After several months of speculation regarding Everett Golson’s future and whether Notre Dame would be a part of it for one more football season, the 23-game starter released a statement via Fox Sports that he intends to complete his undergraduate degree and leave Notre Dame.
"After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to graduate from Notre Dame and transfer to another school effective immediately," Golson said.
"I would like to thank everyone at Notre Dame for the opportunity to compete at the highest level of college football, but most importantly to obtain my degree from one of the finest universities in the country.
“To all the Fighting Irish fans, I want to thank you for your support over the past four years and let you know I truly love Notre Dame. To my former teammates, who I will miss tremendously, I wish much success in the future and will be your biggest fan from afar.
"I will have no future comment at this time and ask that you respect my time as I figure out this life-changing moment. God has a plan for each of us and I ask for your prayers as I move forward in this new journey in my life."
The decision by Golson flies in the face of what Irish head coach Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame staff were led to believe – or at least claimed they believed – regarding Golson’s stance toward his competition with Zaire.
Kelly was asked as spring drills were coming to a close if he knew for certain that Golson would be a part of the Notre Dame squad in the fall. After some hesitation, Kelly responded.
“I couldn't tell you for certain, but he's had his best spring since he's been here,” Kelly said. “He's fully engaged in everything that he's doing. It's the best that I've seen him do the things that we've asked him to do since he's been here.”
Kelly insisted that Golson had given no indication of not being committed to the cause. In the end, Kelly’s “sixth sense” malfunctioned.
“If you're half in, you kind of see it,” Kelly said. “It would surprise me…I'm not shocked by anything that 18-to-21-year-olds (do). I've been in this business too long…But there's no indication that anything he's done would mean he's just doing this as a way to go somewhere else.
“If I sensed it at all, I'd have pulled the plug on it myself because we'd be wasting our time. I think I have a pretty good sense of people and situations. I'm not going to jeopardize our program, our staff, our livelihood, what we do, if someone's not bought in and 100 percent committed.”
Kelly said he appreciated Golson’s desire to abstain from speaking with the media this spring, although he added that come fall, he’d have to face the music.
“In the fall he's going to have to do what everybody else does and when it's media time he's going to have to sit in front of you guys and answer questions. But we'll give him his space. I expect him to be here and help us win games in the fall.”
It’s a bit clearer now why Golson went out of his way to avoid the media this spring. Ultimately, presuming he already had “one foot out the door,” he didn’t want to have to answer questions about his future that he probably already had clarified in his mind. Golson never was very good at hiding his feelings in media sessions.
The burden of leading the Irish offense to victory now falls upon the shoulders of junior quarterback Malik Zaire, who was tabbed to start the Music City Bowl against LSU over Golson.
Zaire completed 12-of-15 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 96 yards and a score in Notre Dame’s 31-28 victory over the Tigers, earning offensive MVP honors.
Yet after 15 spring practices and an equal opportunity to win the job over Golson, it was the veteran signalcaller who appeared to come out of the battle with the advantage over Zaire.
Instead, Golson will leave Notre Dame with 5,850 yards passing and 41 touchdowns in just two seasons – 2012 and 2014 – with a red-shirt season at Notre Dame in 2011 and the 2013 season that resulted in a suspension for academic improprieties.
With Zaire ascending to the top spot on the depth chart, that means red-shirt freshman DeShone Kizer moves up to the No. 2 spot in the quarterback pecking order, at least until the arrival of incoming freshman Brandon Wimbush.
It also likely accelerates Notre Dame’s efforts to land a quarterback in the upcoming recruiting campaign. Ultimately, the Irish may not have the luxury of preserving a year of eligibility with Wimbush in ’15, which they likely would have been able to do with a Golson-Zaire one-two punch.