It's always something with Notre Dame football

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Stick around the Notre Dame football program long enough and one truth becomes evident: It’s always something.

Whether it’s the backup quarterback being suspended for the opener after an offseason brush with the law; or the starting quarterback excused from school for academic reasons; or a rival coach making an offseason crack about the Irish to his alumni; or a “booster” landing the program in hot water for illegal gifts; or someone taking a shot at the coach in a book; or whatever …

It’s always something.

Media Day never seems to change. Only the crisis is different from year to year.

This year’s bit of drama is a doozy. Last week the bombshell rocked ND Nation when four players were suspended while the University conducts an academic fraud case.

The scope of the investigation is difficult to quantify. It’s the textbook definition of a covert operation. Will it involve more players? Will victories need to be forfeited? Could the “fraudulent four” be found innocent and reinstated to the program? If found guilty, could they return to the program after serving a suspension?

Fans are confused about the root of the problem. Many are having a difficult time putting the situation into context. Who’s to blame? A lot of those folks who bleed blue and gold are unsure where to direct their anger.

All they know is they’re mad.

Tuesday, during his praise for every facet of his team and every individual in the huddle or on the sidelines, head coach Brian Kelly offered the only words on the topic that were allowed by the university – no matter how much the media badgered the well-schooled players who were made available.

“It’s harder at Notre Dame (than most colleges),” Kelly said when pushed on what made last week’s news so significant. “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be special. The benefits you get by coming to Notre Dame far outweigh so many other universities.

“There are no shortcuts, and our guys know it. They’re held accountable for it. That’s why there’s not a huge issue within our football team, because they know what they sign-up for when they come here. They know they’re accountable on a day-to-day basis.”

Though strictly bound to silence at any mention of the “fraudulent four,” quarterback Everett Golson came the closest to spilling any sort of beans about this clandestine situation.

He spoke from somewhat of a position of authority on the subject, since he returned to the university after missing the fall 2013 semester for academic reasons.

Golson said neither his teammates nor his classmates have ever asked him about what he did that led to his suspension. Of course, there was that national media report in which he kinda, sorta, maybe insinuated he had cheated on a test.

“I think it says something about this university and the people of this university,” Golson said. “I think they forgive a little bit. It’s definitely a forgiving spirit. They understand, ‘I’m not going to ridicule you because you messed up in the past.’ It’s more the type of thing, ‘OK, you’re back now. We forgive you.’”

Of course, when you can throw on the run and make something out of nothing with an offense, forgiveness can come easier. Last year with Tommy Rees was enough to welcome Golson with open arms.

“I had a completely different situation (than the four suspended players),” Golson said, deflecting the temptation to measure their plight. “I’m not the type that wants to speculate. I’m a fact-driven guy.

“It’s manageable, for sure.”

Golson talked about the impact of his banishment.

“I think the whole process of me going through it, I was definitely embarrassed at first,” Golson said. “But you have to feel that. Definitely humility, but you have to feel that as well to know what it’s like when you get back up to the top. It hurt. I felt I had to feel the full brunt of that to self-evaluate myself and correct my mistakes. Be a better person. Be a better leader.”

Great stuff to say on Media Day. Over the 14 weeks of the season he’ll have plenty of opportunities to put those words into action.

Because, heck, it’s always something. | 574-235-6318

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks to starting quarterback Everett Golson during practice inside Notre Dame Stadium on Tuesday. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)