An old saw about leadership is that “with authority comes responsibility” or words to that effect. As a young reserve officer candidate, some such phrase was beaten into my brain and, in later years, I did my best to remember it as I explained myself to my CO for the sins of a non-rate in my division. As you progress up the ranks, you gain more authority, but also more responsibility. This basic fact of leadership, to me, explains the now tortured path on which Tommy Rees walks and, perhaps, why the end of his road may differ from that of Michael Floyd, or any of the tens of Notre Dame athletes who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and ResLife in the last two years.
Before I go any further, I want to be crystal clear on a few matters: first, nothing in this article should be construed as my professional opinion as an attorney on any of the legal issues presented by Tommy’s arrest or the underlying circumstances. Second, Tommy is entitled to the presumption of innocence afforded to all defendants in the criminal system. Third, Tommy Rees is not quite twenty years old and is entitled to the presumption of human fallibility and the redemptive process.
Tommy has been charged with four misdemeanors under Indiana law, specifically: 1.) underage drinking; 2.) fleeing from a police officer; 3.) “forcibly struggling” with said police officer; and 4.) “knowingly touch[-ing]” said police officer (Brandon Stec, for those of you scoring at home) “in a rude, angry or insolent manner resulting in bodily injury to Brandon Stec, to wit: pain and scrapes.” It’s the last two charges that really have me concerned for Tommy’s future participation in the football program and, perhaps, in the University as a whole.
According to du Lac “[t]he following actions and behaviors are clearly inconsistent with the University’s expectations for membership in this community [and] violations of these behavioral standards will call into question a studentâ’s full participation in the University community: 1.) Violence, or the threat of violence against another person, or any action which causes injury to another. [. . .] 11.) Behavior which causes a serious disturbance of the University campus. [. . .] 12.) Actions which seemingly affect only the individual(s) involved but which have a negative disruptive impact on the University community and/or concern a student’s personal [. . .] growth.” (emphasis added).
The thing about leadership is that it implicates equal measures of, among other traits, knowledge, judgment, dependability, tact and courage. After Coach Kelly benched Dayne Crist for the Michigan game last season, he noted that both Dayne and Tommy “are capable of leading our football team.” Coach Kelly put Dayne Crist on ice because Dayne demonstrated he couldn’t get the job done on the field. Tommy, arguably, has shown he can’t get the job done off the field. Leadership does not stop, or start, at the touchline, or in the locker room.
Coach Kelly, to maintain his authority over the program and his place within the University community, is going to have to do exactly what he did with Michael Floyd early on: suspend him. Then, Coach Kelly is going to have to let the legal and the University discipline processes play out, as he did with Michael Floyd. Only then, and only if Tommy stays at ND, can Tommy go about the task of completing what will have to be an arduous, transparent and verifiable program of “behavior modification and improved decision-making skills.” And frankly, I don’t know that there’s enough time between now and September 1 for Coach to credibly develop and implement such a program and for Tommy to complete it. I hate to say it, but I think Tommy took himself out of the quarterback competition for 2012.