Notre Dame has had an interesting summer, to say the least. The Irish have dealt with recruiting losses, serious injuries, embarrassing drill gaffes, battles with the NCAA, insults from other coaches and programs, and even wardrobe problems. Like I said, an interesting summer.
But there is no question as to which summer event rocked the Notre Dame fan base the most: the dismissal of quarterback Everett Golson from the school after he admitted to displaying "poor academic judgment."
Out goes last year's 10-1 starter from the program.
For two months, Notre Dame fans wondered what Golson would be doing during the fall. Where would he enroll? He was rumored to be looking at Holy Cross College in South Bend, and Riverside City College in California as well - however, this past week head coach Brian Kelly informed the media that Golson would not actually be enrolling anywhere in the fall.
"I talked to him yesterday, he's been working out in Chicago. His plan right now is to spend some time with George Whitfield. George is an established quarterbacks coach out in San Diego -- he's planning on spending probably two months out there in San Diego to really work -- most of it is having the right training partners, receivers and having somebody that can film him and obviously spend time on his footwork and physical development and keeping him sharp."
"So he's going to spend some time out there, I think that's during most of the inclement weather time, then he'll be back in the Midwest probably around Thanksgiving and then settle back here in Notre Dame around the holidays."
"No, he does not need to take any classes, and his advising has been such that he's not really needed to take any classes."
It's ridiculous that Notre Dame is requiring nothing academically of Everett Golson to come back to school - that he doesn't have to show in any way the he has learned from his mistakes. And from his comments, it doesn't appear that Kelly himself is concerned about Golson learning from them either. But he does like the progress that Everett will be able to make as a quarterback in the meantime.
This seems particularly odd because when Kelly suspended star receiver Michael Floyd two years ago after a DUI charge, this is what he had to say:
"Football needs to take a backseat at the moment while Michael gets his life in order. What's most important right now is Michael focusing on maturing and developing more as a person while working to improve his decision-making processes."
And then when he reinstated Floyd:
"We took football away and it was really about making a decision to change his life because I didn't believe suspending for a game or two was going to make a difference."
It's interesting that Golson apparently doesn't need to demonstrate the same type of maturation, development, and life changes that Michael Floyd had to, particularly when his infraction was of academic nature. Notre Dame is well known as an institution that prides itself on putting academics first, even before athletics. But that isn't the message being sent here.
Everett Golson gets to take every rep along the way with George Whitfield Jr. - probably the most well-known quarterback guru in America. Whitfield has worked with Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Johnny Manziel in the past, among others. Golson already spent time with Whitfield during the summer while his teammates were in summer school.
And that's where this gets tricky. Golson's teammates - specifically, the other quarterbacks on the roster, Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire - will be poring over textbooks, spending time in the library, and staying up late-night doing assignments all semester while Golson gets to work with a private QB coach. Zaire and Hendrix will be taking 2nd and 3rd-team reps while Golson gets to nail down as many as he wants. Zaire and Hendrix have done everything the right way, yet will find themselves even further behind Golson next spring, when all three are expected to "fairly" compete for the starting spot.
To be clear, I don't fault Golson for taking advantage of the time off - not one bit. If Notre Dame says he doesn't have to take classes during his suspension, he's smart to go out to work solely on his game. He can become a much better player in a short amount of time, with an opportunity that next to zero college quarterbacks would have a chance to experience.
But I am a bit disappointed by Notre Dame here - I wish that the school would require some academic progress during his "time off." This would allow Golson to prove, like others have had to in the past, that he has learned from his mistakes and made changes, and it would allow for a fairer competition next spring for his teammates - you know, the same guys who Everett let down in the first place.
As it stands, Notre Dame is actually benefiting from the loss of Golson. The Irish have a more than suitable replacement in senior Tommy Rees to lead the team in 2013, and while he runs the show in his final year at the university, Golson is preparing for the future in ways that he could not have otherwise. In short, the suspension of the quarterback will allow Kelly to establish even more continuity in the football program - quite a silver lining.
Notre Dame should make this right while it still has the chance, by holding the star quarterback to the same standards that other players have dealt with in the past, and upholding those strong academic and moral values that are core to the identity of the school. If it doesn't, those values, which Notre Dame typically does a stellar job of promoting, apparently don't apply to everyone - at least not when they conflict with success on the football field.