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December 7, 2013

All signs point to Pinstripe

TJ Jones stood outside the Stanford Stadium locker room last weekend hoping for a return.

The senior receiver was done with trips to Palo Alto, but he'd hoped his college career would conclude with another stop in California or even an even warmer locale for a bowl game.

"Definitely not to play somewhere where it's snowing," Jones said. "Other than that we'll go wherever, we'll play wherever, we'll get the win if we can."

The whenever appears to be Dec. 28. The wherever appears to be Yankee Stadium. And the weather appears to be potential snow, not exactly the ideal season-ending exhibition for a program one year removed from the BCS National Championship.

Sources told Irish Illustrated on Friday that after days of uncertainty that Notre Dame intended to accept an invitation to the Pinstripe Bowl, likely against Houston or Rutgers. The game is scheduled to kick off at 12:15 p.m. eastern time.

Multiple media reports have the deal already in place for Notre Dame to return to Yankee Stadium for the first time since the Shamrock Series against Army late in 2010.

The Pinstripe Bowl drove a strong bargain with Notre Dame during the past week, meeting the program's financial demands and otherwise. The Irish are likely to practice at the New York Giants' indoor facility, a break from blustery elements on the East Coast.

Privately, Notre Dame's coaching staff had been pushing for the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, which seemed to create entanglements with both final exams (ending Dec. 20) and conference affiliation. The Hawaii Bowl has ample eligible teams from the Mountain West and Conference-USA, its contracted leagues.

The most likely warm weather destination appeared to be the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego against a Mountain West opponent, possibly Boise State or Fresno State. To make that deal work, the Poinsettia Bowl would have needed to find a spot for a Mid-American Conference program that filled its secondary contract.

The Poinsettia's primary affiliations this season are the Mountain West and Army. When Army didn't qualify for a bowl, it activated a secondary contract with the MAC. Presumably, if the Pinstripe Bowl could have been convinced to take a MAC program, potentially in-state Buffalo, Notre Dame could have landed there for the Dec. 26 game.

Instead, the Pinstripe would not be dissuaded from bringing Notre Dame back to New York, even though the Irish will play at the New Meadowlands against Syracuse next season. The Pinstripe Bowl also becomes an ACC affiliated bowl next season, giving it access to the Irish in down years.

New York product Jarron Jones tweeted the news Friday evening.

"PINSTRIPE BOWL!!!!!! Coming home!!!!! #yankeestadium!!!!"

The weather might not be what Notre Dame wanted, but at least the Irish will feel at home in New York.


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