Senior Writer

ND's Floyd can't mess up after catching another chance


Wonder what Kyle McAlarney is thinking? A misdemeanor marijuana possession charge on an otherwise spotless record. That's all it took for Notre Dame's Office of Residence Life to kick the former Irish point guard out of school four years ago.

Wonder what Will Yeatman is thinking? Two alcohol-related offenses led to the former tight end's suspension by "Res Life" in 2008. Yeatman eventually transferred to Maryland to play football and lacrosse.

Wonder what Charlie Weis is thinking? The former ND coach went out of his way on his way out the door to blast Res Life, calling it "the biggest problem on campus relative to the football program."

Head coach Brian Kelly, not Notre Dame's Office of Residence Life, will determine Floyd's future. (Getty Images)  
Head coach Brian Kelly, not Notre Dame's Office of Residence Life, will determine Floyd's future. (Getty Images)  
You know what Michael Floyd is thinking, something very close to "Hallelujah!" Notre Dame's talented, NFL-bound wideout received a get-out-of-jail free card last week from the six-person committee that decides student conduct issues at Notre Dame. Three alcohol-related offenses in less than two years -- the latest a March 20 drunken-driving arrest -- were not enough to suspend Floyd for even part of his final football-playing semester. Res Life had that power. It declined, reportedly settling on only community service. That should outrage some, especially those at Notre Dame who paid a stiffer price for lesser offenses.

But strangely, it hasn't, at least some of those who went through the process. reached out to McAlarney via Facebook. He did not respond but did tell the Chicago Tribune in an email "I'm not saying [Floyd] shouldn't be held accountable, but I genuinely don't want him to go through a suspension ... Then what does Res Life have to say? They ruined a kid's career and turned their backs on someone who made a mistake. The spirit of ND is bigger than a rulebook or a few people."

Yeatman did not lash out either after being contacted by the South Bend Tribune. McAlarney eventually returned to Notre Dame. Yeatman thrived at Maryland.

Us? We don't know what to think. All we know for now is that Floyd's collegiate football future lies with his coach, historically a fair, even-handed sort. But shouldn't Brian Kelly, by job title alone, be automatically taken out of the process in such cases? More on that below.

The courts will have their say. Floyd is scheduled for a hearing on May 2. But it's hard to envision jail time even for a high-profile alleged three-time violator. If there is incarceration, Res Life will be among the least of Floyd's worries. It's hard to attend class from the hole.

"Our expectations of student conduct are a little bit higher ...," Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said. "I know we get accused of being arrogant but there is a religious component."

That's the reason this is even a story. Notre Dame is supposed to stand for something more. It is a Christian community existing in a moral and ethical framework to the point that, similar to BYU, sex outside of marriage is prohibited and "may be subject to University sanction." It's right there on page 115 of the guide to student life.

"They are students first and foremost," Brown said. "They're not players."

None of us, though, are going to be so naïve to think that premarital sex hasn't occurred at Notre Dame or that the program isn't perceived by many as a full-on football factory. To the outside, it looks like the school's once-autocratic student conduct committee caved making it possible for a stud receiver to play football as a senior for a program longing for a BCS bowl.

"Each case is separate. It is handled on its own merit," Brown said. "There are so many factors involved. It's impossible to make valid comparisons."

That's the easy, maybe lazy, column, to paint Notre Dame with another coat of "football driving the bus." The opposite angle is Res Life going from wielding a machete to issuing stern lectures, without pausing to lower even a velvet hammer. Maybe Weis was right with his scathing criticism. Maybe some powerful people heard him and there was change. There should have been change.

Yes, there are layers to the Michael Floyd story that will take from now until kickoff and beyond to sort through.

By all accounts, Floyd is a bright, talented student and person. He needs 25 hours to graduate and stayed in school rather than enter the NFL Draft, a) to pursue that degree, and b) because his draft projection was too low. Probably both. It doesn't matter. The school's decision may have saved a life academically, financially and, yes, athletically.

But Floyd also messed up big time. The question is whether rank-and-file students have been treated the same way by Res Life. Have any three-time offenders without an NFL future and substantial worth to Notre Dame's athletic bottom line gotten the same break? For now, that is the main question. Whether the random sociology major with three priors was treated any differently than the star football player.

Brown won't answer the question citing privacy issues. ND has seldom been a slave to public opinion anyway. In just this school year, it has endured criticism after an unnamed football player was reportedly accused of sexually assaulting a woman at nearby St. Mary's College. The woman later committed suicide. No charges were filed. In fact, ND president Rev. John Jenkins aggressively defended the university's investigation.

The school was fined $77,500 and criticized by the Indiana State Occupational Safety and Health Administration after the death of student videographer Declan Sullivan. A scissor lift Sullivan was in while filming practice toppled over amid high winds Oct. 27. Notre Dame has since installed remote cameras to film practice. The school is appealing some of the state's findings.

Fair or not, all of it has to be included in the 2010-11 portrait of Notre Dame athletics.

It is somewhat troubling that Floyd's future now basically rests with the football coach. It looks so SEC -- so common -- of Notre Dame. Not just in South Bend, but everywhere, coaches should be cut out of the loop at this stage. They are not objective. They are more than biased. No matter what they may say publicly, their future employment is based on having the best football players on the field. That has to affect their decision. I'm not saying athletic director Jack Swarbrick or Fr. Jenkins wouldn't have similar biases but they are at least further removed from the person who controls Floyd's playing time.

But, again, there are layers. Kelly gave Mardy Gilyard another chance after the former Cincinnati receiver had his scholarship ripped because of academic issues. Gilyard's return to the program is a big reason why the Bearcats went to the Sugar Bowl -- and Kelly is at Notre Dame.

If you're going to hire Kelly you have to trust him to do the right thing. Floyd remains suspended from the team, per the coach. The receiver has several hurdles (unstated) to overcome. Yes, Kelly said, the team has a stated alcohol policy but not one that the coach defined over the weekend. The entire episode is equally undefined going forward. Until further notice, it is as likely that Floyd will suit up for the opener as he will be suspended for it. So what are the consequences for those in the future at Notre Dame who may have alcohol abuse issues? What is the message? Who should be sending messages?

Those are some of the layers. It's complicated. Michael Floyd can make a lot of folks proud by keeping clean, getting straight and earning his degree. If he does that, a comfortable living should follow whether he succeeds in the NFL or not.

What Floyd can't do in the months and years to follow is make Notre Dame, Res Life and all those who went through this before him look like fools. He has been given a chance that he absolutely can't screw up. If he does, it's not just his life that will be affected.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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