Strike Three for White

We're not shocked that George O'Leary lied in his biography and Notre Dame failed to catch it. It's just the most recent example of the Irish Athletic Administration being asleep at the switch. IrishEyes Managing Editor Alan Tieuli writes that this is the third embarrassing incident under Kevin White's watch in what has become the most odious football season in Notre Dame history.

Copyright by Global Electronic Telecommunications, publishers of IrishEyes™

December 14, 2001

Strike Three for
White, Athletic Staff

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

How could this happen?

Easy.  Kevin White and his entire Athletic Department staff didn't heed the warnings from two earlier, embarrassing incidents this past football season, and now Notre Dame is a national laughingstock.

Bob Davie was shocked when he was informed by White that he was being fired because the football program had "lost credibility."

If White continues down this path, he may be on the other end of that conversation.  And soon.

This can easily be called "strike three" in the 2001 football season, now clearly the most odious in Notre Dame football history.

Excuse me if I'm not blown away by this news that O'Leary lied on his biography and no-one at ND caught it.  After all, the Irish administration has been asleep at the switch the last three months when it comes to maintaining the image of the football program.

There was the Michigan State home football game on Sept. 22, the first contest at Notre Dame Stadium following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  The visiting Spartans were standing proudly – and appropriately – on the sidelines for the National Anthem.  The Irish were in their locker-room for, according to Davie, "Logistical reasons."  It turns out an agreement between White and Michigan State Athletic Director Clarence Underwood went awry, and White had his staff spin out a press release at halftime to say that.

Guess what, Dr. White?  This was your house.  It was the responsibility of you and your staff to make sure that everything went as planned.

Less than a month later came the Cooper Rego incident.  Rego, a Davie recruit and former Notre Dame student, is now a reserve West Virginia tailback that was banned from the Notre Dame campus after being accused by a fellow student of sexual assault. 

"At (the) time of my transfer, Notre Dame barred me from returning to campus," IrishEyes reported Rego saying in October. "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."

Yet, Notre Dame announced it would enforce the campus ban if Rego did appear in Notre Dame Stadium with his Mountaineer teammates on Oct. 13.  Rego and West Virginia backed down, and Rego stayed home while the visitors lost the game.

We're not going to get into here whether that was the correct or incorrect decision, but one question is still out there: Why didn't White and his staff know about this ban and take steps in pre-season, quietly, to enforce it?

Rego, through his attorney, composed this thoughtful paragraph to sum up the situation.

"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."

 Early in that week, when the story broke, White admitted he knew nothing about the ban.  Fair enough. He wasn't part of Notre Dame's family when the disciplinary hearing was held.  But there are many, many senior members of the athletic administration staff – people who should have better judgment – that were. 

 In Notre Dame's 480-page Football Media Guide, no less than 18 Associate or Assistant Athletic Directors are listed.  Eighteen.   Thirteen of those had jobs on campus when Rego was dismissed in 1998.  Couldn't one of them been prescient enough to alert White that there may be a problem with the West Virginia game?  Couldn't one of them been able to orchestrate the Michigan State pre-game?  Couldn't one of them -- with their staffs and student interns -- been able to double- and triple-check O'Leary's background?

Are you still shocked about O'Leary?

White had to understand full well that his administration and his legacy, fairly or unfairly, would be measured in large part by his selection of this football coach.  It absolutely behooved him – and his staff – then to make sure that O'Leary was purer than the driven snow.  After all, this is Notre Dame, where a potential basketball coach in 1999 was turned away because he admitted he doesn't always wear Top Stories