Sunday, August 21, 2016

Arresting developments

This was not one of the legendary weeks at Notre Dame, like the Irish vs. Miami in 1988, or the Irish vs. Florida State in 1993, or the Irish vs. USC in 2005. The Irish vs. Police Blotter, one assumes, will never take on the golden shimmer of those others, and there will be no lore to grow up around it, nor statuary to commemorate it.

But there will be consequences, one would hope. And accountability. And maybe, though less likely, some responsibility.

That's because at some point, yes, young men need to be accountable for what they do, and what six Notre Dame football players did this week was not, shall we say, a shake-down-the-thunder moment. Five players -- senior safety Max Redfield, redshirt freshman cornerback Ashton White, freshman wide receiver Kevin Stepherson, sophomore running back Dexter Willliams and sophomore linebacker Te'von Coney -- were arrested Friday night after police stopped them for speeding and reported finding a handgun and marijuana in the car.

Meanwhile, cornerback Devin Butler got nicked post-midnight (when, as we all know, nothing good ever happens) after allegedly fighting with the cops who arrived to arrest him.

Hard to say if this means we need to rethink the old "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirts. But I would imagine fans and students at Miami, the school that inspired that shirt, are having a good chortle this weekend at such a turning of the worm.

Here's what isn't funny: That head coach Brian Kelly will likely not suffer repercussions for this. Which is where the responsibility part comes in.

That's because, again, it's ultimately on the kids, and the team leaders, to keep themselves in line. They are accountable for that. And yet it is the head coach who is ultimately responsible for what goes on in his program. And frankly, too few people seem to demand it these days at your major college football corporations -- of which Notre Dame is certainly one.

Winning is not only the major imperative at Football Inc., it's the ultimate insulator for those coaches who deliver the Ws.  Urban Meyer won two national titles at Florida, which is why the school never laid a finger on him for the 30 or so Florida players who were arrested on his watch --  a pattern that has continued at Ohio State. And at Baylor, Art Briles made the Bears a national power, which is why a petition circulated to reinstate him after he was fired for running what was essentially a group home for sexual predators.

Kelly, meanwhile, has restored Notre Dame to national relevance. Which may or not be why he never seems to bear any consequences when his players wind up where six of them wound up this week.

Maybe there's some wrist-slapping going on behind closed doors at ND, but publicly, I'm trying hard to remember a time when the Notre Dame athletic hierarchy demanded more responsibility except in general terms. My memory may be faulty here, but to my knowledge, athletic director Jack Swarbrick has never called out his head coach in any meaningful way. This despite a string of mostly alcohol-related arrests on his watch, including the three separate arrests for which star receiver Michael Floyd was never really punished by Kelly.

I don't know what Swarbrick's official response will be to this. But I'll be shocked if he publicly admonishes his head coach  to rein in his program, because that hardly ever happens in the world of Football Inc.

Besides, the preseason polls are out. Kelly's Irish are ranked ninth in the coaches' poll and 14th by the Associated Press.

UPDATE: Kelly reacts swiftly and firmly to the latest incidents. Good for him. Though it's not like he really had much choice this time.

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