Why the Tommy Rees Suspension Makes Sense

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.

@TommyRees_arm via Twitter

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.

Image Credit: Notre Dame Football

Tommy and Carlo will never get to don these cleats now.

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.

Love it/Hate it? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • Brad

    I disagree with the thought that this situation has anything to do with the handling of Floyd’s. For one, Floyd’s two earlier incidents were mere minor in possession instances, and were not issues which occurred at ND. The OWI was his first issue while at school, and Floyd was threatened with potentially severe punishment. Floyd was separated entirely from the football team, had to do a large amount of community service, had to live in the dorms his senior year, and was threatened with being kicked out of school and denied his chance to get a degree. Only after missing half a year of football did Floyd get the opportunity to come back, and he did so. He was threatened with never playing again. I think thats pretty serious.

    In regard to the punishment of Rees and Calabrese, I think its a perfectly fair punishment. And I do not think that Carlo being of age or not having plead yet (his case is still ongoing as I understand it) makes his situation any better. Rees undoubtably did a stupid thing. When a cop tells you to freeze, you listen to them. But at least he can claim that he was young, and drunk, and just did something stupid by trying to run.

    Carlo can’t. If anything, I honestly think that Carlo’s actions were even worse. He is old enough to drink, and should know better than to talk shit to a cop. That is the definition of stupid, and if anything I think it reflects much more poorly on the football team, and the University as a whole in the South Bend community than the actions of Rees. I think a story about a kid getting drunk and doing something dumb at college is perfectly normal. I think that a football player trying to intimidate and/or threaten police based on his status as a football player is a far more egregious thing, and looks much worse.

    In either event, I’ve got to think that what is really disappointing about their behavior, for Kelly as a head coach, is that both of these guys are in, and have been in, serious competition at their respective spots for playing time. I think Kelly’s punishment is particularly appropriate because it means that they won’t get as many reps in fall camp in preparation for the season based upon their own actions. Its perfectly fitting.

    • Ska

      Neither Tommy or Carlo were drunk, so please don’t accuse them of that offense. They had been drinking yes, but were not drunk.
      My understanding of what happened is the police got physical with Tommy after he was cooperating and pepper sprayed him as a little extra gotcha. No question TR should not have run. Bad decision.
      Most of the SB police are good people but I have personally witnessed SB police deliberately try and hurt someone who was cooperating and being polite to the officer and have heard similar stories from credible people.
      It is one of the reasons, I believe, that TR was allowed to plead having two counts dropped and Carlo was put into a pre trial diversion program. SBend did not want the details of Tommy’s arrest in the news.
      Carlo’s punishment of missing the Navy game seems harsh to me. Wondering if res life was a factor in the decision.

      • Brad

        The prosecution does not drop charges like that if they can’t make them stick. If there was anything improper in relation to Tommy’s arrest, the charges never would have been brought. Its par for the course, if someone doesn’t have a record, to drop the more serious criminal charges and to allow somebody to plead to the lesser charges. It has nothing to do with the circumstances surround the arrest.

        And Carlo getting pre-trial diversion was a gift based on his lack of a record. If the charges against Tommy had not included the issue with the physical assault/contact with an officer, he would have got it too.

  • NDtex

    To me, Carlo’s suspension is far more about stupidity and arrogance than him breaking the law. While I personally think Carlo’s comment to the cop was funny as hell, he sounded more like a wannabe mafia gangster than a Notre Dame football player.

    I hate comparisons to the Floyd situation. Among the list of things that Brad listed, the potential severe punishment would’ve definitely been severe had Floyd not shaped up. There’s a reason why Kelly said a “one or two game suspension” would solve nothing because Floyd was in an all or nothing situation.

    He had to earn his way back into the team or he wouldn’t be on it at all. That’s not exactly the way you want to spend your senior year.

    • Twibby

      Not to harp too much on the Floyd thing, but while a one or two game suspension alone may not have solved the problem in Kelly’s eyes, the choice (that Kelly made based on whether or not he believed Floyd had turned his life around) could have been between a one or two game suspension and a full season suspension rather than all-or-nothing. I agree that simply suspending him a few games probably wouldn’t have done much, but Kelly could have said, “You’re not playing in the USF or Michigan games – if you want to play at all the rest of the season, you’ll have to prove to me that you’ve changed.”

      As it relates to Rees’s punishment compared to Floyd’s, I think the biggest issue with making a comparison is simply the timing. Rees’s happened after spring practice was over the legal process wasn’t resolved until July, which didn’t leave much time for Kelly to go through a similar process to the one he went through with Floyd.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/GrantlandX Grantland-X

      I really disagree that he was in a all-or-nothing situation. Certainly, due to the trouble he had been in previously, the “all” part of the punishment was on the table…but if you really think he had a severe problem and needed life changes, a punishment should’ve been in the cards. But “nothing” being the prevailing solution? You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think his ability had a significant influence.”

      Brad, ultimately I agree that these are appropriate punishments, even if they are tough. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel for the guys, they are my fellow students after all.

      One minor thing I’d say is that the fact the Floyd’s first two offenses came off-campus isn’t a valid argument. Any crime committed while you attend the University, regardless of where it happens, is punishable under Du Lac.

      • NDtex

        Two things:

        1) I never said his ability didn’t have an influence, but if you think Floyd had another issue during his probation period and there would’ve been no consequence you are kidding yourself as well.

        2) You honestly think anyone else getting an MIP or DUI out of state would be punished by ND? Please. How would they even know? The only reasons Floyd’s became public is because he is Floyd. The talent thing cuts both ways.

  • Tony Flamingo

    Rees ran from, then assaulted a police officer. Calabrese threatened another. Both forms of conduct involve intent. Doesn’t really matter what their prior record looked like. These two are lucky they’re still Notre Dame students, let alone on the football team.

  • Zonairish

    I agree with the premise that there may be stricter adherence to rules due to the Sandusky situation college football wide. Unfortunately, this was with a coach not players. That is the way it usually goes punish the innocent to promote the guilty. That said, I believe this is a fair punishment for both Carlo and Tommy. Their actions will help the other players not make the same mistakes which is good thing. On Tommy being the starting QB. I believe that ship is gone. It is possible he comes back to play but the reality is Tommy had 19 turnovers and he is the one that new the plays and had leadership? If look @ Tommy’s film he ad trouble making long passes and medium passes The WR and TE’s bailed him out on many occasion. IMHO, Tommy and the Irish were lucky to win 8 last year. It is time to develop and move to a QB that has the skills sets both physically and mentally to take us to the next level. Tommy did not have either. I know you think he had the mental skill sets but running from a cop tells me otherwise and he was not very good at decisions. I think the coach’s did not want to change because they were winning even though we were winning in an ugly manner

  • Jack Lawlor

    With all due respect, when I got to the part “Rees is the best man for the job”, I stopped reading. I don’t know if Hendrix can do it, I don’t know if Gholson or Kiel can but I DO KNOW that we will not beat top teams with Tommy who is probably a great kid. He’s not in the top 30 or 40 qb’s in the country and we’ll never beat a top 10 team with him. Let’s find out if the other 3 can win against top competition.

  • Kevin

    What drug are you taking if you think Rees is the long term answer to QB for ND? This will be yet another wasted season like last years’ if Rees starts.

  • James

    Once I read “Rees is the best man for the job” you lost all credibility.

  • chisports14

    As someone who wasn’t at ND at the time of these punishments I can give the reaction from people not related to the university…

    Most of my friends (mainly ND haters) really pointed to Carlo being an idiot and yelling at the cops about how “his people will get you” or w/e the hell he said. They all teased teh school about how dumb Carlo was because everyone realizes any one of us can get caught drinking… but if one of us does get caught, we wont be guido hard asses and start yelling at the cops. It was a very poor reflection of the typical ND football player/student and I absolutely think his punishment is deserved.

    Last, for people who don’t know any players personally or have ever stepped foot on campus, these stories are just dumb reasons they can hate ND football… No one will hate ND for a kid getting caught drinking but they will for the stereotypical cocky ND behavior

  • NDtex

    To the three comments above in shock about Grantland-X supporting Rees, I’d like to welcome you to HLS because clearly y’all haven’t read his work before.

    Also, the rest of the staff thinks he’s crazy.

    That should catch y’all up!

    • Bayou Irish

      We actually think there’s a good chance that he is in fact Tommy Rees himself. Let’s see how active his twitter feed is during practice.

  • Scranton Dave

    You think Rees is the best man for the job? Let me tell you why I disagree. Last year we had our best OLine play in many many years in my opinion, we had a strong 2 pronged RB attack, arguably the best TE in the country and one of the best 5 WRs in the country. Yet, against every decent or good defense he faced he was horrible. He has lead feet, a noodle arm and is a turnover machine. Like an earlier poster said, we already know he cant play, so lets see what someone else can do. We wasted a year of offensive development last year with him, and in my opinion any rep he gets in practice is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Golson and Hendrix need the reps. Hate to keep bashing him in these forums, because if I were him I would want to play too. It’s Kelly’s fault for putting him in for Crist last year, which shouldve never happened. I will go to my grave believeing Crist wouldve done a much better job then Rees last year if Kelly just left him alone. Rees just wont get it done, let the best man out of Hendrix and Golson get the job.

  • Scranton Dave

    Grantland- Why do you think Rees is the man for the job?

  • Scranton Dave

    I understand to a point what you’re trying to say, and I would hope he would be at least a little better then last year just because of experience. That being said, he just doesnt have the physical tools to play at a high level at the top level of College Football. I agree with what you say about continuity, and I agree that some fans are giving up on Hendrix too quickly in favor of what Golson did in the spring game. I just think if he sticks with Rees the next 2 years, he just cant make enough plays to get us to a BCS game. I think he has to pick one of Hendrix/Golson and ride him out. Also, I hate when people cite Rees record as a starter as an argument in his favor. I would argue that they won those games because in most of them, in every position besides QB, ND was considerably better than the opponent and Rees happened to not lose the games. The USC game in 2010 Rees tried his best to give that game away. Against all the good defenses last year, Rees looked bad to awful. Once teams figured out to rush 3, put 8 in coverage and dare Rees to beat them deep, he looked totally lost.

    • Brad

      I would agree with you Dave. I think Rees is a really good QB, but I think his physical ability puts limits on our offense. The entire concept of the spread is to…..wait for it……SPREAD the defense across the field to create room to pick up yards. The only way to do that is by spreading the defense horizontally, and vertically.

      To me, Rees just does not have the arm strength to stretch a defense vertically. As a result, we just spread people 10-15 yards deep and horizontally, which is an easy call for a defense. You just drop 7 or 8 into short zone coverage in that area, and wait. See the USC game, the Standford game, and the FSU game.

  • Allan Ng

    Umm … sorry … off topic don’t like the Miami colored shoes … are they really wearing those in Dublin?

  • Don in LA

    Let’s be clear…

    MF didn’t assault a police officer. Had TR not evaded arrest he would be seeing Dublin. It’s not about MF being an All-American.

  • Larz

    Grantland, I always enjoy your perspective and respect the fact that you are willing to share your opinion even if it isn’t popular. However, I feel you might be missing one part of the story. You suggest that Coach Kelly indicated last year that suspensions aren’t effective. I feel you are missing the nuance of his statement. He said he felt a suspension wasn’t warranted in the Floyd case. Remember Coach Kelly did suspend Stephon Tuitt for a game because he missed class. Clearly, there is a precedent for Coach Kelly suspending players.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/GrantlandX Grantland-X

      Point taken Larz, and I admit, I simply forgot about Tuitt not being allowed to travel to Purdue. That’s a pretty good counterpoint, and one I don’t really know what to do with.

      • Larz

        It’s a minor detail and in my opinion doesn’t diminsh the effectiveness of your article. I think you are bang on that in the wake of Penn State, consequnces for inappropriate behaviour will be treated more seriously. As well, I found it odd that Calabrese had the same consequnce but I suspect there is more to the story than what has been reported publicly.

        At the end of the day it’s unfortunate that two young men will miss the opportunity of a lifetime because of poor choices they made while they were drunk. Even so, I feel the punishments were appropriate

  • Scranton Dave

    To be honest, I wouldve felt better about it if Floyd was suspended a game. However, it;’s not like he didnt get punished at all. He was punished

    • Larz

      missed spring, missed blue and gold, lost captaincy, had to live in a different dorm for the year and I imagine some other things we aren’t aware of.

      I think the two situations (Floyd vs. Rees / Calabrese) are apples and oranges and should have been handled differently

  • extrametal

    Calabrese is a meathead. Threatening a cop is totally in character and I imagine Kelly is tired of him pulling stunts like that and, I dunno, getting a taunting penalty on a crucial third down stop vs USC that killed any defensive momentum. He’s got all the liabilities of Harrison Smith and few of the skills. Sit for Navy and get your (meat)head straight.

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