For every Notre Dame football fan, alum and follower of the Irish Nation, the 2012 season gave reason for exhibiting pride that had lied dormant for decades. Success on the field – regardless of the program or sport – can always restore a broken ego.
However, in the wake of the discipline handed down to the now-suspended quarterback Everett Golson, those who cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame should be as prideful as ever. That is because in the corporate world of intercollegiate athletics, the Fighting Irish leadership stood up in the name of academia and said “a line has been crossed.” And I'm not positive such a decision would have been made at a number of other so-called institutions of higher learning.
Golson committed “poor academic judgment,” and the university handed down a severe penalty of suspension for the fall semester, and with this decision, the university demonstrated the level of seriousness that it places on the student-athletes' work in the classroom.
How serious? Golson's absence places in doubt the program's ability to play in a BCS bowl game, which last year reaped over $6 million for the institution. Whatever mistake in judgment that Golson committed, it very well could cost Notre Dame millions of dollars. And the university still suspended him.
Can any follower of college football or basketball confidently state that every university would have done so? I can't.
“Here at Notre Dame, we are going to hold you accountable,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
That appears to be the admirable standard in the classroom, if not outside of it, as the legal incidents of senior quarterback Tommy Rees (misdemeanor resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor), senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese (misdemeanor count of intimidation), and former All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd (multiple alcohol-related incidents), demonstrated.
However, Notre Dame does deserve credit for backing up its standard of academic excellence, as it vows to never forgive ethical missteps during the week in exchange for victories on Saturday.
“It's easy to say I'm going to help you out with this situation that you got yourself in,” Kelly said, “but that doesn't help with the learning process and that doesn't develop the whole person.”
A number of college football and basketball programs more than likely would have found it very “easy to say.”
Golson has already shown that “learning process” is under way, according to his coach. Kelly said that this matter will prove to be a “defining moment” for his quarterback.
“He started, in my eyes, by accepting responsibility,” Kelly said. “Once you accept responsibility and follow through on what is being asked of you, that's all I need to see from Everett and then it's back to work.”
Golson's return to the university is not guaranteed, nor will Kelly play any role in that decision, another sign that Notre Dame may be unique among the college athletic elite. But taking into consideration his stated desire to return to the university, and his personal actions since being suspended, Kelly is “hopeful” that the quarterback can be reinstated for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
“He doesn't have to show me anything other than he took responsibility for his actions, which he has,” Kelly said. “He needs to understand that he made a mistake and he wants to atone for it. If the university allows him back into school, that will be enough for him to be back on the team, and then we're back to work and you have to go prove yourself.”