It is a widely known fact that I love college athletics, especially D-I football. Why? I grew up watching Alabama and Bear Bryant and then went to the University of Alabama. I am, thus, a die-hard Crimson Tide fan. Having said this I must admit that my alma mater has done more than its fair share of wrong over the course of my lifetime. It has cost Alabama dearly, putting it on probation several times and taking its storied tradition to the proverbial “dog house” of big-time football. So, let it be duly noted here, “The one without sin should cast the first stone.” I am not, however, comparing apples and apples in what I am about to say. I am speaking about a university that is the premier Catholic university in America and one that prides itself on a storied tradition that is supposed to be above the common lot of college football programs. Not so.
In late June the Department of Education handed down a decision that makes Notre Dame look less than golden. The university boasts of its integrity but federal intervention into two episodes related to football, in direct ways, is not a good record to boast about. The word “football” appears nowhere in the nine-page federal document but the obvious is obvious.
The first problem has to do with the episode that led to the death of a Chicago-area student who was filming a practice from a crane over the practice area. The crane was taken down in a gust of wind and the young man died. This was widely discussed last fall.
The second problem, the one that brought the federal investigation, is much more troubling. Lizzy Seeberg received a text message two days after she accused a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery. Her response, in her troubled state, led to her suicide. The university responded to this second episode by trying to keep it quiet. This led to the federal investigation.
Back in December the president of Notre Dame praised campus police for a thorough investigation that was “judicious” and the head coach, Brian Kelly, spoke with pride of the “university process.” HIs player was never charged!
What the DOE found was that Notre Dame blindly defended a sham. The DOE says the “preponderance of the evidence” should have led administrators toward an actual investigation into the allegations regarding the player. The DOE also recommended a 60-day-deadline on internal reviews or change an outdated rule that says the alleged victim must be in the same room as the accused during hearings.
This is Notre Dame for heaven’s sake. This is not Illinois, Indiana or even Alabama. This is Notre Dame. And this problem is not limited to Notre Dame either. The AD at Marquette, another prestigious Catholic university, resigned in June after the Chicago Tribune issued a report of a sexual scandal related to two sexual-assault allegations against athletes.
Question: Can women who accuse be fairly heard when a male athlete is involved?
Notre Dame cut a deal with Lizzy Seeberg’s parents without ever asking for forgiveness or admitting any failure on their part. The lapses in Notre Dame’s story are huge if you read it carefully.
In the case of the young man who died in the football practice context the university paid a $42,000 penalty to the state of Indiana. And the investigation by the Indiana authorities into this death left more questions than answers.
But it doesn’t stop here. Michael Floyd, a big-time star wide receiver, was arrested in March after his third alcohol-related issue in three years. What did Coach Kelly do? He restored him to the football team so he could resume voluntary workouts. Kelly has said Floyd can play if he meets unspecified conditions. This leaves me cold in light of Notre Dame’s recent handling of serious offenses.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune said, in the Sunday, July 3, sport page, “It doesn’t take a federal investigation to see what’s going on at Notre Dame, only a clear view from a different angle.” I have to agree. This is a private, church-related university. They can do better, unless of course football wins are more important than the integrity of this great university. In this case the “Golden Dome” has been truly tarnished!