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One step forward, two steps back

Nov 22, 2010, 1:26 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

Sunday was supposed to be a celebratory day for the Notre Dame football program, coming off another resounding win in one of sport’s best venues. But as it seems to happen, the Irish football program has been blindsided again this season, this time with a Chicago Tribune report nearly three months in the making alleging sexual abuse by an Irish football player prior to the season’s opening game. The alleged victim of that abuse, St. Mary’s freshman Lizzy Seeberg, passed away nine days after reporting the incident from an apparent overdose on prescription medication in her dorm room. She had a personal history of battling depression.

On his Sunday morning wrap-up conference call with the (usually football) media, Kelly was asked by three different Tribune reporters for comment on their Sunday morning exclusive (the fourth Tribune reporter, Notre Dame beat writer Brian Hamilton stuck with football). He deferred every time to the University, a seemingly logical decision by a football coach whose job purview doesn’t include investigating crime on campus at Notre Dame or neighboring St. Mary’s.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said via email to the Tribune that “Notre Dame will never be silent or passive when it comes to the careful, thorough and fair determination of whether laws or university policies have been broken on our campus.”

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention the article, which is an incredibly serious allegation, and more importantly, a terribly tragic incident for the Seeberg family to deal with. That said, we’ll stick to football here until there’s actual news to report on this situation.

I was a student at Notre Dame when Donald Dykes, Abe Elam, Justin Smith and Lorenzo Crawford were charged by a female student football manager with rape. All four men were kicked out of school prior to any criminal investigation, after the university ruled independently of the legal system that the students violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy. Over a year later, Dykes was acquitted. Charges against Smith and Crawford were dismissed. Elam rejected multiple plea arrangements that would’ve required him to testify that his three teammates committed rape, and was controversially convicted of a lesser count of sexual battery and given two years of probation. It was a terrible situation and in many people’s opinions, one that was terribly mishandled by the university.

It’s likely that some of the administrators that dealt with the situation eight years ago are the ones that proceeded over the decision to allow the unnamed player to continue playing while Notre Dame, and its police force, investigate. For those that think this is a sinister cover-up to allow a Notre Dame athlete to continue with his gridiron glory, the university’s decision to expel four student athletes on the word of the accuser alone should quell that notion. So while it’s a splashy story and one that the Tribune decided to roll out for its Sunday edition, it’s an issue that seems far too serious for me to pontificate on, especially with only one side of the story.




  1. bernhtp - Nov 22, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    I trust and pray that the Notre Dame administration performs a thorough investigation prior to taking punitive action. While there is a natural desire for a speedy reaction, we also need to take a lesson from the deplorable actions of Duke University in its Lacrosse case where they committed the most disgraceful form of injustice.

  2. bradwins - Nov 22, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    If the player, whoever it is, is proven guilty I trust that the school will handle the situation appropriately at that time. In the meantime, the school is doing the right thing by allowing the player to play while the investigation continues. It is too easy for people with a grudge to derail a young person’s life by making this type of claim. While the university has a moral obligation to hold its students responsible when they commit reprehensible acts, it also has an obligation to its students to get all the facts before making a decision in that regard.

  3. sbnddomer - Nov 22, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    I’m so thankful for your thoughtful post. I’ve been very disheartened by the Tribune’s coverage of this story and I have been trying to figure out why. Initially, I thought it was because I’m a ND fan and this is another controversy that will slow the development of the program. But, I don’t think that is why I was so disheartened by the Tribune article. The true reason of my discontent is that the magnitude of these accusations and allegations is so extreme that it demands a tremendous amount of hesitation prior to pointing fingers. If the student is guilty, then by all means, punish him. I don’t care if it slows the programs progress. An injustice such as this allegation demands justice, whether a football program is harmed as a result or not. However, there is a process that needs to play itself out. The Tribune’s posture in covering this story seems to be that they are mostly frustrated with the lack of information from Notre Dame, therefore there must be a cover up! This attitude is dangerous and immature, especially coming from a major newspaper like the Tribune.

  4. dbldmr - Nov 22, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    I must admit that I’m surprised that the Notre Dame haters haven’t jumped on this yet. I think any real Notre Dame supporter would want justice to be done, irrespective of any possible negative impact on a football program. Justice, however, doesn’t presuppose the guilt of an accused party. (If that were the case then all accusations would be handled the way Duke handled them when the lacrosse players were accused. That worked out well for nobody.)

    I read that the young woman’s parents have hired an attorney to investigate. I have no problem with that. If I were in their position I would want to be sure that every possible angle is explored. I trust that the investigation on the part of the university (including the NDSP) is thorough. If it is true that a Notre Dame student is culpable then he should be charged and tried and if found guilty suffer the consequences.

  5. schuey73 - Nov 23, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Here’s an updated article from the South Bend Tribune that clarifies some mistakes in the Chicago Tribune article. The Tribune article stated that ND police did not report the alleged assault to the local county police, in which case the ND haters (on other sites) are crying that a cover up is going on. That is not the case.

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