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 sunÂ 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 slate.com 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 oversigning.com, 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.