With path cleared, Floyd takes on a new journey

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Let’s be clear. Michael Floyd is a long way from appearing in the home opener against South Florida in September. But today, as I reported via Twitter, he cleared a remarkable hurdle.

After being arrested on March 20th for drunk driving, Floyd put a career set to go down in the Irish record books in jeopardy by driving home drunk. (A drive about a half-mile door-to-door, or less than a four-dollar cab ride.) He was arrested and booked by Notre Dame Security Police and still faces the legal consequences of the misdemeanor charge, as well as the not insignificant costs associated with the arrest.

But beyond the legal and financial ramifications still to be faced, many had assumed that Floyd’s career at Notre Dame was over, thanks to the unforgiving nature of DuLac, the student disciplinary code that has been handled stone-fisted for much of the last twenty years by ResLife, the disciplinary arm on campus.

As an isolated incident, the DUI certainly was a worry, but when added to the minor-consumption run-ins (not driving related incidents as others are reporting) Floyd had previously back in Minnesota — one of which was widely reported in the days before Brian Kelly arrived on campus — it seemed too much to overcome.

All the goodwill Floyd had earned making the difficult decision to return to school for his senior season had instantly been lost. The kudos he received for returning to Notre Dame for his degree and to prove the self-belief he had in his abilities was forgotten. No. 3 wasn’t just the revered number on Floyd’s Irish jersey, but the alcohol related run-ins he’s had since leaving high school in St. Paul. With the drunk driving arrest three weeks ago, Floyd instantly lost all the wonderful things he’s been called over his three year career in South Bend and became just another one of “them.”

(Just wait until you read the headlines…)

Again, Floyd’s path back to the football field hasn’t been cleared. He’ll still need to deal with the discipline of head coach Brian Kelly, the athletic department, and even more seriously, St. Joseph County prosecutors. And while the decision will undoubtedly have skeptics crowing about the university’s decaying code of ethics or the double-standard for star athletes, the decision, spearheaded by Father Tom Doyle, the Vice President of Student Affairs, shows a continuing level of understanding when it comes to disciplining both athletes and students at Notre Dame, long one of the biggest issues on campus.

The fact that Michael isn’t getting suspended for a semester is a credit to the person he is outside of the legal blips he’s had, all of which are a result of alcohol. As Brian Kelly mentioned and I can confirm, Floyd has taken proactive measures, committed to finishing his degree at Notre Dame regardless of the punishment, and making the right choices in his social life, something he didn’t do the weekend before spring practice was set to start.

For those calling for Floyd’s dismissal or an academic punishment that’d have likely made it impossible for Michael to either play or graduate before the next NFL Draft, consider the standard punishment in college football that’s befitting of the crime: Around one game.

Floyd’s sat out two-thirds of spring practice and was stripped of his captaincy, punishments already considered severe enough in most major college football programs. But the introspection that’s been forced upon the 21-year-old’s life, not to mention the unannounced community service and education he’ll continue to receive, make the headlines of a star players reprieve a lot less than the whole story.

When asked last week what his senior captain and football team can learn from the incident, Brian Kelly was philosophical but supportive of his team’s most valuable player.

“As a football coach and somebody who’s in athletics, I think we all look at it the same way,” Kelly said. “When alcohol’s involved, bad decisions certainly follow. So every day we talk about making good decisions and educate our players about how to do that.

“Look, I’m a teacher and an educator. From my perspective, I’m always thinking about educational opportunities, so I always think in those terms. My first reaction is always about how can we learn. But that’s me. I’m not in that office.”

That office, the one that allowed Michael Floyd to continue as a student at Notre Dame, even though previous administrations likely wouldn’t have, gave the Irish’s best offensive player the opportunity to prove that his alcohol related mistakes don’t define him.

He’ll have the months leading up to the South Florida game, not to mention the rest of his life, to prove it.