Tag: Lizzy Seeberg

Prince Shembo

Shembo addresses Seeberg allegations


Former Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo spoke publicly for the first time about the death of Lizzy Seeberg, a former St. Mary’s student who committed suicide a week after accusing a Notre Dame football player of a sexual attack. While the player’s name had stayed anonymous in media reports, Shembo acknowledged that he was the player.

After staying quiet since the incident occurred in the first weeks of his freshman year, Shembo acknowledged in Indianapolis that he was the accused, something easily findable on the internet over the past four years.

He also defended himself, claiming no wrongdoing, while also acknowledging that he’s spent time talking to NFL teams candidly about the experience.

Andrew Owens of BlueandGold.com was in Indianapolis:

“I just tell [NFL team executives] the truth, I have nothing to hide,” said Shembo, who estimated that 26 teams have interviewed him. “No one’s heard from me one time. Do you go off of one person’s story?

“I’m still here, so I know I didn’t do anything. I tell them exactly what happened.”

Shembo said the questions teams have asked him did not come as a surprise because “it’s all over the internet. Everyone that does the background check can type my name in and you’ll see all the stuff that people have said about me and have never heard from my mouth.”

Irish coach Brian Kelly told Shembo he could not discuss the matter publicly, Shembo said.

“Yes, I wanted to talk about it, but they had to keep everything confidential,” said Shembo, who added that he did not lobby Kelly for the opportunity to speak about it. “Now that I’m out [of the university], I can talk about it.

“My name was going to flames and it just made my name look bad and I can’t even speak.”

The Seeberg tragedy was a lightning rod in the media. It is also a case that saw no winners, with a young woman taking her life within weeks of attending college, and a young man branded with an accusation that’ll stick for the rest of his life.

College football had sexual assaults come to the forefront of two major football programs this year. Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston was accused of rape. Michigan’s Brandon Gibbons was expelled in December, the reaction to an incident that took place four years earlier.

Shembo was never charged with a crime. He’s a mid-round NFL prospect at outside linebacker.


Editor’s Note: Please be thoughtful before making comments. They will be heavily moderated and ignorance will not be tolerated. 

Integrity a two-way street

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

There is nothing straightforward about the circumstances surrounding the death of St. Mary’s freshman Lizzy Seeberg, who committed suicide nine days after accusing an Irish football player of sexual assault. That accusation was first reported by the Chicago Tribune, who has been the paper of record on this story since initially reporting it for its Sunday edition on November 21st, a day after the Irish defeated Army in Yankee Stadium 28-3.

Again, there’s little that seems straightforward about this story. That Notre Dame and its independent police force have shared little information with the Seeberg family (or the Tribune) hasn’t helped the University’s case in the court of public opinion. That the 19-year-old Seeberg had long suffered serious bouts of depression, taken antidepressants, and battled thoughts of suicide before her accusations don’t make things easier for the family or the prosecution. And while St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak declined to file any charges after spending a month reviewing a “voluminous report” turned over by Notre Dame to the county prosecutors, the story has already been framed, not just by the Tribune’s one-sided reporting, but some horrific editorializing, turning a tragic story with no winners into a melodrama that positioned the Tribune to play the role of scrappy underdog against the monolithic and conspiratorial Notre Dame. It might be an excellent angle to sell papers, but it’s a great disservice to all parties involved.

That the Tribune’s reporting on the incident has been one-sided shouldn’t be all that surprising — only one-side of the story is talking about the incident. But the fact that the Tribune has published three different opinion pieces on the tragedy, all sharing the same viewpoint, is a major cause for concern.

In between columns name-checking guys like Rahm Emmanuel and Geraldo Rivera, and tongue-and-cheek exposes on revolving-door “ride poachers,” Tribune columnist John Kass took Notre Dame to task for failing to live up to its name when dealing with the Declan Sullivan and Seeberg tragedies.

Kass points out that the Virgin Mary, who Notre Dame was named after, “wasn’t much for spin. She didn’t lawyer up. She didn’t hide behind bureaucratic walls.” Kass failed to mention that the Virgin Mary didn’t completely avoid the other side of the story either.

While Kass chooses to label Notre Dame’s responses “public relations spin and bureaucratic shielding of liability,” he conveniently leaves out Father John Jenkins’ statement of responsibility for the death of Sullivan. He also conveniently ignores the multiple releases from the University explaining how and why they’ve handled the Seeberg investigation the way they have, and all but calling the initial Tribune report false and misleading.

While schlocky writing isn’t necessarily mediocre journalism, another Tribune columnist, David Haugh, took his second swipe today at the University over the Seeberg tragedy. While his first column was filled with righteous indignation that only subtly abused the truth, his most recent work raised the bar by misappropriating a Brian Kelly quote to help fit his column better.

In a column entitled “Integrity is wrong word in school’s handling of Seeberg case,” Haugh opened his column with this (bold lettering added by me for emphasis):

Curious to see in person how the most visible leader at Notre Dame defended the most famous college football program in America from charges of hypocrisy — and worse — I came Friday to hear coach Brian Kelly.

And was astonished by what I heard.

I shouldn’t have been.

Kelly used the word “integrity” four times in 30 seconds while answering a question about support for a player accused of sexually attacking a St. Mary’s College student who killed herself 10 days later.

If you don’t have integrity, what else do you have?” Kelly began. “I’ve got a family to raise. I’ve got kids. I have a football family here. If there’s no integrity in what you do … I’d have been in a different business a long time ago.

“Integrity is probably, for me, the only thing that keeps me going in this business. Sometimes misinformation and not having the right facts drives you crazy. So you have to have something that you hang your hat on. It’s always, for me, been doing the right thing. And integrity.”

As the Notre Dame coach invoked all that was wholesome and good about the guys in gold helmets, the cyber hunt to identify the player and poke into his past continued. The Tribune is not naming the player because he was not charged with a crime.

In what has become a habitual exercise in framing the narrative, Haugh turned Kelly’s comments about integrity into something that would help his column, not into the response of the question he actually asked.

Here’s the question that Kelly was actually asked:

“Your program obviously is scrutinized, and my newspaper has been critical of the way things have been handled, other people may be as well, do you feel just as strongly now than you did a month ago in terms of defending the type of player that you recruit, and the type of process for situations like this?”

And here’s the response Kelly gave:

“If you don’t have integrity, what else do you have? I’ve got a family to raise, I’ve got kids, I have a football family here. If there’s no integrity in what you do, then I’d have been in a different business a long time ago. So, integrity is probably for me the only thing that keeps me going in this business. Because sometimes misinformation, and not having the right facts drives you crazy. You have to have something to hang your hat on. And it’s always for me been doing the right thing and integrity.”

Kelly’s answer reads quite differently when you consider it a response to what Haugh actually asked him, not as an act of support for the accused player. Maybe the most disappointing part of Haugh’s column wasn’t what he wrote, but what he didn’t, leaving out Kelly’s response to his final question, when the reporter asked the head coach if he felt “vindicated” that the prosecutor decided not to file charges.

“Boy, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a vindication in such a very unfortunate time,” Kelly said. “A young girl lost her life. I can’t imagine how tough that is on the parents. I don’t think there were ever those feelings as much as completing the process, and I’m committed to the way the University handles the process. They’re thorough and we’re all part of that process.”

Kelly’s comments are probably the best encapsulation of what’s actually transpired in the days since Lizzy Seeberg took her own life. There are no winners here. Not the Seeberg family, who grieve the loss of a daughter and struggle to find answers in a process that’s guarded by laws that protect both sides of a sexual accusation. Not Notre Dame, who deals with their second high-profile tragedy of the football season. And not the Chicago Tribune, who had to sacrifice their journalistic ethics to get the most out of a story, where only one-side openly cooperated.

Two days after the Tribune broke their initial story, Janet M. Botz, Vice President in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications had this to say in a statement released to all faculty, staff, and students at the University.

“It is and always will be a central tenet of Notre Dame’s mission to learn the truth and to act in accordance with it. As you read stories about any matter that involves our careful and thorough process, I urge you not to arrive at any conclusions until all the facts are known. Only through a serious, informed and fair process can justice be served. Such a process will always be our focus.”

That process means staying quiet while the Tribune continues to throw rocks at the Golden Dome, even if it means taking the bumps and bruises associated.

Funny, that sounds an awful lot like integrity.

One step forward, two steps back

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel

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.