When news of Everett Golson's academic suspension broke in May, the knee-jerk reaction, even as Golson maintained its untruth, was that his days in South Bend might be numbered. Visits to JUCOs and inquiries from the SEC did nothing to quell that fire, but now, once again, Golson has confirmed his desire to stay at Notre Dame.
The 20-year-old sophomore was attending a charity basketball game in Myrtle Beach, S.C., this past weekend. There, he was approached by WPDE, a local TV station (h/t ESPN), to whom he reiterated: "I will be returning [to Notre Dame] in the spring."
The full interview can be seen here:
Golson was suspended from the University of Notre Dame—not just the football team—for the fall term, after exhibiting "poor academic judgement." According to Ralph Russo of the Associated Press, he plans to re-enroll this winter, but he will not be able to play this upcoming season.
Notre Dame reached the BCS National Championship under Golson's command last season. The Irish defense earned considerably more plaudits, but Golson's numbers (2,405 passing yards, 18 total TD) and late-game aplomb were advanced for a redshirt freshman quarterback. Make no mistake about it: He was a very big part of their success.
His absence has obvious effects on the short term—backup Tommy Rees takes the reins under center—but now that Golson has restated his decision not to transfer, the long-term effects begin to look less bleak. This news, beyond a shadow of a doubt, improves the future of Notre Dame football.
But can the same be said about Golson's career?
That one is a little more complicated. Opting not to play at a JUCO will cost him a year of experience. Even if it's against lesser competition, live football is live football, and no simulation can ever compare. There's a case to be made against this decision, a contention that Golson has opted to stunt his own development.
But that case is fundamentally flawed, combated by everything Golson has done since news of his suspension broke. Yes, he flirted with the idea of changing schools, but for the most part, he has done nothing but polish the prospects of his future in South Bend.
According to ESPN's Joe Schad, Golson is likely to work with QB coach George Whitfield this summer:
While still just a rumor, this report is the kind that could change Golson's career. Whitfield is renowned in the development community, and he has recently worked with the likes of Johnny Manziel. He knows how to turn a player of Golson's size and stature into a quarterbacking machine.
Yes, nothing quite simulates the experience of live football. But working with someone of Whitfield's ilk might be the next best thing. Especially if that option, unlike the option where he does play live football in 2013, allows him to remain in South Bend, Ind.
Golson's success last year, in large part, came as a product of his talent. But attributing it solely to that is a gross oversimplification. No matter how good you thought Golson was in 2012, we've seen guys with more talent fail at the highest level. They weren't a proper fit at their respective program. To be that successful and win that many games as a freshman, one also needs a system that's tailored to his strengths.
By all indications coming out of South Bend, Golson has reconciled himself with that fact. And for a guy whose maturity has been questioned, a guy whose maturity got him into this mess to begin with, doing so has required impressive sophistication.
Transferring schools would have been the easy way out. That's the road more traveled for players who find themselves in the doghouse. Head for a junior college, take a few meaningless reps, wait one year, pick a new FBS program and consider the slate wiped clean. It surely sounds more palatable than the alternative: missing a season, returning in shame, then working to re-earn the respect of a program that exiled you in the first place.
Golson's decision to opt for that recourse, to choose the harder option, indicates that he's been humbled by this process. "I've had a little adversity, but I've learned you can't sit down and just take that," Golson said in the WPDE interview. "You got to pick yourself back up and keep going forward and continue doing what you were doing."
Use of "you" instead of "you've" notwithstanding, that doesn't sound like a man with poor academic judgement. That sounds like a man who has learned and grown and flourished from his mistakes. It sounds like a man who, provided he continues on the right track, can come back to Notre Dame in 2014 and pick up right where he left off as a freshman.
To defect from a city, a system and a program with which he is so compatible would demonstrate poor football-related judgement.