As if last night’s loss on the basketball court wasn’t enough, Notre Dame fans took another hit this afternoon when football coach Brian Kelly announced that star wide receiver Michael Floyd is suspended indefinitely following his arrest this weekend.
Floyd was arrested around 4 a.m. Sunday morning after he ran a stop sign, failed three field sobriety tests and blew a 0.19 into a St. Joseph County sheriff’s breathalyzer. For someone Floyd’s size that is the equivalent of about 10 drinks in four hours time. Floyd was arrested last winter on underage drinking charges in his home-state of Minnesota and will likely face stiffer penalties from the school, if not the law, because of his history. The maximum sentence for operating while intoxicated is one year in prison.
“I understand the gravity of the decision I made and how it could have had catastrophic effects on myself and others,” Floyd said in a prepared statement released by Notre Dame’s athletic department Monday evening. “I’ve talked to Coach Kelly and I accept the decision he made. I absolutely recognize that I have many things to work on to become a better person and will need to regain the trust of all whom I have hurt within my immediate family and the Notre Dame family.”
You can read the full statement and comments from Kelly here.
Kelly said that he did not know when Floyd would be reinstated, but reading a little deeper into the statement there was no “if” in Kelly’s statement that leads me to believe that Floyd will have another chance to suit up for the Irish as long as he keeps him nose clean from here on out. Which, of course, raises the question Does he deserve a third chance?
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The Personal Scale
Floyd’s value to the Irish on the field is clearly evident, but should have little to do with the decision. However, his back story has caused some fans to call out for one last chance for the soon-to-be senior. Stories about the way Floyd’s mother scrapped to send him to the prestigious Cretin-Derham Hall High School so her son could get a good education pull at the heart strings. She actually made the trip to South Bend this morning to discuss Michael’s future with Coach Kelly in person. The apologists argue that this is no for the school to turn its back on a kid who has overcome a good deal of adversity.
Telling his his football career at Notre Dame is over isn’t exactly turning your back on him. Kicking Floyd off the team doesn’t keep him from getting a college degree at Notre Dame. If he decides he needs to be on the field this fall for his future in football, there are plenty of schools that would be happy to give him a shot.
While those claiming that Floyd has an alcohol abuse problem are probably a little delusion, and it is unfair for anyone who doesn’t know Mike personally to judge his personal character, they “college boys will be college boys” defense was thinned out by his earlier offense and got thrown out the window when he started the engine to his Cadillac.
The Notre Dame Scale
If Floyd does return to the team eventually, he will be the first player in recent memory to don the gold helmet after an OWI offense or multiple alcohol-related arrests.
The most recent football players with similar cases are 2005 fullback Rashon Powers-Neal and two-sport star Will Yeatman, who transferred to Maryland before his senior year. Powers-Neal was arrested on drunk driving charges as a senior the weekend before Notre Dame faced USC in the infamous “Bush Push” game. He never rejoined the team. Yeatman was arrested for driving a vehicle while under the influence on campus. He was suspended from the lacrosse team that spring and transferred to Maryland for the following school year. It was unclear whether or not Yeatman would have been allowed to play football the following year, but you would have to imagine that his decision to transfer was fueled by a desire to keep playing sports.
Yeatman technically left of his own accord and Powers-Neal’s incident was midway through the season, so there really is no telling how long their suspensions would have lasted if the timing were different. Current Irish tight end Mike Ragone was arrested two years ago in the spring for possession of marijuana and was back on the team for the start of the fall season.
The National Scale
The country-wide spotlight of controversy has been fixed on the Irish football program several times since Brian Kelly first led his team onto the field in September. While none of these incidents can be blamed on the coach himself, the program could make a strong statement about its integrity by putting its foot down in this case.
In three short months, 2011 has seen a slew of marquis college football names skating through indiscretions with minimal consequences. Cam Newton and OSU coach Jim Tressel most quickly come to mind. Notre Dame has the opportunity to prove that its program is, as it and its fans claim, held to a higher standard.
Floyd’s future is still controlled by a series of chips that have yet to fall — a May 2 court date, his behavior moving forward and the option to say the hell with it and enter the NFL supplemental draft this June. At the very least I think it is fair to assume we won’t see Floyd in Notre Dame’s season opener against South Florida in September. Irish fans who still believe the program is about more than wins and losses will hope his absence extends at least a few games longer and given the amount of variables still left in this equation, it’s not hard to imagine that Floyd’s MVP performance in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve was in fact his last hurrah in the blue and gold.