[UPDATE: The felony charge has been lowered to a misdemeanor. That there was still a physical altercation between Rees and the police officer does not seem to be in question.]
According to FOX28 News, Notre Dame starting quarterback Tommy Rees is in custody today after an arrest on a felony charge of battery of an officer, plus charges of resisting arrest, minor consumption and public intoxication. Fellow linebacker Carlo Calabrese was also arrested in the incident for disorderly conduct; he posted bond a few hours later.
The very first report of the incident didn't come from the news; it was broken on Reddit.com/CFB, the college-football wing of the famed aggregator and forum site. There, several hours before media reports about Rees' arrest came in, a user posted this recap of events under the headline "So Tommy Rees got arrested and maced tonight..."
This is a throwaway account for obvious reasons. He was at a party of my friends off campus. Cops came to warn them to turn down the music. Tommy goes up to a cop and kicks him. Not warranted at all. None of them were getting arrested yet, and he kicked them. Then some other cop comes up to him and maces him.
EDIT Bye Bye Turnover Tommy
Edit2 Some other football players were involved as well. I know one or two lineman were there. My friend did not recognize them. As soon as I get names, I will post them.
Now, let's get a few things straight. This is only one supposed eyewitness account, and one from someone with a pretty clear disdain for Rees as a football player to begin with. So yes, let's consider the source.
Let's also consider, however, that the media and police reports that have ensued are entirely consistent with this telling thus far. The user says Rees kicked a policeman without provocation; Rees was confirmed to be arrested for battery of an officer. The user says Rees was maced; police confirmed that Rees had been pepper sprayed.
So let's assume there's an ounce of truth to this person's eyewitness account. If it's even remotely true, Rees shouldn't just be suspended; he should be off the team.
[UPDATE: Mary Kate Malone of the South Bend Tribune has more from the police report. In it, the arresting officer says "he was kneed in the abdomen by Rees, which knocked the wind out of the officer & caused him to pepper spray Rees." Also, according to the report, "Rees allegedly continued trying to resist after being handcuffed."]
Notre Dame has long couched itself in values and higher standards. That's part and parcel of any academic institution's alignment with a religious organization; here, it's the Catholic Church. But, that kind of language raises a necessary question: Higher standards than what?
We know that Notre Dame's disciplinary standards in regard to its football team are not terribly high.
Michael Floyd missed no games for a DUI (via ESPN). An unnamed player was accused of sexual assault, but wasn't suspended; his accuser later committed suicide (per Chicago Tribune). A student assistant was killed when his video tower toppled in winds that far exceeded the safety standards, but nobody was even disciplined over the incident; instead, Notre Dame installed newer unmanned cameras and argued its fine down from $77,500 to $42,000 (from Chicago Tribune).
Further, we have a standard to which Notre Dame can compare itself: the secular University of Michigan. There, the athletic department carries a strict policy banning "assaultive behavior."
It's strict enough that when Michigan safety Josh Furman was facing charges on domestic violence, he refused a plea bargain because even accepting that charge under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (a state of Michigan program that can eventually clear criminal records after guilty pleas) would have necessitated removal from the team (according to AnnArbor.com)
Now, the difference is clear: Furman wasn't dismissed before the legal situation was resolved, so Notre Dame fans may want the same luxury afforded to Rees. But, Furman's case was ludicrous to begin with; his eyewitnesses tried telling police before the trial that nothing criminal had happened.
Rees' eyewitness and arresting officer, on the other hand, say that Rees made physical contact with a police officer.
Cynically, one could make the case that Notre Dame's quarterback depth chart is good enough that Brian Kelly doesn't even need Rees, and so there's more incentive to "make an example" of Rees by dismissing him. If the charges are even slightly true, I would hope a dismissal is coming even if Rees was putting up Jimmy Clausen numbers.
Rees, like all people in this country, has a right to a trial and is considered innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. But Notre Dame football is not a right. Notre Dame's code of ethics is not just supposed to be "let's punt this one to court."
So unless this supposed eyewitness account is horribly, insanely wrong—which is not an indication one gets from early police reports—if Rees stays on the team, we've got a bigger problem in South Bend than one kid kicking or kneeing a cop.