What I really think of Notre Dame

This is what I used to think of Notre Dame: It’s was America’s school. The benchmark for Catholicism and greatness, located in idyllic South Bend, IN, it was known for its excellence both in the classroom and on the field/court/pool, whatever. I had high school friends who applied there just to say they had – that they would even consider Notre Dame must mean they were striving for the same level of excellence the school is known for. Everyone wanted to go there, teach there, play there, donate to there and be part of that reputation.

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Why do we idolize athletes? Both college and professional? Because they represent us. We grow up rooting for our home town NFL teams (for those of us who had them) or the team our parents grew up rooting for – and because of that, these athletes represent us. If they win, it means we win, our city wins, we’re above the losing team and city. We feel glorious and validated and hopeful. If they lose, we hurt with them and feel morose and start pointing fingers. We lost because of bad play calling. We lost because of poor clock management. The offensive coordinator is a douche bag.

Finding the right college is hard. We strive to find the perfect combination of location (after all, you’re there for the next four years) academics, opportunities, Greek life, and athletics. Potential athletes are wined and dined and everyone’s effort goes in to convincing them your school is better than my school. Non-athletes go through campus tours and talking to current and former students. How much financial aid will I get? Will I still be paying for this degree when I’m 65? How will this school look on my resume?

And then we choose. And the first thing that happens when you get there is football. Take the incoming freshman to a football game so they can see what the school is all about. The players aren’t just students. As a team, they shoulder the school’s reputation – if they win, we win, if they lose, we lose. Losing means criticism from ESPN on down to the dorm newsletter. And so we win and lose with them. And maybe that’s why people will go to extreme lengths to protect the athletes, and by proxy, the school’s reputation.

This isn’t about me, but I am going to use myself as an example.

I am originally from New Hampshire. The only school that I thought about going to when growing up was Michigan, because my mom went there. Then, when it was actually time to pick, I wanted to go south. I wanted a break from brutal New England winters. And so, I ultimately chose the University of Miami. It sits in the middle of Coral Gables, a lush campus with palm trees lining the entrance. I picked it for that reason, knowing nothing about the football team. I lasted two years there. I was miserable, the girl walking around campus in jeans and a long sleeve shirt because I was so self-conscious about my body. I felt like I was at a day spa rather than a college. I longed for something more normal. And so I transferred to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in the fall of 2001. A school that could not have been more different. That was the season Miami started its undefeated run. And because I was at a new school and lonely, I latched on to that success, that greatness, as if I were still a part of that school. Because even though I left, I still had friends there and memories there and was a part of something there vs. that first semester at U of I when I struggled like I could never have imagined. So I rode the coat tails of a perfect season all the way to the Rose Bowl because it gave me something to focus on and made me feel special, important, and bonded with everyone else who was still there.

We spend months dissecting a season. When it’s over, we start planning for the next one. It’s our school and those are our players and we want to be represented by winners, not losers.

So when they lose, the excuses come out. And when the players fuck up, the excuses come out.

Which brings me back to Notre Dame and this whole Manti Te’o fiasco with the fake dead girlfriend.

While I am not sure what to believe in terms of how it happened and who is behind it, I do not, for one second, believe Te’o to be the victim in all of this.

Pat Forde, of Yahoo Sports, who I do respect, wrote a column in which he believes Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick’s declaration that Te’o was duped:

Chin quivering and voice catching, the Notre Dame athletic director fought emotion in describing Manti Te’o as “the single most trusting individual I have ever met.” 

Yeah, whatever dude.

Forde also writes:

Swarbrick says a private investigator hired by Notre Dame to look into the matter has evidence that Te’o was victimized by individuals who invented an online girl and engaged her in a relationship with the player. Due to privacy concerns, the school is not in a position to release that evidence, but hopefully Te’o will provide some documentation that corroborates what Swarbrick said.

Te’o must also explain why he said he met Lennay Kekua, when that apparently never happened. He must explain why his father, Brian, also said the two met. He must explain why, if he felt for this dying girl the way he reportedly did, he never left the Notre Dame campus to be with her near the end – not at the hospital, not at the grave. He must explain why he went along with the storyline instead of publicly correcting the record, even after telling his coaches and Swarbrick about the hoax on Dec. 26.

Here is what I think: I think Te’o was a part of this whole thing – who dates someone for three years and NEVER meets them, but says they met? Your team plays Stanford every year where your alleged girlfriend goes and you’ve never met her?

Outkick the Coverage makes some excellent points about this:

First:

If you believe there is a straight man on earth not currently in prison who has a three-year exclusively online relationship, then you’re a damn fool.

Period.

There’s just no way this actually happens.

Especially for a college kid who happens to be the best player on a football mad campus.

Exactly – when he probably had thousands of options, why would he pick someone in Palo Alto that he never sees?

Which brings me to their next point:

What’s more, she purportedly canceled several face-to-face meetings with him. At some point if you’re remotely intelligent — or even just a horny college student — don’t you start to question a relationship when your online girlfriend won’t meet you?

I don’t know if Te’o made her up so he could fake her death and triumph in football for the feel-good emotional story of the year. The media was falling all over themselves to laud him with praises and now they’re failing all over themselves to beat this to death and find the truth and Jack Swarbrick is crying over a fake dead girl versus an actual dead girl.

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Which brings me to how I NOW feel about Notre Dame: I feel nothing but disgust over an AD that is crying and claiming his football player is a victim, when he said NOTHING about Lizzy Seeberg, the St.Mary’s student who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. It can’t be that he’s not crying because she didn’t go to Notre Dame. The fake dead girlfriend went to Stanford. It’s because Notre Dame will do anything and everything to protect their precious football program and players, no matter how horrific their actions.

I love that the team was curb stomped by Alabama. I love that their egos were flattened. I have nothing but disgust for a school that has scrambled to hide multiple sexual assaults (hello, Notre Dame? Do you REALLY want to be compared to Penn State?) but claims one of the football players is the victim of a scam. And if Te’o was really fooled, who has that kind of TIME, to create a fake person and keep that façade going for three years?

I hate that Notre Dame is now scrambling to protect their own players when they refused to protect victims of sexual assault. Because when your football team shoulders your reputation, you’ll do anything to protect it. And that, maybe, is the saddest thing of all.

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