Notre Dame: A Program Out of Control?

The other night, my mind wracked with night terrors, I lay in bed, watching the blades of the ceiling fan thump around in their perpetual circle, somehow keeping time with the distant drumming of a paddlewheel. Sweat ran down my brow, mimicking the gathering dew on the Spanish moss draping the live oaks outside. Unable to sleep, my stomach churning in battle with the remains of a marvelous Sancerre and what was perhaps a one-day-too-old helping of shrimp creole, I did what New Orleanians have done since before Pierre and Jean Lafitte went shopping for a Jolly Roger: I reached for my iPhone and started reading. By the time the sun rose, I was certain of three things: I would never again trust myself around shrimp, Nick Saban doesn’t like rules, and Notre Dame is not a program out of control.

Davaris Daniels’ underage drinking incident (hopefully) topped off a Spring of discontent for the Fighting Irish. While the (still) natural grass was recovering from the Blue Gold Game, Tommy Rees and Carlo “I coulda been a contender!” Calabrese got done at an off campus house party. Then, Davaris. It’s enough to make you, and Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun Times, think that BK is building a new Gomorrah on the banks of the mighty St. Joe.

Potash wrote a piece in the Chicago Sun Times on 17 May 2012 entitled “Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly Doesn’t Know When to Say When.” If you bother to find it and read it, or just look at it, you will note, among other things, the clever juxtaposition of Michael Floyd’s mug shot next to Tommy’s and Carlo’s. That author’s point? THIS IS A PROGRAM OUT OF CONTROL. Potash goes out of his way to connect the “new” Notre Dame, the Notre Dame of Michael Floyd and Brian Kelly and Jack Daniels, to “bad parenting” and to the death of Matt James.

My visceral reaction to Potash’s article is caused by a couple of things, but mostly a healthy respect for the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc. The changes to ResLife that allowed Floyd to stay at ND started before he picked up his DUI. Those changes resulted in a young man being able to stay in school, get his degree, answer his future employer’s character questions, and get drafted by the NFL. To Mark Potash, this is a bad result, for it has established a precedent. I see it as a precedent of discipline and consequence, but Potash needs to see bodies. I guess what worked in Vietnam will work in the hills and valleys of northern Indiana.  

After finishing with Potash, I turned to a brilliant piece by author Josh Levin, “The Most Evil Thing About College Sports.” No, it’s not about Urban Meyer or Lane Kiffin, at least not directly. It’s about Nick Saban and Alabama. And LSU. And all the other programs who cheat and trade on the backs, brains, knees and lives of young men in an auction house of moral repugnance not seen since the Old Slave Mart. The premise of the article is this: every school has a numerical limit on scholarships, 85. Because math only functions just so, the number of players on the roster should have some relationship, usually by way of subtraction, to the number of players a school can sign. Not only have Alabama and other schools found a wicked way around this problem, THEY VOTED AGAINST ENDING THE PRACTICE. The hard data is culled from, who note that Notre Dame scrupulously adheres to math and scholarship limits.

So this is why Mark Potash’s hyperbolic assault on how ND is dealing with Tommy Rees and Carlo Calabrese is beyond me. First, we don’t know how ND is going to deal with them, but let’s assume there will be parades thrown in their honor, they will be hosed down with champagne and they will each be given a unicorn. Or a Tupac hologram. Okay. SO WHY WOULDN’T WE RELAX THE RULES AND GET NUTS WITH RECRUITING, TOO?!?! This is what makes no sense to me. If ResLife’s handling of Michael Floyd is cheating, why aren’t we signing 37 players? Why do we hamstring our program in recruiting if we are really all about being bad?

Notre Dame has to play by the rules. It’s part of our program’s DNA, but rules can change over time and discipline can adapt. A disciplinary code born of the shift to coeducation must adapt as the decades pass. Michael Floyd, who graduated Sunday, is a success story and his example should be used, both by the University and the program. What we cannot use is awful math and empty promises to high school students and their parents. We owe it to the past and the future to be better than that.

Mea culpa: I originally wrote “…started before he [Floyd] picked up his third DUI.” I have been rightly called to task in the comments below. Michael Floyd did not have three DUIs. I apologize to HLS, the readers and, mostly, to Michael Floyd for my mistake.

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  • Tripp

    But BK yells a lot. Clearly a sign of lack of institutional control and child abuse.

    • Brad

      Yeah. Football coaches shouldn’t yell or hurt feelings. If they do, then obviously they are Satan and intentionally allow and cause kids to get drunk and do stupid things. Not only that, but obviously Kelly is responsible for all of the murdering and rape in this world. Its obvious.

      • Bill Roth

        Potash is a fertilizer product. Is there another name for it?

        • Jim Kress

          Potash refers to potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, the most common being potassium chloride (KCl). The term “potash” comes from the Old Dutch word potaschen. The old method of making potassium carbonate (K2CO3) was by leaching of wood ashes and then evaporating the resulting solution in large iron pots, leaving a white residue called “pot ash”. Approximately 10% by weight of common wood ash can be recovered as pot ash. Later, “potash” became the term widely applied to naturally occurring potassium salts and the commercial product derived from them.

    • Bob

      Sounds like another PC advocate who never played the game and is part of the “liberal” problem in America today.

  • kreyfish34

    IF the NCAA plans to have 4 super conferences with 16 teams in each, and that seems to be were we’re headed, the oversigning issue MUST be on the table…just sayin’.

  • Mark G.

    I rip my eyes out when I read drivel like Potash’s article.

    What is out of control in college sports? The vast number of schools that use players, particularly black players, by consuming their years of eligibility but not pushing, encouraging or enabling them to get the one thing that might actually be valuable the rest of their lives – a degree. The scandal is the college presidents that apparently do not care if two-thirds of their black football players leave campus with no degree. The bigger scandal is that supposed journalists never, and I mean NEVER, focus on this problem.

    I’ll have some respect for the Tribune sports section when they start calling out Big 10 schools for their poor GSR’s, particularly among minority players.

  • Brian

    Can someone explain to me why the over-signing issue has not gotten any significant play on the national level? I know the NCAA is much less likely to cave to public demand than their professional counterparts but I imagine the issue would be addressed if ESPN had it on their agenda.

  • Kyle

    “The changes to ResLife that allowed Floyd to stay at ND started before he picked up his third DUI.”

    Michael Floyd did not have three DUI’s, he only had one. He had two other “alchohol related incidents” but they were NOT DUI’s.

    How does this misinformation stay in print for so long? Please fix this!

  • Sean

    Important clarification: it was not a 3rd DUI… that would have locked Floyd in the slammer with or without anything from Res Life. It was his 3rd alcohol related incident.

    • Bayou Irish

      @Kyle and Sean: thanks for pointing out my error. The article has been corrected.

      • TNT65Atlanta

        Good on ya for admitting and apologizing. We all make mistakes, it is how we handle that fact that makes a character.

  • HerringBoneSports

    Great article and perspective here. Kids are dumb, no matter their SAT, and if they get targeted as Mulvy & Grantland have indicated it can create problems on occasion.

    The debate over whether Floyd’s DUI or Rees alleged assault is the worse trangression will likely rage for a while. If Tommy receives similar punishment to Floyd I think we can continue to see this as progress as a ND community as opposed to a school deteriorating.

    The oversigning stuff is a whole different story. The lack of morals involved in it is just plain repulsive. Pushing an injured or underperforming player out of school is the exact opposite of giving a student-athlete that made a mistake a chance at redemption.

  • TheHawkND

    A program out of control? Give me a break. Discipline comes in many ways other than not being able to play in football games. Is it against the NCAA rules that Floyd started all the games last year? Answer: No. Floyd was disciplined, and he had to prove that he was changing his ways before he was allowed back to the team and to play. And guess what…he did that! So lately there were three underage drinking incidents….one at the kids HOME! This does not tell me ND is out of control. Does any poster really think ND is out of control? I am one of the most conservative, party free people there are….and I have not thought “Wow, ND is out of control. Kelly does now know how to discipline”…etc.