Notre Dame Football: The Lizzy Seeberg Case and Poor Reporting

Irish FaithfulContributor INovember 23, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 04: The 'Golden Dome' is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Unfortunately Notre Dame football had another shadow cast upon it the past few days.  Lizzy Seeberg, a freshman at nearby Saint Marys College, committed suicide in September, days following rape allegations against a current Notre Dame football player.

Rape is all too common in today's society.  One in four women has been the subject of sexual abuse and any allegation must be taken seriously.  An athlete should be treated no differently from others in society in this regard.  I hope everyone agrees with me on this particular point.

The Chicago Tribune was the first to bring the story to light, seeking comment from Brian Kelly several times about the incident.  And, according to David Haugh of the Tribune, the player should be removed from the playing field.

Per Haugh:  "A guy who can discipline a player for missing a meeting should have the autonomy to bench a player accused of what could be a felony in the real world. The player is innocent until proven guilty, to be sure. But football coaches, especially those of the most famous college football program in America, rarely deal in due process."

Does that make sense to anyone?

"The player is innocent until proven guilty... but football coaches rarely deal in due process."

So he is presumed innocent but coaches don't always follow that logic.  So he should be singled out and suspended, presumed guilty until the investigation's facts come to light?

Have we learned nothing from the Duke Lacrosse scandal?

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Know this: rape and murder are the two allegations that forever smear one's character.  You will never fully escape that for the rest of your life, even if you are found innocent.  I'm sure you, the reader, are thinking of a few examples right now.

Haugh goes on to refer to Kelly's tone in his press conference; the fact that the University and police have kept the investigation private (bound by federal law), and Notre Dame having "lost the benefit of the doubt when it sent [Declan] Sullivan up in a scissors lift on an extraordinarily windy day" as his evidence that the university is doing something wrong and involved in a cover up. 

It's just astonishing reporting from one of the traditionally sound newspapers out of Chicago.

The facts are starting to come out in the case, but will certainly be few in number until the investigation is complete.  St. Joseph County Police and their SVU—both investigating the case with the ND police—were notified of the alleged sexual assault (Haugh stated they were unaware, which was incorrect).

And as noted above, Notre Dame is bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which prohibits universities from publicly discussing specific disciplinary cases.

In an e-mail from ND's Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications, Janet Botz had this to say: "we cannot at this time publicly correct many of the false impressions created by the Tribune story, but suffice it to say as a general matter, any time that an allegation is made that a law or university policy may have been violated, we have a longstanding process in place to learn the facts and eliminate rumors, which leads to a determination of what action, if any, is appropriate to take.

At the same time, our police department works closely and collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies, including the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office, which includes officials from the special victims unit. Both the Prosecutor's Office and the St. Joseph County Police have issued statements correcting some aspects of the Tribune story..."

It's just poor reporting all around.  You can't make conclusions based on "tone" and conjecture.  And you can't say someone is innocent until proven guilty but demand the head coach treat the player as a felon. 

An apology is in order from David Haugh and the Chicago Tribune on this matter.  They were off base.  David Haugh himself said it was "time for transparency".  We're waiting for it whenever you're ready, David.


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