Sanctions change nothing
Associate Sports Editor
Any Notre Dame student who read the media coverage of the NCAA sanctions placed on the Irish football team must have been shocked when they returned to campus and found that everything was continuing normally and the Dome hadnot collapsed.
With the NCAA announcement that Notre Dame would lose one football scholarship each year for the next two years and be placed on probation for two years, almost every sports columnist in the country suddenly felt compelled to condemn the University and declare its downfall. Many led the American public to believe that, due to the sanctions, Notre Dame would practically cease to exist.
According to most sports columnists, the actions of certain football players intertwined in the Dunbar saga forever destroyed the University and its image.
"If there was any lingering question whether the Notre Dame of grainy black and white newsreels still existed, whether the Fighting Irish of the earnest days from Rockne to Rudy somehow could have endured, that issue was officially, eternally closed Friday," Malcolm Moran wrote in the Chicago Tribune (Dec. 18, 1999).
But as every Notre Dame student learned upon returning for this semester, probation changed nothing.
Students still go to class, rectors continue to enforce parietals and most students are more concerned with class schedules than Kim Dunbar's bank records.
Students at Notre Dame know an important fact that seems to be beyond the grasp of most sports writers: Notre Dame is more than a football team, and the football team is much greater than the actions of a few players who let their greed and libido control their actions.
"Now, [Notre Dame] is just another college that plays football ... And, worst of all, without much honor either," Mike Vaccaro wrote in New Jersey's Star-Ledger (Dec. 19, 1999).
While sports columnists rant and rave about probation stealing away the football team's honor, Grant Irons, Bobby Brown and Jabari Holloway will continue to make every Notre Dame supporter proud with their athletic ability, scholastic success and overall integrity.
In most cases, without ever having spoken to a Notre Dame football player or spending any time on this campus, sports columnists across the country declared themselves experts on what Notre Dame stands for.
One writer for the Washington Post was so knowledgeable on Notre Dame that he did not even feel it was necessary to spell the football head coach's name correctly (it's Bob Davie, not Bob Davies).
The perception of most of the media is that Notre Dame has never committed an NCAA violation and spends all of its time bragging how great it is.
According to Vaccaro, "Notre Dame has been tsk-tsk-tsking others for the past 80 years."
This is completely ridiculous. Only the most ignorant Irish fan could possibly believe an Irish athlete has never violated an NCAA rule in some manner.
What Notre Dame has always prided itself on was swift and immediate action taken against any student who broke a rule, whether that rule is an NCAA, University or state law. Since athletes at Notre Dame are students, they fall under the same rules and regulations as any other student.
When Brock Williams, Tony Driver and Lee Lafayette broke rules, they were appropriately punished. But the national media ignore these University actions.
Instead, the media point at the poor decision-making of Eric Chapell who tried to sell his complementary tickets, and at Darcy Levy, who a Chicago Tribune source has revealed to be the player who paid a friend to write a paper for him. The media ignore the fact that Chapell was kicked off the team for abusing his privileges as a football player and Levy left school. The University will tell you that Levy transferred, but if you believe that his transfer wasn't highly encouraged by Student Affairs, then there is a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing.
With the Kim Dunbar situation finally at a close, Notre Dame can still feel proud. While the actions of a few individuals shamed the University, the actions of the University should be commended. The NCAA concluded that members of the coaching staff and administration were not involved in any scandal and took the appropriate steps to investigate and turn over all information related to the investigation.
Unlike Alabama and Wisconsin, who have been put on probation in the past year, the Irish coaching staff had nothing to do with the scandal.
No one ever said that Notre Dame was perfect, but even when problems arise, the Irish still do things the right way.
So for the moment, members of the administration must hang their heads and turn the other cheek as Notre Dame detractors have their day in the sun. But when the leaves turn from green to gold and a blue, gray sky blankets northern Indiana, the stadium will fill and the band will strike up the fight song. When the football team rushes from the tunnel, no one will notice the loss of one scholarship and the Irish will still have their honor.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, January 19, 19100