During a contract impasse with the St. Louis Rams in 1996, Bettis actually returned to the campus and took classes in business, history and philosophy but he is still short the credits he needs to graduate. He both figuratively and literally has unfinished business.
"It has been difficult to come back to get my degree because the problem is you have to do the last year on campus and you can't transfer the credits," Bettis said. "That's becoming an especially difficult proposition since I have a family. I have talked to the Provost to figure out how I can do it."
Having young children doesn't just hinder Bettis from returning to campus, he also wants to set an example for them. And he thinks it would be hard for him to lecture his children on the value of education if he doesn't complete his coursework.
"I have a nine-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son and I want to be the example to them," Bettis said. "I don't want them to be like ‘You said school is important but you didn't finish'."
While getting his degree would be a huge personal milestone for Bettis, he still has no regrets in coming out early and delaying his education. Over 20 years later, he is still content that he made the right choice.
"If I could go back I would do the same thing again," Bettis said. "I was on the fence about leaving but I talked to (then head football coach) Lou Holtz and he told me to go because I had done all I could do for Notre Dame. If he had said I wasn't ready yet I probably would have come back."
While the Irish might not have a running back of Bettis' caliber at their disposal, fans are excited about the current crop featuring senior Cam McDaniel sophomore Tarean Folston, and redshirt-freshman Greg Bryant. Bettis is curious to see what the offensive balance will be as head coach Brian Kelly takes more control this year.
"I am interested in what Coach Kelly's offensive philosophy will be and whether he will run the ball more or have a balanced attack," Bettis said. "In the last couple of years it was more of a passing attack and we had a conversation where he said ‘If I could get the horses, I would love to run the football'."
A lot has changed since Bettis left the Notre Dame campus for the NFL and this year will see one of the biggest alterations with FieldTurf being added to Notre Dame Stadium along with other renovations. Bettis welcomes the upgrades and thinks it will help grab the attention of new recruits.
"Usually your tradition is a benefi,t but in our situation it's been a crutch because the kids coming out of high school haven't seen Notre Dame in its truest luster," Bettis said. "You have to do something to change the mindset of the (high school) kids who want to go to SEC or Pac 12 schools. The changes might rub the traditionalists the wrong way but if they love the university they should understand that it is time to grow and build."