Let me set the scene for you, its 1939, Roger Goodell reigns supreme over the NFL and to the south Mark Emmert, in similar fashion, runs the media driven money machine known as the NCAA.
The organization announced last week that it has vacated 21 victories from Notre Dame’s 2012 and 2013 seasons. This was in response to a Notre Dame student athletic trainer doing course work for two unnamed players and helping six others over the course of the 2011-13 seasons. The trainer was removed from the program in 2014 upon the school’s own investigation and the players involved were punished accordingly based on the degree of their involvement.
Notre Dame, however, has since denounced the NCAA’s penalty, which would effectively nullify two of Head Coach Brian Kelly’s best seasons with the Irish and a national championship berth. The school said it would appeal the decision and noted a lack of precedent for an incident where the school itself had zero involvement. The media reaction since the announcement has been overwhelmingly in favor of the NCAA’s decision, but does that make it right?
This is to all the Paul Finebaum’s of the world whose ears start wagging like a puppy’s tail every time the media goes after Notre Dame. The 2012 National Championship game was a second Christmas for this crowd. For months sports analysts mocked the Fighting Irish and Manti Te’o for their lack luster performance against Nick Saban’s genetically engineered Crimson Tide.
Side note: Where were all the feminists when Manti Te’o’s ex-girlfriend was being publicly shamed for her role in their online relationship? Can’t pick and choose your battles in your line of work ladies. Te’o walks away with a 2nd round pick and $3 million guaranteed, and she hasn’t been able to show her face since 2013. If you ask me, she was the real victim of that title loss.
Lets think about it for a second. As bad as a championship game as that was, and it was BAD. It was without a doubt what made the NCAA finally dump the BCS playoff and switch to the current system. In that sense Notre Dame dropping the ball in 2012 essentially saved college football. No need to say thank you, but you’re welcome.
Back to the matter at hand, the only reason the NCAA is taking this cheap shot at Notre Dame is not over some ageless initiative to uphold the academic standards of college athletics. It is purely because Notre Dame refuses to join a power conference.
It’s a huge reason most people don’t like the Irish. They don’t have to play that extra game and it contributes to a “too cool for school” attitude (ironic seeing that they’re one of the few teams that actually do school). But why should they join a conference? They’re a timeless program that’s been around long before Mark Emmert and the NCAA goose stepped their way into the picture. Notre Dame is an inherent part of the history of college football. They’ve earned their prestige and the right to stand alone as the “the team to beat.”
But if you want a real reason, NBC just extended its broadcasting contract with Notre Dame starting this year through 2025, which is reportedly worth $15 million dollars annually for Notre Dame football. What program would willingly take that sort of pay cut to join one of the NCAA’s cookie cutter conferences? The fact the NCAA isn’t getting one cent of that money either is driving them mad.
If the NCAA really cared about the academic wellbeing of its athletes, it wouldn’t be reprimanding Notre Dame. It would be applauding the school and athletic program for self reporting the incident, firing the trainer responsible for doing the players’ homework, and booting, suspending, and punishing the six players involved from the team. The school and program took responsibility and didn’t hide it from the public when it was discovered. It only took Mark Emmert and the boys two years to actually address it. Solid detective work on their part.
I also love the extremist sect of critics who believe this incident discredits the century old academic reputation of the Irish. Give me a break. Where were these people when the prestigious University of North Carolina sponsored years of ghost classes for their players? Notre Dame players got answers from a low ranking student trainer. Was it wrong? Of course, but again it was self-reported. Find me another big time program that would actively patrol player academics the way Notre Dame does. I’ll wait.
Maybe the Irish should fire Brian Kelly. The NCAA would probably drop the case entirely. I mean, Baylor fired its head coach, Art Briles, and athletic director, Ian McCaw and suddenly the years of overlooked sexual assaults and abuse accusations were all forgiven. But hey that wasn’t an academic issue, so it’s out of the NCAA’s jurisdiction…
Another side note: Hell of a look by Liberty University hiring Ian McCaw as their new AD. The guy overlooked dozens of sexual assault and rape allegations and now he’s working at a school where it’s illegal to hold hands on campus. Then again, he might fit right in. Covering up sexual abuse isn’t exactly a new concept for Christian run institutions. But seriously, glad to see such a class act land on his feet.
So what have we learned? One, when dealing with the NCAA, honesty is not the best policy. Two, Notre Dame was and still gives Mark Emmert nightmares about lost income, and he and his cronies will take whatever shots they can until the school plays by their rules. And finally, the majority of college football fans and sports analysts still HATE Notre Dame, which, honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But whether the NCAA is out to get Notre Dame or they’re just plain incompetent. I would vote the latter. Neither is an excuse to take away two of the program’s best seasons in recent memory over a small and isolated academic infraction. It’s not fair to the players, coaches, and staff that worked so tirelessly to put the school back on the map, and it just adds to the list of the NCAA’s inadequacies.
Sadly, at the end of the day all teams must bend the knee. Unless their appeal goes through, Notre Dame is going to have to wear the asterisk on those 2012-13 seasons. At that point, they need to move on. There are a lot of more pressing issues to address on the field in prep for next season. The first two being convincing their prospective 1st rounder QB, Deshone Kizer, to stay on board for one more season and actually assemble something reminiscent of a defense. If they can do both of those, you’ll be seeing a very sullen game day panel in 2017.