The first significant news of the 2012 football season broke this afternoon, with the news that quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese will be suspended for the season opener against Navy in Dublin and will not travel with the team.
Brian Hardin, Notre Dame’s sports information director for football, released the following statement via Twitter, which included a quote from head coach Brian Kelly:
Notre Dame senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese and junior quarterback Tommy Rees have both been suspended for the opening game of the season by Brian Kelly. Neither Calabrese nor Rees will travel with Notre Dame’s football team to Ireland where the Fighting Irish open the season vs. Navy on September 1.
“Our players understand that it’s a privilege to be associated with the University of Notre Dame and its football program, but with that comes great responsibility,” head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “Carlo and Tommy put themselves in a situation that when given a choice between two distinct paths, they responded with a set of poor decisions. This conduct was inconsistent with my expectations for our football program — especially our veteran, team leaders. Carlo and Tommy will not travel with the team to Ireland and can attempt to climb the depth chart following the conclusion of their respective suspensions.”
And with that, the first big question of the season has been answered.
The Irish will head into the season opener with Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson running the offense, a bit of a gamble when facing a Navy offense that’ll likely be armed with some fancy new tricks for the season opener.
What remains to be seen is whether Kelly’s statement — specifically any “attempt to climb the depth chart” — means that the Irish offense, now under the direction of Chuck Martin, will be heading in a different direction for more than just one week after Rees largely captained the ship for the past two seasons.
From a disciplinary point-of-view, Kelly suspending Rees and Calabrese one game has raised more than a few eyebrows after comparing it to the non-suspension of wide receiver Michael Floyd. Yet it’s a disservice to Floyd to consider a stripped captaincy, a suspension from all football activities during spring practice, and significant on-campus penalties (dorm living, community service hours, etc) as zero punishment.
Rees was informed of the decision to miss the trip to Ireland last week. While some fans have taken pleasure in seeing the Irish offense put into the hands of Golson or Hendrix, key offensive teammates were unhappy with the decision, another piece of evidence that should remind fans that while many are clamoring for a change behind center, the offensive players have largely put their faith in Rees.