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Notre Dame president now slamming students for exposing his failure

Notre Dame President John Jenkins quickly threw students under the bus for rushing the field after a big win against Clemson — but did he really not see this coming?
Notre Dame President John Jenkins quickly threw students under the bus for rushing the field after a big win against Clemson — but did he really not see this coming?
Illustration: (Getty Images)

Being the parent of eight-year-old twins, I often need to be wary of worst-case scenarios.

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Some benign. Will strolling past a pet store lead to my girls demanding we get a dog (full disclosure, I’m not a dog person)? Some not so benign, like will the flying monkeys scene from The Wizard of Oz give my kids nightmares? And some catastrophic, like will letting them bike too far ahead of me lead to them failing to stop at an intersection and peddling directly in front of a car?

These are calculations every parent makes, countless times, over the course of a single day. As the years go by, and you get a better grasp of your child’s tendencies, you get better at avoiding meltdowns, and sleepless nights go down. The more data you have, the better your decision-making. Analytic parenting.

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When you know this, what’s happening at Notre Dame is even more befuddling.

If you don’t already know, upon upsetting No. 1 Clemson at home Saturday night, thousands of Notre Dame students rushed the field, packing those 100 yards, either completely forgetting the fact that we’re in the middle of the worst days of this nine-month long pandemic, or utterly dismissing its severity.

Of course, rushing the field after a big win is what students do, a part of going to college. Your school, your classmates just did something wonderful and you want to celebrate, unbridled. I did it when my alma mater Wisconsin upset No. 12 Ohio State back in 1992. It was the biggest win during my time in Madison. It’s the sort of college memory that lasts long after you’ve graduated. That snapshot moment when you were a part of something special in the ongoing history of your school.

Running onto the field is what every student hopes to be able to do at least once before they leave school.

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These are things easy to predict.

Kids make bad choices all the time; and it’s the responsibility of parents to help them make good ones by taking bad ones away. In this case, the parents are Notre Dame administrators.

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If you’re going to be playing football during a pandemic, and possibly subjecting “student-athletes” to the virus by making them participate in practices and meetings with others and travel, you need to think of the worst-case scenarios. And if you’re going to put unpaid labor in harm’s way, you need to think about what will happen if you put 11,011 people in the stands.

The pro leagues haven’t had an incident like this in some time. It of course happened in the NBA and in Major League Baseball, fans rushing the field as players plowed through them on the way to the locker room or clubhouse. But security details and law enforcement have been used to put a stop to it. The adults in the room learned from the past and put in procedures to bring it to and end. And you never see fans rushing onto the field in NFL games. It just doesn’t happen.

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I wonder how the players feel, knowing that they were put in such a position, the school failing to protect them.

Were Notre Dame students foolish for rushing the field, some wearing masks, some not? Yes. Should administrators have anticipated the possibility of such an event when playing the No. 1 team in the country? Yes.

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If you’re going to have fans in the stands to begin with, and talk about following proper COVID protocol, failing to anticipate students rushing the field is a failure on part of the university.

And to have this happen just weeks before students leave campus and return home for Thanksgiving is incredibly dangerous.

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That last part is where the school put on its big-boy pants and is finally stepping in. Sunday night, the school’s president, Rev. John L. Jenkins issued a stern statement mandating students are prohibited from leaving campus without getting tested for the coronavirus. Students who fail to do so will have their records withheld, meaning they will be unable to “matriculate or register for classes next semester or receive a transcript.”

Here’s some more from Jenkins’ statement:

“We recognize that such steps may require some to adjust plans and schedules, but these obligations are critical for your health, as well as the health of our campus, our local community, and the communities to which you will travel for break. The grave circumstances of this pandemic compel us to take these exceptional measures.”

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Illustration for article titled Notre Dame president now slamming students for exposing his failure
Photo: University of Notre Dame

If Jenkins’ name sounds familiar, he’s the one who likely contracted COVID-19 at the White House superspreader event when President Trump introduced Notre Dame law professor as a Supreme Court nominee. Jenkins, like many others at that event, wasn’t wearing a mask.

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But now, he’s punishing his students for failing to consider a worst-case scenario of having students in the stands at a college football game during a pandemic. Nowhere in his statement does it say that fans will no longer be allowed at the school’s remaining game on December 5. That should have been the first thing announced in this statement, along with a mea culpa for failing to do his job. Oftentimes, as the parent, you have to protect your kids from themselves. He failed to do so.

All these kids need to be tested before they go home and spread the virus when they’re passing the stuffing and gravy in a little over two weeks. The students were in error when they ran onto the field in that mass gathering, but let’s not forget the administrators’ role in this. They’re first error was having students in the building in the first place, followed by their second one of not having security in place to prevent a stampede of the field.

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They should have seen that scene coming.

Every responsible parent would have.

Been editing/writing sports for some time, mainly in NYC and a stint in LA.

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