having only four AP top-5 seasons. In translation, the Irish have been solid, but not dominant, since their 53-year run as the college football bully, stealing lunch money in the form of national titles.In today’s NCAA, being an annually solid team is more than respectable. Just look at Texas and Michigan, who are always relevant, but between them have won only one national title since 1971. However, since 1993, the Irish’s last true title run, soiled is a better description of the Notre Dame program. Since the 1993 season, Notre Dame has not finished in the top-10 even once and has become alarmingly pedestrian in the college football world.At first, this trend seemed to be just the end of Lou Holtz’s career as he trailed off in his old age, which led to his retirement in 1996 after the pressure hit a breaking point when there was no bowl game for Notre Dame for only the third time in Holtz’s tenure. Enter Bob Davie, and the beginning of the Notre Dame “resurrection watch,” which continued through Ty Willingham’s short tenure and has now carried over into the Weis era.Watching and waiting for the program to be born again is fine, fans can do what they want (look no further then the approximately 11 people who traveled from Philly to watch Temple play Wisconsin last week), but when the fans are the same people who select a national champion, there is something wrong. The problem is that those fans old enough to remember the Fighting Irish as the bullies are in many cases the same people who provide the hype and the votes. The 7-5 and 5-6 seasons Notre Dame has been turning in just doesn’t compute to this crowd. So instead of living in reality, they decide to live in the past, believing Notre Dame is still the dominant team in the country and is currently just under-achieving. Thus, they are in a perpetual state of déjàvu, waiting for Notre Dame to become the prodigal son and return to prominence, believing the likes of Arnez Battle and Brady Quinn to be the modern day “Four Horsemen,” which is like comparing Brian Boitano to Michael Jordan.The real reason for near annual “Back to Prominence” parties, however: the Notre Dame TV contract with NBC. Notre Dame has maintained independent status in today’s power conference world for the simple reason that they receive $9 million a year from NBC for the sole broadcasting rights. How is this problematic? Being independent means you can’t win your conference and get an automatic birth to a BCS bowl game. It also means you can’t play a schedule that includes some conference doormats (such as the Big Ten’s Indiana and Illinois) while still playing a challenging slate of games.Notre Dame has to schedule top-25 teams seemingly every week to remain in the national spotlight and to fight its way up the polls. For example, this season Notre Dame has USC, Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee and Purdue on its schedule. Its “easy” games are no cakewalk either, with games against Syracuse, BYU, Navy and a road trip to Washington, where Mr. Willingham could have a nasty surprise for the Golden Domers.Notre Dame has been playing this sort of schedule for the last decade and it is the root cause of the constant revival talk. When you play seven ranked opponents every year, you’re bound to beat one or two, and when the Irish do, as they already have this season, the pollsters and media lose their cool and begin playing the Irish fight song while they type their columns and fill in their votes. So, here we are again. The Irish are back and Charlie Weis is a savior after two weekends of college football. It seems awfully reminiscent of Willingham’s start (9-0) and Davie’s lead of the Irish to the Fiesta Bowl in 1999-2000. It’s just déjàvu all over again. USC is Tailback U., Penn State is Linebacker U., Miami is Quarterback U. Notre Dame? They can be déjàU. And believe me, it’s the most fitting nickname out there.
“Honestly, this was the most confident game I’ve had all season,” Okongwu said per the Associated Press after USC’s win over the Beavers. “It was really fun coming out there and playing against a sold-out crowd.” USC is coming back from a two-game road trip in the Beaver State, where the Trojans fell to No. 12 Oregon in double overtime but triumphed over Oregon State. A couple of costly turnovers and mistakes late in the Oregon game caused USC to suffer their second Pac-12 loss, but the win over Oregon State proved the Trojans’ potential is still alive and well in the conference. Okongwu is top-five in the Pac-12 in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage this season and does not seem to show any signs of slowing down. He and the Trojans — the best in the Pac-12 in rebounds and the worst in free-throw percentage and turnovers committed — will attempt to stop a Utah team that currently ranks first in the conference in free throw percentage. Freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu has been a top rebounder and shot blocker in the Pac-12 this year. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) Having won four of its last five games and sitting in a tie for second place in the Pac-12, the USC men’s basketball team will face Utah Thursday night at Galen Center. Led by phenom freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu, the Trojans are set to play a Utes team led by sophomore forward Timmy Allen that is coming off two straight wins against Washington State and Washington. USC will also have to look out for Utah redshirt freshman center Lahat Thioune in the paint, as the Senegal native is the Utes’ leader in field goal percentage at 72.2%, making him their most efficient player while averaging just 17 minutes per game. Expect Allen, Thioune and freshman guard Rylan Jones to run a majority of Utah’s offense and look for Okongwu and Rakocevic to make important plays near the rim on both sides of the ball. Senior forward Nick Rakocevic is 8-15 from beyond the arc, leading USC in 3-point percentage. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) “Rakocevic and [Okongwu], those guys are a load inside,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said at a press conference Tuesday. “[USC is] an elite rebounding team in our league, shot-blocking team. They provide a great post presence for those guys and then they’ve got a bunch of capable shooters and athletes.” USC head coach Andy Enfield and his team should also expect Utah to both commit and draw lots of fouls given the two teams’ shooting percentages from the charity stripe. The Trojans have arguably struggled at the free-throw line more than they have anywhere else on the court this season. However, as Enfield said after the Oregon State win, USC’s resilience both at home and on the road “is a credit to [USC’s] players” at this point of the season and is what has helped the Trojans catapult themselves into a tie with No. 20 Colorado for second place in the conference. The crowd of more than 9,000 in Corvallis, Ore. was in for a treat as they got a chance to watch a united USC team that has excited college basketball fans with acrobatic plays from Okongwu and freshman guard Ethan Anderson, a clutch comeback win against Stanford led by sophomore guard Elijah Weaver and solid 3-point shooting from senior forward Nick Rakocevic and redshirt senior guards Quinton Adlesh and Daniel Utomi. USC and Utah will tip off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Galen Center.