Notre Dame captains McGlinchey, Rochell remain steadfast in wake of NCAA ruling

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Scratch off the win against Temple.

Scratch off the win against Purdue. Scratch off the win against Michigan State. Scratch off the win against Arizona State. Scratch off the win against USC.

While you’re at it, wipe out all nine of Notre Dame’s wins in 2013, as the NCAA demands.

Mike McGlinchey will still remember them.

“We know we won the games. They’re not going to take that away from us,” said McGlinchey, who was a freshman in 2013. “They can take it away in the record books all they want, but we won the games. We had a good season that year, and they had an even better season the year before that.

“So it’s one of those things that … go ahead and scratch them off a piece of paper, but we know we won those games.”

Notre Dame won’t be scratching anything off just yet.

Despite the NCAA’s ruling, which was announced on Tuesday and directed Notre Dame to vacate all 21 wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to previously reported infractions, the university will challenge that penalty.

But regardless of the result of the appeal, the opinion Notre Dame’s captains have of their university won’t change.

The same can be said about its critics.

“Bottom line, Notre Dame is Notre Dame,” said senior defensive end Isaac Rochell. “Notre Dame is going to be bigger than any individual. It’s bigger than me. It’s bigger than you guys. I think the brand of Notre Dame isn’t tainted. We are who we are.”

Added McGlinchey: “For the people that really know Notre Dame and know what we’re about, it’s not going to affect anybody. Obviously the outsiders … everybody’s kind of looking for a little reason to hate on this university, and that’s fine. That’s the way it is, but we don’t look at it any differently.

“Notre Dame is Notre Dame. It’s the best university in the world, and we’re just going to go out and continue to prove that by the character of the guys we have in our locker room now. Obviously there’s been some mistakes made in the past, but there’s nothing we can do about that now.”

All they can do is play, and even that has been a struggle.

Put yourself, for a second, in Rochell or McGlinchey’s massive cleats. You’ve lost seven games, all by eight points or less. During a home loss to Duke in September, your student section chanted for your defensive coordinator to be fired, while his son stood on your sideline. A day later, the mob got its wish. You’ve played through a quarterback competition. You’ve played in a hurricane. You’ve answered questions about your head coach — so, so many questions.

Now, you’ve answered questions about NCAA violations you had nothing to do with, too.

Has there ever been a more difficult season to be a captain at Notre Dame?

“At Notre Dame, yes. In high school, yes,” Rochell said, when asked if this has been his most difficult season in football. “Just all around, it’s been the most difficult thing, especially as a captain.

“You just have to keep grinding. Another thing you have to realize is that Notre Dame is bigger than us. We’re fighting for Notre Dame and we’re fighting for something that’s bigger than the individual. Another thing I’ve learned is what it means to sacrifice for teammates.

“Personally, as a captain and someone who’s got aspirations moving forward, if you’re losing you have two options: you can play for your team or you can play for yourself. You’re 4-7. What are you going to do? I’ve learned to play for my teammates, because the brand is bigger than me. I think that’s been the biggest takeaway this season.”

Rochell has learned from a disappointing season, just as Notre Dame has learned from the actions that preceded Tuesday’s disappointing ruling.

“I think there’s more of a hands-on approach with our staff upstairs with the development office and working a lot more closely with (academic counselor) Adam Sargent and his staff with academic services,” McGlinchey said of how the program changed in the wake of the violations.

“I don’t think that we’ve ever let anything slip here (academically). It just so happens that a couple guys did the wrong thing. It has no effect on what this university is doing, because we’re top of the top in the world. There’s no getting around that. It just so happens that a couple guys made a mistake and the whole team goes down with it.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey (68) stands with his teammates during the singing of the alma mater following the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016, in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN