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One Foot Down’s Policy Regarding the Discussion of Vacated Wins From Here Forward

How to talk about the 2012 and 2013 seasons on our site.

USC v Notre Dame

The NCAA’s denial today of Notre Dame’s appeal regarding its academic misconduct in 2012 & 2013 requires us to have a discussion about how we discuss vacated wins on this site.

This post will serve as helpful guidance on how our staff will be approaching this subject and the expectations we have for our commenters.

The facts are not in dispute. Notre Dame self-reported infractions involving a student athletic trainer who violated NCAA rules by engaging in academic misconduct on behalf of two football players. She provided six other football players with extra academic benefits, which is impermissible.

Notre Dame suspended five players — DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams — prior to the 2014 season after the University Honesty Committee determined violations had occurred. The players had their grades recalculated so as to not benefit from their cheating, which caused them to be retroactively ineligible in 2012 and 2013. When the university certified to the NCAA that these five students were eligible during those years, it’s because they had no reason to suspect otherwise.

The NCAA’s penalties on Notre Dame are one year of probation, a requirement to disassociate with the former trainer and a $5,000 fine, which the university accepted.

The university did not accept the NCAA’s order to vacate all records in which those student-athletes participated during the 2012 and 2013 football seasons. It appealed — and it was announced today that this was denied.

One Foot Down is under no obligation to acknowledge any vacation of wins. Our staff writers were undergraduates during the 2012 & 2013 football seasons. We were subway alums attending games. We were graduates watching the games on television.

The games happened. The NCAA isn’t trying to suggest they did not. They just don’t want the positive results to count.

Even if we collectively agreed with the NCAA’s decision — which we decidedly do not — we are under no obligation to pretend these games did not happen.

Therefore, keep the following in mind:

Talk honestly about where we are.

Notre Dame went 12-1 and went to the BCS Championship game during the 2012-13 season. The NCAA wants to denote that as 0-1; that’s their prerogative.

Do not suggest that Notre Dame hasn’t been to a national championship game in 30 years, because that’s not true.

Do not suggest Brian Kelly hasn’t eclipsed 10 wins in a single season since becoming head coach at Notre Dame, because that’s not true.

Do not suggest Brian Kelly has won less than 6 out of every 10 games he’s coached at Notre Dame, because that’s not true. The NCAA now considers his record to be 48-34. We do not.

And so on.

Collectively, we’ve found dozens of reasons to second-guess the decisions made by Jack Swarbrick, Brian Kelly or Fr. John Jenkins. But if you think Notre Dame should accept their punishment because they should have been aware of the cheating when it was ongoing, you are either being a troll or you’re, frankly, a bit naive.

Cheating is too-prevalent practice at all universities. Notre Dame doesn’t condone cheating; their actions in this case suggest the exact opposite. But there are more than 100 student-athletes to keep tabs on, and cheaters are going to find a way to take shortcuts if possible. It’s a Herculean task to monitor every aspect -- and when the cheating was discovered, Notre Dame did the right thing by retroactively changing the grades of those involved.

Criticism — when warranted — is still welcome.

You are welcome to criticize Father Jenkins for publicly saying that the university would accept a vacated wins penalty in 2014 and then appealing when the NCAA levied it. You can criticize him for having too much faith in the NCAA to make the correct determination. With the benefit of hindsight, these are worthy arguments.

You are welcome to criticize Brian Kelly for going for two early against the Clemson Tigers in 2015 or his play-calling against the Northwestern Wildcats in 2016. You can fault him for drawing distinctions between his guys and the guys he inherited in 2011. You are welcome to be angry at him for interviewing with the Philadelphia Eagles after the BCS Championship game. You can ping him for being too light on Michael Floyd’s alcohol-related troubles in 2011 or for pulling Dayne Crist too early (or Everett Golson too late).

There are hundreds of legitimate things to be angry at Brian Kelly about. This is not one of them. There is no way you can look at all the student-athletes who have been dismissed in his eight years and suggest that he’s looking the other way on academic or personal missteps.

One of the things that makes any site, One Foot Down included, is that it publishes a wide variety of opinions. On the scale of “Brian Kelly apologist” to “Brian Kelly hater,” I tend to think better of him than most. But I respect my fellow staffers who think he should have been fired following the 2016 season — and that perhaps Jack Swarbrick should follow him out the door.

We will continue to welcome those discussions from you, but we will do so with the same basic set of facts.

If you decide to make an argument that Tommy Rees wasn’t any good and point to his 12-8 record as a starter, we’re going to nicely refer you back to this article.

If you decide to pretend Stanford didn’t get stuffed on fourth down in the October rain at Notre Dame Stadium by Manti Te’o and company, we’re going to probably link this post.

And if you come here to declare Michigan State to be retroactive 2013 champions because their sole loss doesn’t count as a Notre Dame win, we’re going to show you this post — and then show you how to sign up for an account at The Only Colors.

Questions about this policy? Leave them below.

Otherwise, go Irish. Beat Wolverines.