University plans to ensure that no further violations occur
By MIKE CONNOLLY and KATHLEEN O'BRIEN
In the wake of being placed on probation by the NCAA, Notre Dame is emphasizing its promising future and continued commitment to high moral standards, not the disappointing violations of the past several years.
"There are two things we must do better — one is we need to make every educational effort to communicate the values of the institution and the behavioral expectations of the individuals," University president Father Edward Malloy said Dec. 17, 1999, to The Observer. "That may require a change of heart or a change in what people are accustomed to. I don't think anyone that comes here to play football or anything else isn't willing to address those kinds of issues.
"The second thing is we need to do a better job of being alert to signals that indicate those patterns," Malloy added.
The University has taken a series of steps to ensure that no more violations will occur.
One crucial factor is calling student athletes to be aware of their actions and the implications of those actions.
"You cannot accept the benefits of membership in this [athletic] department unless you are prepared to accept the responsibilities as well," athletic director Michael Wadsworth wrote in a letter to all student-athletes on Dec. 22. "Every decision you face is an opportunity to repair the damage done by this case and earn back our hard fought reputation.
"Disregarding your responsibility and engaging in poor decision-making will further dismantle the traditions held dear by those who have gone before you, those who hope to follow you and the very teammates with whom you share your four years," he added.
To reiterate these expectations, Malloy and Wadsworth held a mandatory meeting for all student athletes Monday.
At the meeting, the athletes viewed a film outlining the Kimberly Dunbar case and the violations involved, a varsity athlete reported. Following the video, Malloy and Wadsworth spoke about each athlete's need to understand that his decisions concern not only his own future but the future of the University as well.
"Your very status as a Notre Dame student-athlete is one shared by a very select group," Wadsworth wrote. "The benefits and opportunities you enjoy must not be taken for granted."
Malloy acknowledges that increased awareness by coaches and administrators can only accomplish so much. Without the cooperation of athletes, the University would be unable to prevent future violations, he said.
"Is it possible to monitor everyone's dating patterns and friendships? No way," Malloy said. "Is it possible for any institution to oversee everyone's decisions? No way. I think it is very difficult for rectors in dorms, teachers in classrooms and coaches and athletic directors or heads of glee clubs or whatever to know what is going on with every person under their supervision. But I think we need to do a better job because there are not only University implications but also with the NCAA."
In addition to the NCAA violations, Malloy expressed disappointment with the sexual activity of football players in violation of du Lac and Catholic moral teachings.
"The thing that disappointed me with what was revealed in that case was the violation of our expectations for students with regards to sexual activity and the value system of the players," Malloy said. "The choice of lifestyle is a concern to me as a person and as a priest."
Since the probation was announced, the athletic department has expanded its required personal development program for all athletes to nearly 40 hours over four years.
"The program educates student-athletes to make the right decisions on difficult issues including drinking, gambling, and University and NCAA rules," Malloy said in a prepared statement.
Notre Dame is also seeking to instill a greater awareness by coaches of actions taken by their athletes.
"The one thing the NCAA recommended," Malloy said, "was that we be more rigorous in encouraging associates to follow through to the administrators and the University NCAA enforcement office in any case where there is a question of doubt."
If an assistant football coach had followed through on his knowledge of the potentially problematic relationships in the Dunbar case, Notre Dame may have avoided NCAA sanctions.
Notre Dame coaches were already expected to closely monitor the athletes' behavior.
"We have built into our job description for our coaches and also for our assistant coaches that they have a special responsibility not only for the performance athletically but also for the whole student," Malloy stated. "We need to be especially alert for signals that something might be awry. That is a form of an early warning system."
The new early warning system requires coaches to go directly to the compliance division of the athletic department if they have any concerns about improper behavior.
"We have instituted an `early warning' communications policy in athletics which requires immediate reporting of any situation that suggests improper conduct or potential University or NCAA rules violations," Malloy said. "The policy also states that failure to act in such a situation will itself be considered a serious matter."
The University is also enlisting the assistance of those in the Notre Dame community.
"We are also going to ask the cooperation of other members of this community," Malloy said. "Why didn't students come forward and say, I think there is something awry? If we can get people to help us understand what is going on, then maybe we can prevent these problems in the future."
In response to the findings of the NCAA, Notre Dame has disbanded the Quarterback Club as well as all other fan clubs for varsity sports.
According to Malloy, the NCAA staff said no other university has ever taken such a drastic step. Dunbar's membership in the Quarterback Club established her as a booster and led to the violations.
Malloy and the rest of the administration hope these steps will restore Notre Dame's reputation as a model for academic, athletic and ethical standards.
"We have high standards for the conduct of athletics at Notre Dame and we will not compromise those standards," Malloy said. "Notre Dame has a proud tradition in athletics, not only for doing well but also for doing right. We regret these incidents, and I pledge my own and my administration's most diligent efforts to avoid such problems in the future."
All News Stories for Wednesday, January 19, 19100