Copyright by Global Electronics Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes.Com™
October 12, 2001
Notre Dame Failures
Extend Off The Field, Again
By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – For the second time in three home football games, what will happen on the field has become secondary to an administrative gaffe by Notre Dame.
There was a communications mix-up prior to the emotionally-charged Michigan State contest, the first on campus following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While the Spartans stood proud and alert on their sidelines during the National Anthem, Notre Dame was tucked away in its locker-room. No amount of post-event spin could make the public understand the Irish's side of the story.
Now there is the Cooper Rego mess. An unfortunate one on both sides, and while Notre Dame did end up doing right in the end, it was burned by not being attentive and thoughtful.
Rego, a former Bob Davie recruit and now a reserve tailback for West Virginia, will not be accompanying the 2-3 Mountaineers to South Bend. Though he has the official backing of the West Virginia coaching staff and the administration, Rego has chosen not to make the trip rather than "become a distraction."
Recounting briefly, Rego was a freshman at Notre Dame in 1998 when he was accused of sexual assault by a fellow student, Kori Pienovi. The ensuing disciplinary hearing resulted in Rego being banned from campus. Shortly thereafter, Rego transferred to West Virginia.
That's where the trouble started.
"At (the) time of my transfer, Notre Dame barred me from returning to campus," Rego said Thursday. "That ban, as Notre Dame representatives have publicly admitted as recently as this week, did not encompass banning me if I were to return with another team to play football.
"In fact, when Notre Dame officials assisted my transfer to West Virginia, those two teams had already entered into an agreement to play football this Saturday and my return was anticipated by Notre Dame and West Virginia officials."
If Rego's recounting of the events is accurate, Notre Dame has some hard questions to answer.
First, Why didn't the administration inform West Virginia about the nature of Rego's dismissal?
Second, Why wasn't Pienovi informed after Rego's transfer that there was the likelihood of Rego returning to campus on Oct. 13, 2001? The deal for this game was sealed years before either Rego or Pienovi enrolled at Notre Dame.
Third, if by threatening to escort Rego off campus if he returned, is Notre Dame providing support for Pienovi or merely succumbing to public relations pressure. If the former, why wasn't West Virginia, and Rego, informed of this, quietly out of respect to the victim, weeks or months ago?
Notre Dame, through no less a source than president Rev. Edward A. Malloy, contradicted Rego's take on the matter.
"Whenever Notre Dame permanently dismisses a student for disciplinary reasons, that person is prohibited from returning to campus. Should the individual come on campus -- and campus administrators learn of it -- the person is required to leave immediately or face a charge of trespass. There are no exceptions to the ban," Malloy said.
IrishEyes feels that is an excellent policy. But if so cut-and-dry, why wasn't it communicated clearly earlier in the process to Pienovi, Rego and West Virginia?
"When a university as prestigious as Notre Dame loses sight of the values of honesty and fairness and decency towards all, and, instead, acts and reacts in response to its political antennae, we all lose," Rego said. "I have lost this battle -- we all have lost, including, and perhaps especially, Notre Dame and its community."
Rego's statement clearly makes the result of tomorrow's football game secondary…again.
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The impressive string of victories Bob Davie has compiled should continue this week versus West Virginia.
If not, Davie knows who to blame.
"You guys probably jinx me by bringing that up," Davie laughed to the assembled Thursday afternoon following his team's practice at Cartier Field. "Anytime someone makes things like that public, there seems to be an adverse effect. I'm going to hold you directly responsible if things don't go well."
Davie has won his last 14 games in October, and there have been some legitimate big-time victories, though only one has come against a ranked opponent (34-30 over No. 23 Oklahoma on Oct. 2, 1999). Still, there have been some outstanding performances in this streak. By IrishEyes' accounts (and we've seen them all), the best was a thorough 28-9 victory at Arizona State on 1998, a 48-17 home victory over the same Sun Devils the next year, and last year's 42-28, come-from-behind triumph at West Virginia.
Wags have wondered aloud if the reason Dr. Kevin White appears so enamored with Davie is because of the Irish's two resounding victories over Arizona State when White was still the A.D. in Tempe.
The streak continues this week. Notre Dame 27, West Virginia 17.