I knew something big had to be happening. I was sitting in class, like a good, responsible Notre Dame student, when my phone absolutely started blowing up. And I mean BLOWING UP. It was a guarantee that major news just broke. You see, the last this occurred, this happened. Turns out, those events were completely related.
So Tommy Rees (and Carlo Calabrese) got suspended. Admittedly, I was pretty disappointed when I first found out about the suspension, as I have made it clear time and time again that Tommy is the (first) quarterback that I support.
I wanted to whine about the unfairness of it all. After all, it was just one year ago where we heard Coach Kelly talking about how a one or two-game suspension wouldn’t solve anything, right? This is an excerpt from the ESPN.com article detailing Floyd’s reinstatement last spring:
“The school’s disciplinary arm chose not to suspend Floyd — even though it was his third alcohol-related brush with the law in two years. Kelly earlier this spring said that Floyd would either play in all of Notre Dame’s game this fall or none at all. He said a one- or two-game suspension would not have solved the problem.
“We took football away and it was really about making a decision to change his life because I didn’t believe suspending for a game or two was going to make a difference,” Kelly said.
If Floyd hadn’t made some changes, Kelly said, “it doesn’t matter how many games you suspend them, it’s going to put them back to the same position.”
Kelly said his decision was based on a gut feeling, informal meetings with Floyd and the observations of those around the receiver. It’s one that is certain to draw criticism from those who say it was based on Floyd’s talent and ability to make Notre Dame a better team.
“I’m not concerned with public perception.” ” ~ ESPN
So clearly, Michael Floyd was helped out by his All-American status, that’s for sure. Kelly can chalk it up in the media however he wants, but he needed Floyd on the field last year (although considering the 0-2 start, it really wouldn’t have matter so much if he was suspended, sadly). And that actually irked quite a number of students. I think the #2 student reaction on campus after his reinstatement (#1 being “Phew…we can’t win without Floyd”) was bitterness. Students thought “What if I had done that?” and the simple answer is that we would’ve all been booted from campus without hesitation (remember, third offense for Floyd). So there was definitely some anger from the students about unfairness after the Floyd situation — there is nothing this time around. That’s a good sign.
My second thought regarding Kelly’s inconsistency in handing out punishments was that Carlo Calabrese was punished too harshly. His suspension is widely ignored by the fans because the Rees suspension has understandably dominated the spotlight, but Carlo won’t care whether the public is paying attention to it or not — he’s not going to Ireland.
The reason I’d say that this is extremely harsh is that it was Carlo’s first offense, and while Rees had to plead guilty to two misdemeanors, Carlo did so for none. He was punished the exact same as Tommy, without being underage and getting in a serious altercation with a cop. That just doesn’t seem to add up. If you want to punish him, fine, even suspend him for the game, but in my mind taking away the chance to travel to Ireland with the team altogether was just too much.
Many people may disagree with this, but I think the turn to more accountability and harsher punishments is definitely going to be more common in the wake of Penn State. Schools across the country have already been suspending and dismissing players in the past few weeks for offensives that may have at one point been forgivable.
The crimes committed in this case are 100% different, no argument there, but the principle remains: programs have to make sure that they don’t downplay issues and brush problems under the rug. Add in the fact that the Office of Residence Life has a new director as of this summer, and this was the perfect time for the University, through Kelly, to signal in a new change: player conduct is going to be taken more seriously than ever, and more specifically, the players are going to be treated more like typical students. At least I really hope that is the case. I would much rather this be a sign of consistent judgment to come, rather than just being a one-time deal that makes it easier to choose a QB for the opener. And for that reason, I whole-heartedly support Kelly’s decision to suspend Rees and Calabrese.
As for how I think this affects Tommy’s chances in the fall? I would hardly say it is insurmountable, mainly due to Kelly’s odd comment about Rees still having a shot to climb the depth chart afterward, and because he will still be able to prepare and practive full through camp. Obviously, it gives either Hendrix or Golson (for what it’s worth, I’m pulling for Hendrix for the opener, like NDTex) a chance to shine, and if they do, the inertial effect could be hard to overcome (pretty much an argument that has worked in Tommy’s favor this offseason). But I still wouldn’t rule him out, and expect him to get some time versus Purdue unless one of the other guys absolutely dominates against Navy.
I still ultimately believe that Tommy is the best quarterback for the job, and think that if he wasn’t suspended for game one, he would’ve taken the job and never looked back. But despite that, I will be pulling for whichever quarterback gets the nod 100%. If Hendrix or Golson play out of this world like so many fans expect them to, and Tommy Rees never gets a shot again because of that, I won’t be upset one bit. Because winning is something we can all agree upon.
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