One step forward, two steps back

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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.