Notre Dame Football: Irish to Open Fall Practice off-Campus

Matt SmithCorrespondent IIIJuly 25, 2013

Aug. 4, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish go through drills at the LaBar Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

When Notre Dame begins formal preparations for the 2013 football season on Aug. 5, the Fighting Irish won't be in their customary location at the LaBar Football Practice Fields on the eastern edge of campus. Instead, Notre Dame will hold its first four practices at the Shiloh Park Retreat and Conference Center in Marion, Ind., the school announced Thursday.

"I'm excited to take our football team to a facility like Shiloh Park," said head coach Brian Kelly. "Training camp is vital in terms of developing team unity, character, camaraderie and ultimately a focused and specific identity for the upcoming season."

Marion is approximately 100 miles southeast of Notre Dame, or 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

Spread over 65 acres in rural Indiana, Shiloh Park contains practice fields, a 16,000-square foot recreational building, four conference rooms and a lake.

"Coach Kelly believes in the importance of team building and honestly a camp setting accomplishes it perfectly," said Dan Heincker, director of Shiloh Park Retreat and Conference Center. "He understands that our pace of life in this modern world is far too fast."

"We have a culture filled with distraction and constant communication. It's important to get away from all that pressure, which helps people slow down and think about what is truly important, "Heincker continued. "The players will spend significant quality time with one another, beyond the practice field and meeting rooms. The team will get a true understanding and appreciation of their importance to one another."

This will not be the first time Kelly has taken a team off-campus for practices. While the head coach at Cincinnati, Kelly held parts of fall camp at the Camp Higher Ground Conference Center in West Harrison, Ind.

"We instituted a similar type off-site program for training camp at the University of Cincinnati and it played a huge role in the success of our team," Kelly said.

Other coaches have mirrored Kelly's strategy, most famously Paul "Bear" Bryant, as portrayed in the film The Junction Boys, which chronicled the 1954 Texas A&M Aggies fall camp in Junction, Tex. More recently, Tennessee spent a week of fall camp last August at Milligan College in northeast Tennessee.

Kelly hopes the 2013 Irish fare better than those two teams. Texas A&M finished 1-9 in 1954 (Bryant's only losing record in 38 seasons), while Tennessee went 5-7 in 2012.

While no formal announcement has been made, Kelly is expected to address the media next week prior to the team departing for Shiloh Park. Notre Dame opens the 2013 season on Aug. 31 at Notre Dame Stadium against Temple.