SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Shamrock Series will continue for at least the next four seasons. But that's the only absolute when it comes to the often-complicated future of Notre Dame football.
Although athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Thursday that the Irish have locations (but not opponents) nailed down for off-site home games through the 2016 season, he was noncommittal when it came to upgrades for campus home games -- namely, with FieldTurf and a Jumbotron.
"I haven't made a decision," Swarbrick said regarding the playing surface of Notre Dame Stadium, which will undergo its every-five-year removal following this season. "The reasons to do it relate to the use of the stadium. We do commencement in here. We'd like to do an alumni function in here during the summer. I'd love for our team to be able to practice in here on Fridays. So you balance those things against the environment of natural turf, which feels sort of central to this place. That's not an easy balance. We haven't made it yet, but those are factors we'll think about."
Swarbrick said that he hopes Notre Dame's home atmosphere can serve as the Augusta of college football, an aura that cannot be maintained with all of the same additions that most other major college stadiums have installed.
The balance, of course, comes with creating an intense enough home-field advantage. The Irish have won no more than four games inside Notre Dame Stadium in each of the last five years and are just 17-16 in front of their home crowd since 2007.
"We still want to be the most welcoming place in the country," Swarbrick said. "We want to still be the place where, when others schools come, they say, 'That was a marvelous experience for us.' But I don't want athletic directors telling me, 'We love playing here,' which is what they say to me with some frequency."
Swarbrick also said playing a regular-season finale against Stanford in China remains a high priority, but talks have slowed there since former Cardinal athletic director Bob Bowlsby became the Big 12 commissioner in May.
As for football matters …
Coach Brian Kelly said reps among the quarterbacks will start to separate next week. He will also decide on captains next week, though he does not know whether they will be season captains or game-by-game captains.
Redshirt sophomore right tackle Tate Nichols has a patella subluxation in his left knee, an injury that has happened before and kept him out two to three weeks at the time. His status for the season opener is uncertain. With Nichols' injury and the departure of Jordan Prestwood (personal reasons), redshirt freshman Nick Martin and true freshman Ronnie Stanley are the reserve tackle options -- Kelly termed them "1a" and "1b," respectively -- behind starters Zack Martin and Christian Lombard.
Kelly said that junior linebacker Danny Spond, who left an Aug. 8 practice with an apparent head injury, had had a migraine so severe that it required hospitalization. There is no timetable for his return.
Redshirt sophomore noseguard Kona Schwenke practiced with a cast on his right hand. Kelly said Schwenke had a simple bone crack that shouldn't have any effect once the season arrives.
Sophomore running back-turned-cornerback Cam McDaniel is now "cross training" between the positions.
Redshirt sophomore tight end Alex Welch (torn right ACL) recently underwent successful surgery and faces a recovery time of four to six months.
Fifth-year safety Jamoris Slaughter sat out of practice with a bruised heel, but Kelly said it was precautionary. Redshirt freshman Matthias Farley replaced Slaughter, and Kelly said Farley is pushing fifty-year safety Dan McCarthy for the third safety spot.