Change to commeth before next fall

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addresses the media regarding Michael Floyd's future.

Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd is slightly over a month, summer session, and a fall semester from graduation. How far he is from competing on the football field will be determined by both his head coach and the actions of the suspended senior star over forthcoming days, weeks, and possibly months.

Floyd, who is expected to complete his studies at the University at the conclusion of the 2011 fall semester, remains a suspended member of the football team, though Friday's official ruling from the Office of Residence Life did not include a suspension from the University for the upcoming summer session or fall semester

"I can only comment on what I do with the football program," said Kelly when asked for his reaction to the Office of Residence Life's comparatively lenient ruling. "As you know, Michael's suspended and that's indefinite. So this isn't about anything other than how I handle our players and how I handled Mike from the beginning.

"This is not about football. Everybody has jumped to conclusions that Mike Floyd is going to play football," Kelly continued. "Mike has so many things on his plate that he has to handle before he can play football. Again, academics, and personally, a lot of things and hurdles he's going to have to go through before he can even start thinking about football."

Irish fans and alumni feared the worst when Floyd was pulled over during the early morning hours of March 20 and subsequently failed multiple field sobriety tests before registering a BAC level of .19, more than twice Indiana's legal limit.

Prior DUI arrests of Irish athletes such as 2005 fullback Rashon Powers-Neal, 2008 tight end Will Yeatman, and a marijuana traffic stop and arrest of 2007-08 point guard Kyle McAlarney resulted in the dismissal of each from their respective squads for one semester per a ruling by the aforementioned Office of Residence Life.

Bill Kirk, former vice president of the department has since retired, replaced by Reverend Tom Doyle, a former football walk-on for Irish legend Lou Holtz.

In an April 2010 informal meeting between Kirk, director of Residence Life and Housing's Jeffrey Shoup and various members of daily Notre Dame media, it was stressed that each student's disciplinary case is handled separately: that there are no precedents set in the Office's formal, but non-legal setting, and that details of prior offenses are not necessarily made public.

Whether the Floyd decision signals a change in the department's oft-referenced stringent policy vs. alcohol violations on and off-campus is unknown. Regardless, the reality that Floyd will not be precluded by the University from partaking in what is expected to be a record-shattering final season has sent a healthy dose of optimism through Irish fans that feared the worst.

But Kelly's focus on the matter remains far from that of continued gridiron glory.

"We are so far from the football end of this," Kelly noted following Saturday's practice. "But what I'm pleased with is what Mike told and shared with me, is that he's going to be in school (as a result of the ruling). As you know, the most important thing with Michael Floyd is that he's going to get his degree. That was really part of the reason he came back.

"I think we've put the cart before the horse relative to Mike Floyd as it relates to football."

Kinder, gentler…inconsistent?

Kelly was asked if the decision indicated common ground had been reached in the relationship between the oft-referenced "Res Life" and the football program – one that appeared adversarial during the Charlie Weis era, as Weis noted in his final interview following his dismissal.

"Oh, it's Residence Life, it's not even close for second," Weis said of the biggest "problem" on Notre Dame's campus. "I didn't even know Residence Life existed when I went to school...I think if you took a poll of the students at Notre Dame on what's the biggest negative issue, I would bet at least 50 percent of them would say Residence Life."

A prudent Kelly had no comment on the past, nor the perceived improved relations between a department known to outsiders for its harsh disciplinary measures despite its dozens of stated purposes in the student handbook, du Lac (of which a mere 12 of 209 pages are dedicated to disciplinary action regarding the abuse of drugs and alcohol).

"I don't know if it's simply about a football relationship," Kelly said of the give and take between himself and Res Life. "We're all educators. At Notre Dame, I can't look into decisions made in the past. I only live in the presence. I'm pleased he's going to get a chance to finish his degree. The football stuff? If it works out, fine. The kid's 25 hours from graduation from the University of Notre Dame."

As for the perception that Floyd was treated with kid gloves because of his athletic talent, Kelly responded:

"I think you know how I handled Mike Floyd from the beginning. Our players are going to be held responsible and accountable from the beginning. He has a lot of hurdles in front of him; a lot of things that have to occur and come together in the right way.

"We are so far removed from the football part of this. He has a lot of things he has to take care of first."

Though he didn't elaborate, Kelly noted he maintains an alcohol policy for his squad – and not just the obvious underage forbiddance.

"Yes, there's something I've used over 22 years that I think is an effective way to educate, to get kids to make good decisions. It's not just me; it's the utilization of the resources we have. I'm not a professional counselor, but I'm pretty good at reaching out and finding the right people to come up with those answers.

"I think you can tell that this isn't my first time dealing with a young man that has had an incident. We're going to make sure we provide him with the resources and the proper perspective. And that's the one thing I want to make sure we're clear on: football is not even in the equation right now. It can't be."

That exact equation remains unknown and likely will for those outside the program's walls unless Floyd plans to elaborate in the future following a football reinstatement.

As for Floyd's progress to that end?

"It's only been three weeks," Kelly stated. "This young man needs some time to get some things in order. He's doing the right things. We've put together a plan that he has to follow, that he wants to follow. He's the one who said, ‘I need to do these things to be right.'

"But it's only been three weeks. There's a lot of work that has to be done."

When and how many?

While Kelly is rightfully focused on Floyd's personal growth following his third alcohol-related arrest, few Notre Dame football fans tune in 12 Saturdays each fall (and 365 days a year on Irish websites) to monitor their favorite player's course load or his GPA.

The obvious question was thus asked: Is there a drop dead date regarding reinstatement? Could Floyd miss football games?

"This is fluid. This is every day, evaluating," Kelly answered. "(Floyd) could come in tomorrow and say, "Coach, I can't do this,' or ‘this is too difficult' or ‘this is something I think can work.'

"It's every day, talking to him and making sure he's taking the right steps to No. 1, get his degree, and No. 2, personally he has to take care of things that are absolutely crucial to his success as a student and as a young man.

"I think right now when we're talking about Mike, I haven't reached any kind of thought process that, ‘Well that's a game, or two games, or three games – or geez, what he did requires a five game suspension,'" Kelly said.

"We're three weeks post a very serious event that occurred. It wasn't a small event. This was serious. My focus has been on our football team and developing our players that are here. As it relates to Mike, it's about his personal development.

"I haven't even given it a thought that, ‘Well let's see, we have South Florida…' I haven't gotten into those kinds of equations because I'm not sure we're going to be able to even get to that point."

Kelly's stance and insistence on the healing of Floyd the person is admirable. But there's little doubt that unless Floyd fails spectacularly in his pursuit for reinstatement, he will one day rejoin the team for his final season.

At some point, the possibility of missed games will be the only topic addressed; the only acceptable nugget of desired information.

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