On Monday March 21, Notre Dame football fans awoke to the news that Michael Floyd had been arrested for driving under the influence just off campus.
The story broke about seven hours after the basketball team had been abruptly and unceremoniously dismissed from the NCAA Tournament, so at the time it was like waking up from a bad dream and being in the midst of an even worse reality.
The general assumption was that since this was Floyd’s second run-in with that law in a little over a year, Notre Dame’s disciplinary arm (ResLife) would drop the hammer down on the superstar. After all, a couple years ago Will Yeatman was arrested for a second time and ResLife booted him despite the fact he had only a .02 BAC after a party was busted off-campus.
Why would anyone expect anything different for Floyd, especially when the second offense was far worse than Yeatman’s?
Shockingly though, ResLife did not suspend the Irish standout for the fall semester. In fact, it didn’t even levy a punishment that would prevent him from playing in a single game. His sentence included a hefty amount of community service, but he was free to resume football activities as soon as head coach Brian Kelly deemed Floyd to be ready.
This announcement led to two major reactions. The first was one of relief and joy within the Irish fanbase. For the second time since January 1, Notre Dame received the unexpected gift of Michael Floyd returning in 2011.
He’s bar-none the best player on the offense (probably the entire team) and will likely go down as the greatest receiver in school history once he’s done rewriting the record books this fall. Adding him back into the mix instantly heightens the ceiling and potential of the 2011 campaign.
The second reaction was the predictable backlash from both the “ambulance chasers” of the journalistic community out to take a shot at Notre Dame whenever the opportunity presents itself, and message-board lunatics on places like Rivals.com.
Many bashed the decision to “let Floyd off the hook,” crying it was hypocritical and that Notre Dame needed to drop the “holier than thou” attitude because it was turning into Oklahoma, Florida or Miami in terms of leniency under Brian Kelly.
I’ve thought about this situation way too much over the past three weeks. I’ve deliberated by myself and amongst fellow Irish fans as to what the best and worst case endgames were for this fiasco, what should and shouldn’t happen.
I’m very glad that ResLife appears to be changing its ways. The ways in which it traditionally dished out punishment to students—and especially its higher profile enrollees on athletic teams—was completely unreasonable and counterproductive.
One thing I must stress though is my sincere hope this is an across-the-board transformation. Notre Dame prides itself on not treating its athletes any differently than its regular student body. It truly does make it unique that you live down the hall from guys on the football team, work together on projects with basketball players in classes, and that every single member of every sports team graduates with a legitimate degree—unlike places like Michigan and Florida State.
After Charlie Weis was fired, he singled out ResLife as the major problem facing Notre Dame’s football program and stated it needed to change. What he failed to do was emphasize it wasn’t hurting just the football program, but the rest of the student body as well.
When a 20-year-old football player is suspended for a semester because he blew a .02 after an off-campus party was busted, that’s completely ridiculous. When a normal freshman student is given a hefty fine, hours of community service, and assigned to alcohol classes for being caught holding a beer by an undercover officer at a tailgate despite blowing a .00 (like a friend of mine did) that’s equally outrageous.
The purpose of ResLife should be to help students grow and learn from their mistakes, not ruin or severely set back futures of young adults. If this ruling represents a shift toward that philosophy then that’s a great thing for the entire school.
But back to Michael Floyd.
Floyd hasn’t been reinstated by head coach Brian Kelly and Kelly has said there’s no timeline for a return. So while critics point at Notre Dame for being hypocritical and countless hack journalists like David Haugh emerge from the clown car in which they all reside with pens in one hand and hatchets in the other, they leave out the major detail that no decision has been made on Floyd’s football future.
Brian Kelly insists that Floyd won’t be back on the team until his life is back in order and priorities rearranged. This ruling from ResLife is the ultimate second chance to earn a degree and while showcasing his talents for the next level in football. One more misstep—no matter how minor—and he’s gone.
Notre Dame football needs him if it wants to be an elite team this year. He’s a game-changer on the perimeter and one of the most prolific and dominant receivers in the country.
The season opener against South Florida is no “gimme.” The Bulls are a well-coached group and present a much more dangerous challenge out of the gate than San Diego State, Nevada and Purdue have the past three years. Michael Floyd splitting out wide and starting that game would be huge.
But he shouldn’t be able to do so.
It’s my hope that Brian Kelly permits Michael Floyd to begin working out with the team this summer. Over that time he must prove to both the coaching staff and his teammates that he’s changed, he’s dedicated to the cause, and ultimately committed to representing the University of Notre Dame in a way that makes the entire Irish Family proud.
If Michael does all the necessary things prove that, then I’d like Coach Kelly to announce that he will be eligible to play starting in week two against Michigan.
DUI is a very, very serious matter. Yes, people make mistakes and people deserve second chances—which Floyd is receiving in multiple ways—but slip-ups like this also merit a penalty that will make a profound impact on the offender. Nothing makes an impact on an athlete like stripping him of his ability to compete.
As much as I want to see Floyd out on the field against USF, I think it’s only right he’s suspended for that contest. A spring suspension, stripping of the captaincy, a couple extra hard days spent at Longo Beach, and a game spent watching from the sideline is fair recompense for his crime.
Brian Kelly appears to have a very solid grasp on the situation, but there's a mob of people waiting to pounce on him depending on what he decides. All Irish fans can do is sit back and trust he'll handle it properly.
Michael Floyd has been granted a huge opportunity to redeem himself. Let’s hope that he seizes this second chance both on and off the field.