Notre Dame Football and The Academic War

By Michael Borth
August 15, 2014 11:47 pm
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There is no bigger story in the sports world right now like that involving the University of Notre Dame.

No pre-season NFL game.

Tiger's back.

Tony Stewart's fate.

Another year of "cheating" and "academic fraud".

The issue involving players and student aides alledgedly writing papers has again surfaced within the university.

It's circa Holtz type stuff.

The same thing that eventually led to so much pressure he fled.

His requests fell on deaf ears.

"Help me win games".

"Nah. We're good."

Both are right within their minds.

The university will never budge with it's umbrella of faith,honor and tradition.

They have a 2 billion dollar endowement that proves their stance.

Np person personified the university as grande as Holtz. But even he wanted a 'relaxed' aspect when it came to recruiting and academics as a whole for student athletes.

The battle resulted in Kim Dunbar becoming as well known as Tim Brown or Joe Montana.

She was as big a player overall as was Jerome Bettis.

Where The Bus scampered to the end zone, Dunbar led to the penalty box equally.

But no fan travels miles to see any teacher or aide.

And the turmoil never really subsided.

Since those days, Notre Dame has flirted with a title right up to the moment Reggie Bush was shoved over a goal line, and again in 2012 when Manti Teo was Skyping shadows.

Outside of those faithful year's, not much in the way of championship football.

What Holtz did was a complete overhaul.

The same thing currrent coach Brian Kelly is enduring.

New recruiting profiles and field turf.

It's no secret Kelly has dipped into 'infested waters' by plucking kids from the southern region of the country.

And even though these current players vary from North with Williams to West with Russell and Midwest with with Daniels- overall the current roster is littered with players from the south.

The fertile grounds from Texas to Florida have produced the greatest crop of high school players that morphed into SEC giants and future NFL prospects.

Under Charlie Weis, Notre Dame snagged a total of around 15 kids from the southern region while he coached the Irish.

Kelly acquired those numbers in his second year.

It's like hunting for a mega alligator in a canoe.

You may eventually come across one, but when you catch it-good luck.

Huge risk and greater reward.

The path that Kelly has ventured down even sparked a former player and broadcaster of Fighting Irish games to inject his opinion of what troubles Notre Dame.

In August of 2012, Allen Pinkett took heat for his comments:

Pinkett said the team 'needs more criminals on the squad if it's ever going to be a successful team.'

"I've always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team," Pinkett told The McNeil and Spiegel Show on 670 The Score. When given a chance to clarify, Pinkett insisted: "You look at the teams that have won in the past. They always have a couple of criminals."

Pinkett maintained he didn't care what kind of citizens players were off the field, as long as they played well upon it.

"I mean, that's how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team," Pinkett claimed.

What Pinkett was suggesting is something many tap dance around.

Football first,academics whenever- if at all.

Some suggest the kids today are different and unreachable.

There's a thought too that players down south only concern themselves with the fastest track to the NFL.

It's hot topic today when the conversation of the Power Conference is brought up.

When it does come about, the power schools will start paying players, hiring more recruiters, levy larger tv deals and in turn-demand less from their players for greater output on the field.

Which brings us back to the current hour in South Bend.

And it's a subject that will always hang over Notre Dame, it's fans, it's alum, the media and public in general.

The war of the student athlete and perspective in the eye of the public.

With alledged infractions hanging over the heads of the Fighting Irish athletic program, the general public has been rapid in driving the bus right over the program without even thinking of hitting the brakes.

Early Friday saw TWITTER and message boards engulfed with fire directed at Notre Dame as a result of 4 players potentially involved in academic fraud of some kind, which also includes university staff.

The players named at this moment are Ishaq Williams, Davaris Daniels, Kendall Moore and KeiVarae Russell.

From a football standpoint, Russell would be an immediate loss if suspended, as he was on several watch list's heading into the opener.

Williams has never lived up to his 5 star billing, but was slotted as a starting defensive end.

Daniels again has found himself involved in an academic mud hole. He recently returned after his previous suspension because of the very thing he again is involved with. His time on the field was a piece of the puzzle many saw would vault the Irish to vast success this season while accompanied by the return of Everett Golson.  

Kendall Moore was a special teams player and not much more was expected of him.

The other side of the universe where these allegations are concerned is perhaps the most ironic aspect of Notre Dame football in the eyes of the football world.

It has been argued for decades that Notre Dame is handcuffed when it comes to attracting elite players.

Yes the Irish have recently hauled in the likes of Manti Teo, Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt and Tyler Eifert.

Former players and a who's who of elite prospects include the likes of Justin Tuck and Kyle Rudolph.

One here and one there.

Year after year Notre Dame will always acquire top talents across the nation.

The university offers up one of the country's top business programs if not the best among other things.

The brand alone garners and merits attention.

But from a strictly football perspective, Notre Dame will never get the numbers like a Florida State or Alabama will get when it comes to blue chip players.

CeCe Jefferson, a top 2014 recruit- is not coming to South Bend 5 fold each year.

The Irish will haul a local player like Jaylon Smith or Nyles Morgan each year.

But hitting home runs yearly like Kelly did with Lynch, Tuitt and Williams is more of a fanatics dream.

Reality suggests Notre Dame will get a top player each year, but past that it will struggle to garner these kids from even considering South Bend in their future.

And simply put, it's because the University of Notre Dame does require, aspires to and commands excellence where academics are concerned.

That point was echoed and stamped in Friday's press conference with Rev. John Jenkins when he stated that where players and students and the emphasis of the university is prioritized: "student first".

The goal is clear and will never be compromised by any recruit, now or in the past.

Nor will Notre Dame relent with current players, no matter how important they appear in regards to the upcoming season.

They aspire to titles but will sacrifice all hardware for integrity.

Convincing the public is a war that will never be won by any voice within Notre Dame or those that appear across the avenues of multi media or in public view.

One such example comes from the recruiting site SCOUT and it's arm for the Irish- "Irish Eye's".

A poster tagged "irisheyes" posted this comment today, which offers up the basic premise that fans love their programs so much they will hit panic buttons as soon as they feel the first rain drop and mock it's foundation for it's student athletes:

"We have been trying to rebound now for 20 years.  If this Is true, this season
Is gone, Kelly Is likely gone and we start over from scratch again before we
even got where we were trying to go this time.   One thing It does that I hate
Is It makes ND fans as a whole look like hypocrites for all the "Student
Athlete" stuff that most of us throw out there In defense."

Actually, it's speaks very loud of the standards Notre Dame aspires to for their student athletes and the rants provided by the fan base when defending the troubles plaguing the Irish when it comes to things like recruiting and the results on the field as a result of players brought in to the university that must adhere to a strict code in the class.

Irish fans are often it's biggest group of cynics, so this fan isn't alone with his/her perspective because the latter portion of his point is 'echoed' across the globe:

'Notre Dame cheats like every other university.'

The flip side of the debate involves a school like Stanford and the results they have had the last few years.

But those results are not indicative of standards and coaching or recruiting student athlete's at a high level, but more so the results attributed to one player-Andrew Luck.

Stanford has had stingy defenses for some time and quality teams, but still have fell short of a title.

Always a tough team but never good enough to merit a spot among the elite-just like the Irish. 

For the Irish, rumors of single game suspensions or year long terminations exist.

From a football side of things alone, they will continue preparing for 2014 and will do so without these 4 players and others that may surface in time.

Brian Kelly is another story.

His tenure takes another hit.

Rape.

Catfish.

Death.

Fraud.

It's reported that the coaches acted swiftly upon first gaining knowledge of the alledged infractions on July 29th.

And outside of suspending the players come Monday or sooner, not much can be asked of him until all evidence surfaces.

If the 'cheating' is related to student participation only, it could lesson the blow for Notre Dame where the alledged 'cheating' is concerned.

If it's internal, an aide or university employee-that's trouble in a big way that would send Notre Dame to the basement of college football for a spell.

For a team seeking a redemption season of sorts with the return of Golson and new uniforms and a new surface, two weeks out with a black eye already is not what many had in mind for 2014.

Not overlooking Rice now takes on a whole new meaning.

 

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By Michael Borth
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