The Tommy Rees Scandal
Will Notre Dame let this pass?
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At the very least, the biggest indictment of the Notre Dame football program might be that its quarterback is slow enough to be chased down in the open field by the police.
Of course quarterback Tommy Rees should be booted off the team if he’s found guilty of resisting arrest, allegedly applying a knee to the stomach of officer Brandon Stec, or anything else coming from the preliminary felony charge of battery on a police officer, misdemeanor resisting arrest and underage drinking - and later reduced to four misdemeanor charges.
Of course linebacker Carlo Calabrese shouldn’t be on the team if it’s true that he threatened officers by shouting, “my people are coming to get you,” which is more than can be said to opposing quarterbacks this season after star pass rusher Aaron Lynch transferred.
But will Notre Dame let the storm pass in this case like it has with all the other scandals during the Brian Kelly era?
Probably. It’s Notre Dame, and letting things blow over is what it does.
The myth of Notre Dame being some paragon of virtue and holier than any other multi-million dollar college football Goliath went bye-bye after the shameful handling and under-the-rug sweeping of the Elizabeth Seeberg tragedy, followed up by the death of Declan Sullivan due to “unremarkable” weather conditions – complete with the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration blasting the school for “knowingly putting its employees in an unsafe situation.” Throw in the pretend indefinite suspension of ex-receiver Michael Floyd for his drunken driving citations that magically ended in time for him to crank out a 12-catch, 154-yard, two score day in the 2011 opener against South Florida, and it’s time for the school to get a public relations win.
School officials always say they handle disciplinary issues privately, but every time they do, the results seem to be help out the football program and the football program only. So while the school has to let the legal side of the Rees case play out and then act accordingly – if he’s found innocent then obviously it’s business as usual - it also has to make a stand at some point that the football team doesn’t rule the roost.
If Arkansas can do it with Bobby Petrino, then the Irish can do it with Rees.
Football wise, the controversy might make the situation easier for Kelly. The Irish have four good quarterback prospects in Rees, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, and hot-shot new recruit Gunner Kiel, so it’s not like losing one of the options is a killer. However, Rees is the most experienced of the bunch and has shown excellent upside and potential when he’s not throwing interceptions at the worst possible times.
Only 19 and with two years of playing time under his belt, there was a good chance Rees would’ve come into the season as the safe pick for the starting gig before this happened. Obviously that’s all up in the air now.
Rees might have made one awful mistake and this might be one disastrous case of poor judgment, but that’s enough. He’s a good guy – as is Floyd, by the way - who escaped the mean streets of Lake Forest, Ill. and its multi-million dollar estates off of Lake Michigan, and comes from a well-known and respected family. At the end of the day, this hopefully will be one bad moment and not a life-ruining error, but that doesn’t mean he should be allowed to play at Notre Dame ever again if he’s guilty.
Playing college football has to be seen as a privilege, especially at Notre Dame. It’s one thing to be a true football school that doesn’t pretend to be anything more, but Notre Dame – right or wrong, fair or not – is supposed to represent more. Booting Rees off the team is just that - it's not kicking him out of school or ruining his chance to get an education. It's saying it's not okay to break the law if you're a Notre Dame football player.
Instead of chasing down the latest $100 handshake or a lunch tab with an agent, the NCAA should put in place a set of “conduct detrimental to college athletics” guidelines that are as simple as this: get convicted of a crime and you’re college athletic career is over. Since that’s not happening any time soon, it’s up to Notre Dame to show that there’s a code of behavior that has to be followed to earn the honor of putting on the golden helmet.
Now it’s time for Notre Dame to start being what Notre Dame is supposed to be and once and for all make a statement that this sort of behavior is never, ever okay.