Through three weeks, Notre Dame has already blown past expectations for 2014. And they’ve grossly exceeded moral expectations for any football program, professional or college.
The 3-0 record may have been foreseen at this point by many Irish fans, but did we know that there would be two 30-plus point victories? Did we know that we’d have a poor performance against a rival and still find a way to coast to a victory (which is more than we could say at this point in 2012)? Did we know that Michigan would be a part of the former and not the latter?
But more impressive than the record is what is going on behind the curtains at this time regarding the academic fraud scandal.
We all know the narrative by now: DeVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore have all been suspended indefinitely from the football team until more information and hearings are held to determine what happened in 2012 and what should happened from this point moving forward.
I know many Irish fans have become upset at the slow pace of justice resulting from this investigation. I understand. But these are events that happened two or three years ago and include tens of people, not just a few. Notre Dame investigations are extremely thorough; they get every drop of data and information they can. They also present their case against the student TO the student before the final hearings. This is the phase that the four suspended players seem to be going through currently. This way the student has the ability to know what they are up against and create a defense of their actions. It’s due process, and although nerve-wracking while involved it is an extremely fair process.
This disciplinary result is based on one goal: rehabilitation. They give the student a chance to not only be punished for their mistakes, but also to work on what caused them to make that decision. It gives them motivation to work harder to get back to where they want to be. Golson fought for this. He never once wavered regarding his desire to return to campus and he was readmitted.
Not all students are as lucky as these players, however. Notre Dame has often held to the standard that felonious acts are cause for expulsion and they maintained this policy regarding former RB/WR Will Mahone. Mahone was arrested and charged with five counts after an incident involving vandalism and resisting arrest in his hometown. He was immediately suspended from the team and the school asked him to leave after formal charges were filed. They made it very clear that Mahone would be allowed to reapply after the process was complete or if his felony charges were dropped or changed.
Mahone stuck to his guns and plead not-guilty at first, but as part of a pre-trial plea bargain he ended up pleading guilty to four misdemeanor charges and spent only ten days in jail. To the best of our knowledge, he never attempted to reapply to Notre Dame and now currently attends Youngstown State University.
In all three events, Notre Dame has been extremely consistent. Upon discovery of the event, the students involved immediately lose football privileges. University hearings are slow but fair. The University is open to readmission.
The sports news during the last couple of weeks has been very disturbing: Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, Adrian Peterson.
What’s even more disturbing is that the NFL and their respective teams have given no consistency despite all of them being in essentially the same hot water. Rice was suspended for two games, then indefinitely, then cut from the Ravens; Hardy wasn’t suspended at all until the Rice situation blew up, then was deactivated for last week’s game and is currently active for his next game; McDonald is being investigated but has not been formally charged yet, and has played in both games so far this year; Peterson has had two stories of child abuse surface and was deactivated last weekend, he was reinstated this weekend but has since been placed on the exempt list after sponsors began pulling their money.
And that last bit there…that’s where things began changing in the NFL — money. When fans and players speak out against these players, the NFL responded with silence and goose chases. When sponsors began speaking out and ending deals, players became suspended.
This is where Notre Dame stands out from the crowd. Notre Dame didn’t give Everett Golson special treatment because he was a star quarterback. He got the same treatment that Will Mahone got: fix your issues, then reapply. Golson did both, and now he’s back on the team and playing some of the best football in the nation. Mahone dealt with his legal issues (it is unclear if his anger and/or substance abuse issues have been addressed) but never reapplied to the University.
For these four players involved in the current academic fraud case, they need only know one thing: Notre Dame stands by you. They may punish you, they may take football away from you — but they stand by you. They give you every resource possible to help you in school, and they give you everything you need to regain your enrollment.
Notre Dame does not put the success of its football team first; Golson was dismissed for a year while other schools may have given only a one or two game suspension for a similar charge.
While we sit back and wait for a decision on these players involved in the fraud case, let us take a moment to remember what that Notre Dame is doing what is best for each individual student. They didn’t wait for the NCAA to force them to punish the kids. They didn’t wait for Gatorade to pull its water coolers from the sidelines.
Remember this the next time a school suspends a kid for just a half of football after being arrested over the weekend. Remember the this the next time you feel like complaining about the school taking too long to decide the fate of the foursome.
Notre Dame does Notre Dame things and at a Notre Dame pace, we all know this. I trust that the students’ well-beings will be put first in their hearings. That’s what this school does. It won’t put the football team first, it won’t cut out cancerous players for no reason.
It is a special place and I’m proud to have an association with the University and the great fans that support it.