the Polo Grounds

Back to the forum index

what's your take on Kelly's "at risk" commentary

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 09:57

This was previously linked by Jim but has been getting some national attention/furor over the last couple of days.


Academic probe aftermath: Pete Thamel’s recent Sports Illustrated piece on reinstated cornerback KeiVarae Russell mentioned Kelly, ND president Rev. John I. Jenkins, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick had “transformative conversations” this offseason centering on at-risk student-athletes.

Swarbrick even co-chaired a task force that took a look at that issue in-depth.
As the academic dishonesty probe, that started last July, approaches final resolution for the last two of the five players involved, here are Kelly’s thoughts on Notre Dame’s effort to move forward with lessons learned along the way:

“I think we recognized that all of my football players are at-risk — all of them — really. Honestly, I don’t know that any of our players would get into the school by themselves right now with the academic standards the way they are. Maybe one or two of our players that are on scholarship.

“So making sure that with the rigors that we put them in — playing on the road, playing night games, getting home at 4 o’clock in the morning, all of the demands that we place on them relative to the academics and going into an incredibly competitive academic classroom every day — we recognize this is a different group.

“And we have to provide all the resources necessary for them to succeed and don’t force them into finding shortcuts.

“I think we’ve clearly identified that we need to do better, and we’re not afraid to look at any shortcomings that we do have and fix them, and provide the resources necessary for our guys. Our university has looked at that, and we’re prepared to make sure that happens for our guys.”



He had to do this in a public setting

by Jim (fisherj08) @, A Samoan kid's laptop, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:54 @ Jay

Notre Dame is getting hammered on the recruiting trail over this. BK had to put a marker down to say to recruits "listen, yes, other guys got the boot because of academic indiscretions, but we are working to improve things and we will take care of you."


I have one small thought to add

by Greg, sittin on the dock of the bay, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:34 @ Jay

This comes first-hand from the father of a former ND student-athlete and a current ND student-athlete.

He says that the disparity from an academic standpoint and a socio-cultural standpoint as between the football/men's hoops teams and the other student-athletes on campus is a yawning chasm compared to what it was when he was at ND. He believes -- based on anecdotal evidence -- that the rising academic standards at ND and the rising cost of tuition mean that kids who are participating in the other sports are by and large coming from more well-to-do families, due to the need to split scholarships and/or have kids walk on for two years and then get a partial for two years. And in those other sports -- fencing, swimming, soccer, track, lacrosse, etc. -- the chance of a pro career is minimal so you have smarter and smarter kids who make the cut athletically choosing to go to ND rather than local state school.

This contributes, he thinks, to the bubble effect around those two teams. Yes, they still live in regular student housing. Yes, they take the same courses. Etc., etc., etc. But some of the "hanging in the Gug" or feeling pressure in classes or moving in together after freshman year comes not just from the distinction between them and the average student, but from that between them and the average student-athlete.

This doesn't excuse cheating or not getting involved in campus life or anything else. But it does help to explain it. When I was there -- after this dad was -- the football players and men's hoops team often hung with other student-athletes. Today, that has diminished. And I think it's to the detriment of the whole system. But I don't know that there is a solution.


that's definitely in play

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:52 @ Greg

But students on "good socio-cultural" sports teams get caught cheating, too. Some of them probably get the boot and we're just not aware of it. Others just get away with it (I'm sure some football and basketball players get away with it, too).

I guess I'm trying to say there's some layers of the pipeline:

1) propensity/need to cheat
2) whether cheating is caught
3) punishment for caught cheating

#2 seems like it'd be invariant, but I guess some students want to be the ones that got a starting football player kicked out of school. #3 can vary based on #2 -- as I recall the Frozen 5 situation arose in a fairly high profile manner.


Sorry. I wasn't clear.

by Greg, sittin on the dock of the bay, Friday, June 12, 2015, 12:01 @ HumanRobot

I don't think the growing disparity has anything to do with the cheating. I think the cheating is its own problem -- and frankly, is more likely to occur with kids who come from backgrounds with higher academic pressure where a "B" is seen as a failure.

I do think that some of what Kelly is asking for/calling for/telling the world about in interviews reflects on the isolation of the team and the need to do things to keep the team feeling a part of the campus in any way possible. And helping them feel that they're able to handle the classes better and are not just skating through with gentlemen's Cs is one way to do that.


I see what you're saying now

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Friday, June 12, 2015, 12:09 @ Greg

[ No text ]


"Force them into finding shortcuts" bothers me

by HCE, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:03 @ Jay

"Finding shortcuts" is a shitty euphemism for cheating, and I don't like the suggestion that anyone is "forced" to cheat. Deliberately or not, his phrasing seems to rationalize academic dishonesty while deflecting blame away from the students and on to the institution.


Agreed. They are separate issues.

by Coach Gillespie, Omaha, Friday, June 12, 2015, 13:53 @ HCE

I'm concerned about the players who fail a class because they don't have the academic building blocks needed to succeed at ND. Swarbrick and Kelly are right to investigate how ND can better develop their study habits. But increased academic support doesn't mean that the work goes away.

The guys who cheat on a calc test because they feel invincible and don't want to bother putting in the time to study deserve to be tossed.


good point

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:18 @ HCE

[ No text ]


Only suggestion would be to use a different term

by Ken Fowler, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:30 @ Jay

He's laudably attacking the issue head-on, and he seems to have gotten results by working internally.

In all of this, Kelly has always noted the steps the University has taken to address the problem, rather than simply complaining about the problem.


Agree. I wish he had worded it differently.

by NDinVA @, Yorktown, VA, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:48 @ Ken Fowler

ND is a tough place academically. So really, the entire student body is "at risk". Even the kids with 4.0 high school GPAs and perfect SAT scores are "at risk".

I'm pretty sure that the majority of the football players probably would not have been accepted to Notre Dame if not for their football talents. So it makes sense that they would be more vulnerable than most of the rest of the student body.

On the other hand, most regular students don't get the same level of academic support as the athletes. So, it almost, but not quite, balances out.

Unfortunately, most sports fans who are not ND fans are not going to view it that way. They are just going to see Kelly's comment as another piece of evidence that ND is no better than any other football factory, sinc even the head coach admits that the entire football team really doesn't qualify to be at Notre Dame.


And that overshadows the primary point

by Domer99, John Wesley Powell's Expedition Island, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:31 @ NDinVA

Yes, these guys probably couldn't have gotten in without football. And yes, they are getting much better resources and support.

But these guys are also logging in up to 40 hours more per week honing their athletic craft. And all the while being expected to do so with a similar academic load as Johnny Valedictorian.

Which ignores that these guys are generally outpacing graduation credit hour requirements come senior year.


Those non-ND fans have been saying such things for decades

by Jack @, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:05 @ NDinVA

I couldn't care less. The only thing I care about in this issue at all is how it affects recruiting.


I know, but I don't like that our coach gave them more ammo.

by NDinVA @, Yorktown, VA, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:17 @ Jack

And I agree that it might be used against us in recruiting.

I'm sure that Urban will bring this up in a few recruiting battles.


Like he hasn't before?

by Jack @, Friday, June 12, 2015, 13:59 @ NDinVA
edited by Jack, Friday, June 12, 2015, 14:06

I really don't think this is going to change anything one way or another. Tempest in a teapot.


yep, I don't think he's complaining.

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:36 @ Ken Fowler

I think he's describing changes that have already taken place (or are underway).

Similar thoughts on "transformative changes" were raised in the SI article:


There's a couple issues here

by HumanRobot @, Cybertron, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:24 @ Jay

I have to drive by on a few of them since I'm busy today, but in all honesty I think the cheating issue has less to do with kids being "at risk" or "unable to hack it academically at ND" than it does with them

1) They're really fucking busy
2) ND has a pretty different structure than other universities. Even at Stanford you can get hidden in a high volume of "group work" courses (see:;pid=40777;d=this)

Trust me when I say that #1 is an issue, even for athletes in other programs. Golson and the Frozen 5 got busted because alerts of their cheating got raised in fairly high profile ways. There are many other students -- athletes and not -- that get away with cheating, even if an instructor is aware of it.


The biggest issue, probably for me, is airing this publicly

by Domer99, John Wesley Powell's Expedition Island, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:20 @ HumanRobot

You'd have liked for this to be a discussion that doesn't need ESPN as the mouthpiece.

But then again, I think the administration has probably been reluctant to budge on some matters. Hell, it took Kelly 9 months to actually sign his extension because he was concerned with issues in dealing with the leadership....

Q. If you don't want to get into specifics, what elements in this are important to you? Are there elements that you really wanted to address that this does address for the next five years?

COACH KELLY: I just think the contract is one that has involved the leadership of the university. Obviously, Jack Swarbrick, Father Jenkins, we've all been in discussion about the future of the program. So when we come to an agreement, it's not necessarily that within it I get a lunch stipend on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's about that we're all together in this contract about moving the program forward. Do you know what I mean? That we've all decided that by signing this contract, we're all in it together, and that's what I was looking for.

By my signature on it, Father Jenkins' signature on it and Jack Swarbrick's signature on it, we've all agreed that the principles within this contract is that we're all in it together, and our voices, the communication was the huge piece for me. That that dialogue is open, and that's what I was looking for.

That's an awful long time from when it was decided he was coming back in January.

While I'd like to believe this could have happened behind closed doors, another part of me remembers what it's like dealing with ND's administration and its stubbornness.

The reality is I don't think he's saying anything controversial. I don't think it's a too much of an ask allowing players to take 12 credit hours a semester. BillyGoat summarized the tension pretty well the other day...


ESPN just rehashed Eric Hansen in the SBT

by Jack @, Friday, June 12, 2015, 14:02 @ Domer99

ESPN just put their own inimitable spin on a 2 day old story.


That's the comical thing about it

by Domer99, John Wesley Powell's Expedition Island, Friday, June 12, 2015, 16:13 @ Jack

ESPN just put their own inimitable spin on a 2 day old story.

I thought I'd read this before. Just didn't remember the same outrage. Sounds like all the folks that brag about not watching ESPN find themselves reading it instead.


I assume Stanford's "cooling glove" also helps with

by BillyGoat, At Thanksgiving with Joe Bethersontin, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:07 @ HumanRobot



Agreed, but 1 isn't any different now than it ever was at ND

by Jack @, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:50 @ HumanRobot
edited by Jack, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:01

We had players who cheated, too, way back in the 70's. I roomed with one. He cheated so much he bragged about it. And he got kicked out after freshman year before ever playing a down. I will also say that even if this guy was as honest as the day as long, he wouldn't have made it at ND anyway. He wasn't exactly with it academically and he smoked pot 5 times a day (we wondered who took his SATs for him).

Also, think of all the academic casualties in the Holtz years. Jason Cegielski. Jim Dadiotis. Norm Balentine. Boo Williams. Thomas Knight. Steve Misetic. And that's just off the top of my head. There were a lot more than just them.

Point being, they ARE busy, absolutely, but this isn't new!


interesting post. makes sense, given that

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:39 @ HumanRobot

I can't recall the last time Stanford had anybody academically ineligible. Although I think the "courses of interest" list had been dropped a few years ago:

A drama class in Beginning Improvising and another in Social Dances of North America III were among dozens of classes on a closely guarded quarterly list distributed only to Stanford athletes to help them choose classes.
The list, which has existed since at least 2001, was widely regarded by athletes as an easy class list. More than a quarter of the courses on the list did not fulfill university general education requirements.
The classes on the list were "always chock-full of athletes and very easy A's," said Kira Maker, a soccer player who used the list her freshman year.
Stanford officials say the list was designed to accommodate athletes' demanding schedules and have disputed that it was made up of easy courses. But officials discontinued it last week after reporters began asking about it.

Titled "Courses of Interest," the list was distributed by the Athletic Academic Resource Center. Advisers in other university departments said they were unaware such a list existed.
Stanford has long mandated equal scholastic footing among all undergraduates, including athletes. Many of its student athletes, in fact, have distinguished themselves in the classroom, notably football stars Andrew Luck, who has a 3.5 GPA, and Owen Marecic, who plans to graduate this year with a degree in human biology.
The university's hard-line approach has rankled some coaches over the years who have watched talented recruits go elsewhere because they didn't measure up to Stanford's academic standards.
But some faculty and students say the list may have offered an academic advantage for the athletes who requested it - especially since the general population was unaware it was available.
Austin Lee, director of academic services at the Athletic Academic Resource Center, disagreed that the classes were easier than others at Stanford.
"An objective evaluation of the courses included on the list reveals several courses that most students would consider to be academically rigorous," Lee said. He did not identify specific classes.
Compiled by advisers

Lee said the center's four advisers compiled the list to help student athletes find introductory classes that fit into constrained time schedules and fulfilled general education requirements. Afternoon practices mean that athletes have to choose classes that start from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The list mostly contained classes during those hours.
Nearly 200 courses in 16 academic departments and programs offered during the 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. time slots were left off the list.
Sociology Professor Cecilia Ridgeway was surprised her Interpersonal Relations class was on the winter quarter list. Ridgeway said she had heard about the document in years past and talked to the athletics department about removing her class from the list. She said department staff told her at the time that the list did not exist.
Like many professors whose courses are on the list, Ridgeway said her class is academically challenging, noting that she has failed some student athletes - to the displeasure of the athletics department.
Other professors were unconcerned that their class made it onto the list. Some said they believed student athletes should be treated differently than the typical student.
"(Stanford) accommodates athletes in the manner that they accommodate students with disabilities," said Donald Barr, who teaches a Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, Health course, which was highlighted by resource center advisers.
Lythcott-Haims said any student could have obtained a copy of the document, which was available only in hard copy from the offices of the Athletic Academic Resource Center.
Purpose of list

Lee and Lythcott-Haims said the list was meant to serve as the beginning of an advising conversation.
"We're not handing it out and distributing it all around," Lythcott-Haims said.
But student athletes said they had picked up a copy of the list and left. In some cases, no advising took place.
"Literally, when you walk into the (resource center) right next to the door, it's right there," said Ryan Sudeck, a junior on the crew team.
"I never used it before this year," he said. "But this quarter it was like, 'Oh, I need an easy class to boost my GPA.' "


also, there are some real doozies in that thread

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:45 @ Jay

I guess it's not surprising some would read this as BK making excuses for himself.


Is it ever that surprising?

by Domer99, John Wesley Powell's Expedition Island, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:27 @ Jay

Even the most cynical Kelly-critic would have to recognize there is some truth to what he's saying, even if he should have selected more concise words to describe the situation.


Less bullshit = better

by Dylan, Santa Barbara, CA, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:01 @ Jay

[ No text ]


"at risk" is such a loaded term

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:13 @ Dylan

Not untrue strictly speaking, just a lot of connotations.


They are at risk of becoming ineligible

by Dylan, Santa Barbara, CA, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:03 @ Jay

I'd say that, for a large percentage of them, the risk is constant. For many, it's inevitable but for the efforts of dozens of people giving them guidance that is reserved for them. Pointing that out, even with potential pitfalls of the occasionally inartful turn of phrase, should phase no one.

BK could have said "no fucking way any of my guys would have ever gotten into this school without a football scholarship" and it would have been fine with me. It would only be insulting if it weren't true.

As my football fandom goes the way of my Catholicism, I just have less tolerance for ruses that everyone knows are ruses but pretend otherwise. ND Football and CFB at large are just giant nesting dolls of these self-delusions, and I've lost patience with them.


I don't care that he said it either

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:11 @ Dylan

Also, I don't think anybody at ND has ever claimed our student-athletes (in any sport, not just football) would have been admitted under the normal application process. I think it was Weis who phrased it, "We're looking for kids who can do the work, and graduate." I think that's a valid standard for ND football and definitely doable.

I know I am biased (shocker) but I think ND is one of the few "good guys" in the cesspool. We are at least trying to do right by our players.


You have to look at that with KeiVarae Russell in mind.

by Bill, Southern California, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:36 @ Jay

Russell was not a borderline admit. He was a smart kid who had offers from Stanford and Vanderbilt. I'm guessing he flew through the admissions process without any red flags. Yet, semesters later, he felt the need to violate the honor code.

So at some point in time, KeiVarae became an 'at risk' player. From a program perspective, how would you monitor and track academic performance and identity flags for concern without looking at the entire team as an 'at risk' group?


I am talking about the typical use of the term "at risk"

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:49 @ Bill

meaning kids who are in danger of violence, abuse, poverty, disease, exploitation, etc, not a kid struggling to make the grade at a world-class university.


I don't think anybody took it in that context.

by Bill, Southern California, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:00 @ Jay

[ No text ]


I did.

by PMan, The Banks of the Spokane River, Friday, June 12, 2015, 13:38 @ Bill

Kelly should have phrased the issue differently. The "at risk" term is a loaded one.


well, I did

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:02 @ Bill

It's the very first thing I thought of. He didn't say, "my kids are at risk of" something. He said they are "at risk". As in "at risk" kids. We agree on the intention, I just thought it was a loaded term to use for something that could have been described equally in other ways.


I knew what he was saying, but that connotation definitely

by Ken Fowler, Friday, June 12, 2015, 11:06 @ Jay

popped in my head when I read it, too.


He's not dumb

by JRT, Island of Misfit Toys, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:31 @ Jay

there's other ways to say that, like our players need support services, or need to be overachievers in the classroom, or whatever.

His phrasing "at risk" goes precisely to the issue that's been hitting him where he lives, which is losing players from his team.


a) it's his new mantra with the players to scare them straight, and he's taking it public to reinforce his message to them

b) he's lobbying the school for more leniency on academic scheduling and/or discipline

c) he's pissed in general about the extra hurdles he has to overcome and he's taking it public for personal p.r. reasons, including to keep his stock up in case he needs to jump

I'm not committing to an explanation because I don't know. There's a whole host of ways to address this, including recruiting and admissions and support services and scheduling and four versus five year tracks, and team messaging and emphasis, and perhaps, academic discipline. It's a big issue and it's not going away (even if Kelly is).


I think this is exactly right. It's just a term a bit out of

by BillyGoat, At Thanksgiving with Joe Bethersontin, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:21 @ Jay

context from where we usually see it. But I think it's accurate from the standpoint of there being a consistent risk that any kid who was a reach to get into ND in the first place might fall behind academically. THEN throw in the fact that the football players have essentially a full-time job in addition to academics that beats the everloving crap out of them physically and keeps them off campus for virtually the entirety of half the weekends during the fall.


Some things are best left unsaid?

by River, Hell of the Upside Down Sinners, Friday, June 12, 2015, 09:59 @ Jay

Or STFU coach!


would have been better if he had completed the thought

by Jay ⌂, San Diego, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:09 @ River

and made the salient point that it's not that his players can't hack it in the classroom -- they can -- it's just that they probably couldn't get into the school under a normal application. And that's fine, by the way. The ND application is ultra-competitive -- 18,000 applications submitted last year -- but that doesn't mean the bulk of the applicants couldn't do the classwork and graduate. And those with heavy extra-curricular schedules (like athletes) might need some additional academic support. Also fine.



by River, Hell of the Upside Down Sinners, Friday, June 12, 2015, 10:19 @ Jay

So, I am going with STFU!!

387056 Postings in 33495 Threads, 205 registered users, 62 users online (1 registered, 61 guests)
powered by my little forum