College athletics’ governing body is once again looking to make a statement via punishment; this time, Notre Dame—namely its 2012 national championship runner-up campaign—rests in its sights.
A recently completed NCAA investigation found the school culpable for the cheating efforts of a student trainer and three student athletes; six other players were deemed to have received “impermissible benefits” from the trainer. In response, the NCAA is looking to place Notre Dame on probation for a year, implement a mandated two-year disassociation for the trainer, fine the school $5,000, and vacate all wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The school quickly announced its intention to appeal the decision following the publication of the NCAA findings.
Per ESPN, head coach Brian Kelly backed the school’s decision to appeal the NCAA’s sanctions at a press conference Tuesday morning, pointing to the lack of school or program assistance or knowledge of the cheating as grounds for declaring the punishments overly harsh:
“It’s never happened before in the history of the NCAA, the penalty has never been issued in this fashion before. I think that qualifies for being, first of all, it was discretionary, this is a discretionary action by the committee. That’s No. 1. No. 2, student-on-student cheating, nobody implicated. The NCAA agreed across the board with that finding, and it was clearly excessive, so we’re gonna appeal this, and one of the options or clear reasons for appeal is that the penalty is excessive in its discretion and we believe we have obvious grounds there.”
According to the full public infractions decision, the NCAA found the trainer and three players guilty of committing the following four Level II violations.
(1) academic misconduct and unethical conduct by the former student athletic trainer and two football student-athletes; (2) academic misconduct by a football student-athlete without the involvement of an institutional staff member; (3) impermissible participation after the institution erroneously certified student-athletes as academically eligible; and (4) impermissible academic extra benefits provided to six football student-athletes.
This, after the trainer signed a Notre Dame-issued form stating, “you may NOT type papers, reports, letters, or other academic work for a student-athlete,” according to the NCAA document. The decision cites the fact that this is Notre Dame’s fourth “major, Level I or Level II infractions case” since 1999 in its reasoning behind vacating the two season’s worth of victories. It also states that the trainer, while also a student, was deemed an “institutional staff member” at the time of the violations.
In case you forgot, Notre Dame hasn’t always wallowed in the bottom tier of college football. In 2012, the program went 12-1, losing to Alabama in the BCS title game 42-14; in 2013, the Fighting Irish went 9-4. “Student Athlete 1,” as he’s referred to in the report, played in 12 games and a postseason bowl game in 2012, while “Student Athlete 2" participated in 12 games and a bowl in 2013. All wins the players were a part of are set to be vacated, barring a successful appeal attempt by Notre Dame.