Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 SEPT. 12, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED D isappointment, embarrassment and ultimately "mad as hell" — the news rocked Brian Kelly and his football program harder than any linebacker ever could and spread with a ferocity not fitting for a university that prides itself on moral standards and a tremendous graduation rate. The Notre Dame head coach ad- mitted late last month to working through a gamut of strong feelings after the arrests of six Irish football players in two separate and troubling incidents on Aug. 19 brought Kelly's program its blackest eye during his seven seasons here. Five of the players — senior safety Max Redfield, freshman wideout Kevin Stepherson, sophomore line- backer Te'von Coney, sophomore cornerback Ashton White and sopho- more running back Dexter Williams — were arrested on misdemeanor marijuana possession about 40 miles south of campus. The five were reportedly on their way to a party in Bloomington, Ind., when they were pulled over in rural Fulton County after allegedly travel- ing 73 miles per hour in a 60-miles- per-hour zone with a busted taillight. Police say a subsequent search of the car turned up a "significant" amount of marijuana and an unlicensed handgun. Redfield, who earned himself an early trip home from the Fiesta Bowl last December after breaking team rules, was quickly and appropriately kicked off the team by Kelly when possession of a handgun without a license was added to the player 's marijuana possession charge. "It was the handgun that was the game changer," Kelly said of Red- field's team release, adding that the expectations are much higher on the team for a senior. A sixth player, senior cornerback Devin Butler, was arrested outside the Linebacker Lounge near campus after an altercation there sent a police offi- cer to the hospital. Butler pleaded not guilty to felony charges of resisting law enforcement and battery of a po- lice officer. He's still on the team, but was indefinitely suspended by Kelly from any football activities while the legal process runs its course. Marijuana, a loaded handgun, fel- ony battery charges — not exactly the preferred back-to-school checklist with fall classes beginning at Notre Dame. These arrests are the latest chapter in what is becoming a troubling pattern. Almost exactly two years ago, Notre Dame also made dubious headlines when five players were suspended after an investigation turned up evi- dence of academic dishonesty. "For every misstep," Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick insisted at the time, "we have hun- dreds of stories of young people who come here and take full advantage of the opportunity." Swarbrick is correct, but it's difficult to ignore that these "missteps" within the football program appear to be happening with growing frequency, and disproportionately compared to the other Irish athletic programs. Coincidence? Perhaps, and hope- fully. With about 100 young men be- tween the ages of 18 and 23 on a college football team, unfortunate events are inevitable. But that doesn't address the criti- cal question of whether this pattern of player improprieties is being re- peated because of entitlement and limited accountability within the Notre Dame football program. Kelly talked about "life lessons" after the recent arrests, yet, only Red- field and Butler received any pun- ishment — at least what is known publicly — from the coach. While the other four players missed no practice time and were scheduled to make the trip to Austin for the opener at Texas, there still might be internal punishment that is not for public consumption. Nevertheless, these six recent ar- rests mean that at least 20 Irish play- ers have found themselves in legal or academic trouble since 2011 when star wide receiver Michael Floyd was arrested on campus for DUI, his third alcohol-related offense at the time. Kelly might have failed to deliver a strong enough message about ac- countability to his team when Floyd was suspended only for spring prac- tice in 2011, basically a nice vacation for a veteran player. Kelly welcomed back his All-American with open arms in time for the 2011 regular- season opener — with no game time missed. Nothing might help send a clearer message than actual suspen- sion from a game or two. One season later, quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlos Calabrese, both key players, were at least suspended one game after run- ning from and kneeing a police officer (Rees) and threatening (Calabrese) a police officer at an off-campus party. But perhaps there was a missed op- portunity for Kelly to send a stronger message about player behavior and respect for law enforcement. "You have to create an environ- ment for your players on a day-to- day basis that they know you can't cut corners and they're going to be held accountable," Kelly said in 2014 during the academic dishonesty in- vestigation. Yet at times the accountability doesn't seem like it has always been firm enough from the football office — the Redfield dismissal notwith- standing — to deter future off-the- field embarrassing incidents. ✦ When Crime And Punishment Conflict UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Senior safety Max Redfield (above) was swiftly booted from the team, but the other four players arrested with him for marijuana possession were expected to suit up for the opener at Texas. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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