Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Everett Golson Can Learn From Kyle McAlarney: It Can Be Different....

Three days after the media storm broke, Coach Brian Kelly finally talked to the press about quarterback Everett Golson. Via teleconference, he reported
"I'm on 30 years now in college football, and it's like being a dad," Kelly said. "You're disappointed, but you know these things happen. And you want your players to be accountable. So there's a big sense of pride in knowing Everett handled himself in the right way. "He took full accountability and responsibility. He's going to do everything in his power to get himself back here at Notre Dame. So (I'm) disappointed certainly that it occurred, but not surprised. You can't be surprised when you're working with 18- to 21-year-olds. I'm not surprised my 16-year-old knucklehead son comes home and does crazy things."
I hear the word "knucklehead" at least once a week with regard to student behavior and choices.  I agree with Coach Kelly that you can't and shouldn't be surprised when you work with adolescents, but I don't agree that Golson has taken full accountability and responsibility.  

It remains unclear exactly what the Notre Dame starting quarterback did that led to his dismissal from the University.  The only thing that is clear is that Golson used "poor academic judgment." Sportswriter and radio host, John Feinstein has said, "the euphemisms need to stop."  Naming the act is an important step in taking accountability, admitting the mistake is critical for accepting responsibility and righting the wrong.  

I sound like moral police; it's not a fun role to play. But in teaching about Morality, one statement I often make (from the soap box) is "it could be different."  And in the case of Kyle McAlarney, a former guard on the Notre Dame men's basketball team who the media made immediate comparisons to with Golson, we see that it was. 

Perhaps it is because the transgression with McAlarney was a result of breaking the law (he was arrested for possession of marijuana), but it was always clear what happened. In the article,
Kyle McAlarney reflects on dark days of pot charge, expulsion Roger Rubin reports:
In the New York basketball community, there are whispers that the marijuana found in McAlarney's car during a routine traffic stop on Dec. 29, hours after a 50-point win over Rider, didn't belong to him. He was only covering for a friend. 
"It was mine," McAlarney said. "I've admitted that before. I think that's just people on my side trying to put me on a pedestal and make me out not to be like everybody else, but it was mine. I messed up."
What isn't clear is just how difficult it was for McAlarney to return to ND.  His parents weren't convinced he should.  He suffered panic attacks and pointed jeers from rival fans. He worked through his fears with a therapist and generous support of his teammates and Coach Brey. "It was scary. I never had a panic attack before," McAlarney said. "I never expressed to anyone, even my parents, about how angry I was about everything happened. The stress had to come out some way." When student-athletes talk about digging deep, McAlarney did and those who know and love him are glad he did.
More glad that McAlarney probably knows.  I have been working on a project entitled "Notre Dame Athletes, Notre Dame Athletics: Tender, Strong and True."  In it, I ask Notre Dame coaches and athletes one question: What one moment as a student-athelete/coach stands out among the others? Describe it. Why this moment?  

The responses have been surprising, fascinating, generous and unique.  Coach Brey could have given a number of colorful and amazing responses--beating Louisville in 5 overtimes, winning Big East Coach of the year, ending a number of Big East rivals' winning streaks.  Instead, this was what he said: 
In December 2006, one of my players, Kyle McAlarney, was arrested for marijuana possession and ultimately suspended from school for the spring semester of his sophomore year.  It was a devastating turn of events, and he left campus in January 2007 to return home to Staten Island.  Many, if not most, kids in that situation would never have looked back.  They would have transferred to another school, gotten a fresh start, and continued their playing career elsewhere.  That certainly would have been the easy road. 
One of my proudest moments as a coach came when Kyle decided to come back to Notre Dame after his suspension and finish what he started here.  It was not an easy decision for him to make, with so much focus in the media on his arrest and suspension.  But Kyle showed an amazing strength of character and wanted to face up to his mistake.  He learned from it and he wanted to make it right.  He spent that spring semester in Staten Island taking classes at a local college and helping to run basketball clinics at grade schools.  He re-enrolled at Notre Dame that May and rejoined his teammates on campus, finishing his college career here and earning his degree.  
What a great story.  Getting to work with that type of young man is what makes me love working here at the University of Notre Dame.
I write this because many people thought that what McAlarney did wasn't a big deal and yet, it had grave consequences not just for him but for those who know and love him.  It was a long and tough road to right the wrong, but it's very clear it was the right road for him.  I'm sure there are those that believe whatever it is that Golson did, it's not a big deal.  It's a simple mistake.  But it could have been different.  Let's hope it is for Everett Golson and those who support him.

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