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"transformative conversations" occurring at ND

by Jay ?, San Diego, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 16:03

Some interesting stuff from that K. Russell/SI article posted below.

Russell’s involvement means that three prominent athletes on Notre Dame’s campus have been suspended over academics in the past two years. “When we recruit student-athletes, we have an obligation to provide them with the resources necessary,” Kelly says. “And if we don’t, then we have fallen short. And I think that in these instances, there’s culpability for everyone.”

Kelly wants the school to consider rethinking its approach. He says that, on average, his incoming freshman football class has a 2.8 GPA and a 24 on the ACT, while the median score for the rest of Notre Dame’s freshman class is 33. (The school does not track average GPA.) None of his newest recruits could have been admitted to the school on academic merit alone. Why then, he wonders, are most players on a path to graduate in 3 1⁄2 years—thanks to summer school requirements—when most Notre Dame students do so in four?

There’s a “church and state” separation between athletics and academics, but Kelly has reached out to athletic director Jack Swarbrick and president the Rev. John I. Jenkins about potential changes. He says “transformative conversations” are occurring on the academic side. “Are there other ways to do it?” Kelly asks. “Can we cut back on credit hours? Instead of taking 15 [the current practice to start a semester], can we take 12 and make it up in the summer? Are there other course offerings that could come about and be offered in lieu of a specific class? Those are conversations that had never taken place.”

Swarbrick is on board—to an extent. He acknowledges that the “gap issue” is more significant than when he attended Notre Dame in the mid-1970s, but he says it’s the “wrong narrative” to suggest that the recent high-profile suspensions are due to this gap. “These aren’t the only kids that had honor code violations at Notre Dame,” he says. “You’ll never know about the other ones. They tell their roommate they got mono, and they go home.”

In the spring of 2014, Swarbrick co-chaired a 17-member task force created to examine effective ways to support “at-risk student-athletes.” The takeaways proved more evolutionary than revolutionary, focusing on intensive individualized attention, a stronger summer bridge program, expansion of a writing and rhetoric tutorial, and faculty mentors. Faculty athletic representative Patricia Bellia, a law professor who was the task force’s other chair, says the process made the school realize it needs to take a “case management” approach to each student, with information pooled from trainers, assistant coaches, nutritionists and anyone close to them. “We’ve determined they can succeed [by admitting them],” she said. “How can we make that happen on an individual level? What kind of support and resources does that individual need?”

As the five players suspended last fall waited for the investigation and appeal to end, there was speculation that Kelly was so frustrated, he would leave for the NFL. Kelly claims the opposite, saying he and Swarbrick grew closer sorting through the suspensions. “We’ve done so many things here to put Notre Dame back in a position to compete nationally, and I kind of look at this as that last piece in making sure we’re taking care of our student-athletes,” he says. “It strengthened my resolve in, We’re going to get this right.”

swarbrick, academics


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