Tom O'Toole
A "trusting sycamore" and a barking "Irish rover": enough to save the fall of Kelly and Floyd?
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By Tom O'Toole
June 20, 2011

    The Catholic college...should be a community of students and teachers centered on Christ...The marrow of a Catholic college is not a system of thought, but a saving personality. — Francis J. O'Malley, long time professor at Notre Dame (and a favorite of the Sycamore Trust)

    St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our safeguard against the snares and wickedness of the devil... — from the St. Michael Prayer

Alas, I was a tad distressed to read the other day that Brian Kelly, head football coach of the University of Notre Dame, not only cleared Michael Floyd to resume summer practices with the team, but raised the possibility that the Irish's MVP of 2010 would not be suspended for even a single game in 2011 despite Michael's March 20th DUI, his third alcohol infraction since joining the team. Indeed, I was saddened not just because this curiously quiet announcement (not even mentioned on the official ND athletic site) seemed to contradict the usually strict disciplinary code for Irish athletes, but due to the fact it was made in early June, when The Irish Rover was off for the summer. I'm not sure if this underground, but 100% orthodox student newspaper (indeed, you don't have to be underground to be a truly Catholic student at Notre Dame, but it helps), would have deemed this topic worthy of their hip yet otherworldly editorials, but I bet they would have gotten to the bottom of things as to whether Kelly's meager punishment of his talented but troubled wide receiver smells as bad as it looks.

But before we debate the wisdom of not suspending Floyd, who measured a .19 alcohol level (.08 is the legal limit) when he blew a stop sign driving back to campus at 3:18 in the morning, for even a single regular season contest, a little background on The Irish Rover is necessary. Formed in 2003 to serve "God, Country and Notre Dame," because The Observer, the official, administration-backed student newspaper no longer was, "Rover" has made a big impact in it's short history, including shaming Notre Dame's president and trustees into seeing (if not totally admitting) the moral folly of their ways concerning the Obama commencement fiasco. Living up to their motto, "It behooves a watchdog to bark" (if not bite), The Rover, led by then Editor-in-Chief Mary Daly, humbly hammered Notre Dame President John Jenkins' decision to honor President Obama into submission, not only forcing Jenkins to create the formidable sounding "The Office of University Life Initiatives" (ULI) to ensure (or at least create the impression) the campus is pro-life, but naming Daly herself the head of the new initiative.

Ah, but surrin' the cynics, many who feel that nothing short of a Jenkins apology for the Obama incident (or better yet, his resignation as president) will do, say that Notre Dame's president is merely playing politics, using the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach by signing Daly to the ND payroll. By making Mary (Daly, not the saint) an official part of the University, and giving her the freedom to start some bona fide worthwhile initiatives, including "Project Guadalupe," Jenkins has effectively bought off her bark. "It is possible," writes Ray Korson in "Where's the Proof? Restoring Trust in a Pro-Life University" (a recent Rover article), "to see the university's support for the pro-life cause sceptically...one could argue it is [merely] protecting it's reputation, and cares more about its image than a genuine pro-life commitment." Considering that Korson reports that University contributions were down 120 million in '09-'10, that's exactly how I now see it, especially after refusing a Notre Dame co-ed (Jenkins not only has Kelly shilling for cash, but forces undergrads to make phone calls to non-contributing alumni also) my Irish donations for the second year in a row based on the Obama debacle, but then listening to their all-new 2010 approach to dissidents, "But now pro-life alumni can request their contributions go directly to the ULI!" Furthermore, would Daly risk her new job, and the actual good she can accomplish there, by blasting the still huge pro-choice faction at ND, especially the ND Faculty Senate, who recently voted against endorsing the ULI and the other pro-life campus groups she seeks to empower?

Well, the good news is that Daly doesn't have to. Gabrielle Speach, the current Rover editor, took care of that. In her April 13th "An open letter to President Jenkins on the pro-life movement at ND," Speach, after politely thanking Jenkins for the new ULI as well as his accompanying the pro-life ND students on the annual March for Life in Washington (something Jenkins wouldn't be caught dead doing before "Obamagate") Gabby (her preferred nickname) then recalled the recent ND faculty vote dissing her compatriots as well as dismissing the Catholic character of the University, and suddenly put the fence-sitting Jenkins on the hot seat by asking, "Will you make the office of President a stronghold for Notre Dame's commitment to defend the sanctity of all human life...[by hiring] more Catholic faculty who would support your efforts to strengthen Notre Dame's pro-life commitment?"

In other words, The Irish Rover has Jenkins in a bit of a pro-life pickle. Either Jenkins does what Rover (and God) keeps telling him to do, or he keeps buying the nervy newspaper staff off by hiring them to work for ND, at which point the pro-lifers will soon have the numbers to change things from within instead. Of course, there is also Jenkins' new pseudo-strategy which I eluded to; making his malevolent moves in the summer while the Rovers are resting. But even that no longer works; for now all we need do in the Rovers' absence is sic Sycamore Trust on them.

Formed in the summer of 2006 after growing sick of yet another performance of The Vagina Monologues (The ND Faculty Senate had no trouble endorsing that piece of crap!) on Our Lady's Campus, "Sycamore," the self-dubbed "Guardians of the Grotto," are the "old men who dreamed dreams" compared to the Rovers' "young men who see visions" (Acts 2:17), a group of older alumni who love their alma mater and seek to restore its Catholic character. When The Cardinal Newman Society broke the news that Roxanne Martino, the newly elected member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees, had contributed over $25,000 to pro-abortion groups such as Emily's List (an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice women) and Planned Parenthood, it was already mid-May, too late for the Rovers' paper to respond. So Sycamore (which by the way hounds Jenkins year-round) took up the mantle, and their steadfast attacks on Jenkins' "choice" forced Martino's resignation on June 8th, less than a month after the "ST" pressure started. "This is a great day for Sycamore Trust and all who love Notre Dame," wrote William H. Dempsey, ND class of '52 and ST president. True, it is not the resignation some, including National Catholic Register's Patrick Archbold (in his scathing "Lying Father Jenkins Must Go") called for, but it's a start.

But with Rover gone and Sycamore busy, who's left to tackle the case of Kelly and Floyd? Even the most die-hard of Irish fans, many who would give their right arm for another Notre Dame National Championship, seem to favor at least a several-game suspension for Floyd, lest the Irish program no longer be considered "special" compared to the "anything goes" football factories they compete against. As Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune summed up, "withholding playing time is by far the coach's most effective [weapon]...the way it looks now this third [alcohol] misstep cost Floyd spring practice and some weightlifting." Certainly, banning Floyd for the entire season would be too severe, since Michael is a senior and such a death sentence would mean he would never get a chance to play for Notre Dame (and hopefully redeem himself) again. But a four-game suspension, which could be reduced to a game or two if Floyd studied the history of Notre Dame and came away with the knowledge of what playing for Our Lady (once) meant to the school and its millions of fans, could turn Floyd into a true captain and begin the righteous revival of Irish football. Of course, the pro-choice Kelly, let alone the "pro-life light" (as the "Sycamores" call him) Jenkins, would never go for such a Catholic solution...unless...

Between trying to expose and or convert the ND faculty, Board of Trustees, and, of course, President, The Irish Rover and the Sycamore Trust may have their hands full. That leaves the fate of the football team to the words of the freelance writers, the hope of subway alumni, and the prayers of The Suffering Irish. Making Kelly a devout Catholic and Michael an angel is a daunting task no doubt, but with the help of Francis J. O'Malley and St. Michael the Archangel we just might pull it off.

© Tom O'Toole

 

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Tom O'Toole

Thomas Augustine O'Toole was born in Chicago and grew up in a devout Catholic family with five brothers and two sisters. He was the sports editor of Notre Dame's Scholastic magazine, where his story "Reflections on the Game" won the award for Best Sports Feature for the Indiana Collegiate Press Association... (more)

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