SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly went through three stages of emotions after learning that six of his players were arrested in two separate incidents over the weekend.
First, the seventh-year Irish coach was disappointed. Then he was embarrassed for the university.
“And then I was mad as hell,” Kelly said.
Kelly dismissed senior safety Max Redfield and indefinitely suspended cornerback Devin Butler in a stern statement released Sunday, and meted out internal discipline for running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White, linebacker Te’von Coney and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson. Those four players — Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson — are practicing will be available for Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas unless Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards decides to take further disciplinary action against them.
Butler, who was charged with two felonies on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to those charges on Wednesday, remains indefinitely suspended, Kelly said.
Notre Dame players, though, would prefer to move on from a tumultuous weekend that cost them their starting safety and plenty of goodwill in the public eye.
“We’ve had enough meetings, it’s been talked about enough and I think it’s time to put our heads down, start working and get ready to go down to Austin, Texas and win a football game,” offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, who was one of four team captains named on Wednesday, said. “That’s what we’re looking to do and I think our team is right on track. The last couple days they’ve put their heads down, ready to work, practice has been (guys) flying around and having fun. I think that’s what our focus needs to be on at this point. Coach Kelly and his staff and the university will handle what needs to be handled and it’s our job to play and win football games.”
Wide receiver and newly-minted captain Torii Hunter Jr. echoed that sentiment: “We’re just looking to go forward and just make better choices as a team”
Still, there’s no whitewashing the disappointment of the arrests. Notre Dame wrapped up preseason camp on Friday, and within less than 12 hours had six players arrested. Butler was charged with resisting law enforcement and battery against a public safety official, both of which are felonies; Redfield, Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson were all charged with possession of marijuana and Redfield, Williams and Stepherson were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, all of which are misdemeanors.
“It’s a disappointing situation,” defensive end and captain Isaac Rochell said. “You never want to be in this situation. I don’t need to do anything (as a captain) — I trust the coaching staff, I trust coach Kelly. And my only job is to support and enforce what he says to do. But bottom line, I trust them.”
Kelly said he hopes his players can take away messages about not making “selfish” decisions and representing more than just themselves out of last weekend’s incidents. The impact of those arrests will be felt immediately in Texas, when true freshman Devin Studstill and sixth-year graduate student (and natural in-the-box strong safety) Avery Sebastian are in line to fill in for Redfield at free safety.
When asked why Redfield received a harsher punishment than the others, Kelly declined to get into specifics.
“There’s a lot of things going on there,” Kelly said. “I think any time you dismiss somebody from the program, that’s serious. So I would say the best way to characterize that is it’s gotta be serious for me to dismiss somebody from the program.”
Sending Redfield away may hurt Notre Dame’s on-field production, but Kelly felt it was the right, and necessary thing to do. And with it made, the Irish will aim to push forward and put the the disappointment and embarrassment of the weekend behind them with a focus on Sept. 4’s trip to Texas.
“You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions,” Kelly said. “They crop up. I think you have to be as fair but you also have to be quick in making decisions. And when they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in your program or your university, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. And you can’t be swayed by external factors. You gotta do the right thing.”