Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Search of a Fresh Start

Will Yeatman has formally requested to be released from his athletic scholarship to pursue his football/lacrosse career at another university, beginning this spring:
It had been a tumultuous year for Yeatman, who was suspended after alcohol-related arrests led to suspensions that took away his 2008 lacrosse season and half of his 2008 football season.

The source said Yeatman, 20, has not decided where he will transfer, but it is expected he will go where he can play lacrosse and football.
At first it appeared that Yeatman would opt for his second choice coming out of high school, which was North Carolina, a long-time lacrosse power with 4 NCAA championships that now happens to be led on the football field by Butch Davis. UNC beat Notre Dame 29-24 on October 11th (Yeatman did not play in the game as Charlie Weis held him out of action pending a ResLife ruling, which came down the following Tuesday suspending Will for the season stemming from a Sept. 21st SB Excise Police "raid" that had all the legitimacy of a Keystone Kops reunion special).

The lunacy of the circumstances considering Yeatman's second arrest were beyond laughable. A report full of the "lurid, SHOCKING" details surfaced over at NDNation, and while we should always exercise restraint when trusting anonymous internet postings, the operators of the board do a very good job of vetting such information before allowing it to be posted on their site. "Highlights" of the SB police's behavior that night included:
Apparently an Indiana SUDS task force, in conjunction with the South Bend police department, were enroute from one of their pre-determined “target” drinking establishments to another “target”, when one of the members “observed what appeared to be several underage people drinking” inside the house. Based solely on that observation, the task force apparently made a decision to conduct what was a full fledged “raid” on the house in which the gathering was taking place. After surrounding the house with at least 12 police cars and, without a warrant, permission of any other form or justification, members of the police and task force proceeded to violently burst into the residence. Statements taken from the students who leased the premises have made it clear that none of them granted permission for the police to enter their residence.

The assault by the police on the premises was significant and excessive. Several students witnessed the raid from outside the residence. One gave the following account of the police assault on the premises: “At least 12 police cars with dogs swarmed the house. It was like a SWAT raid you might see in a drug movie. I could not believe what I was witnessing!”
Yeatman was charged with underage drinking, false informing, and resisting arrest - none of which stuck as the stupidity of those who claimed to be responsibly upholding the law became obvious. In the end the closest thing to condemnation was a press release announcing 37 arrests that, much to the chagrin of Irish head coach Charlie Weis, took the time to single out just one person: Yeatman.

Yeatman was hardly the only athlete involved, nor was he the only football player (reserve center Mike Golic, Jr. was also charged). But he was the only one on a short leash due to a January incident for "operating while intoxicated" after being caught by campus police going for a late-night drive on campus sidewalks - in what was later revealed to be a golf cart.

By the letter of the law, yes this second violation merited a punishment. But viewing it in the real world, where one would hope there'd be a consideration for the fact that his BAC was .02, he was disturbing no one and committing no egregious or felonious acts, you'd think Notre Dame's office of Student Affairs would embrace the concept of allowing the punishment to fit the crime. A suspension for a second offense was likely warranted - but for the entire rest of the season? Give me a break. The problem here is that, once again, ResLife chose to look at this as a problem of image and not of people. The concern was not actually helping Yeatman learn from this experience and allow him to once again be a part of the Notre Dame community. Their only concern was upholding that carefully crafted, totally bogus image Bill Kirk and Mark Poorman insist on maintaining that every single person who sets foot on campus is beyond reproach, and those who aren't are dealt with swiftly and painfully. Will Yeatman didn't give up on Notre Dame - Notre Dame gave up on Will Yeatman. It's neither surprising nor wrong that he would want a second chance somewhere where the Inquisition Panel at the Main Building won't be creeping over his shoulder for the next year and a half.

As for where the junior from San Diego, CA heads now, that decision appears to be very much in the hands of Notre Dame lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan:
[On] Dec. 5 Yeatman had a heart-to-heart talk with Irish head football coach Charlie Weis, asking for his release from his football scholarship to try to start over somewhere else. Weis, according to Yeatman, was extremely compassionate and supportive. And when Yeatman mentioned his No. 1 hopeful target was North Carolina — the school Weis and Yeatman's father, Dennis, talked him out of going to three years ago — Weis wished him well.

With football (as well as men's basketball, hockey and baseball), there is an automatic one-year residency requirement for transfers before they can play at their new school. In all other men's sports, including lacrosse, the new school can request a one-time transfer exemption.

When asked Tuesday if he planned to block the one-time transfer exemption for Yeatman, ND lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan responded, "This isn't over, and until it is, I have no comment."
Corrigan's probable take on the matter is also completely logical: he'd prefer not to release his best player to a team that will take the field against the Irish this upcoming season. Yeatman was a complementary player for the Irish as a football tight end, without the speed of others on the depth chart and not blessed with exceptional hands - but he was a rock-solid blocker who earned playing time as a freshman and was the top returning player at the position this season due to Mike Ragone's knee injury. While Kyle Rudolph is unquestionably on track to be a much better receiving tight end, Yeatman's loss was an issue in the second half of the season and will probably still be one next year. It's a problem for the football team, but one that can be overcome. For the lacrosse team, however, it could be a devestating blow; to not only not have the player who was National Freshman of the Year in 2007 and an Honorable Mention All-American, but to have to see him line up in an opposing uniform as soon as March 8th (when the Irish host North Carolina).

Wherever Yeatman lands, I can't blame him for deciding that's he simply exhausted with his efforts to cater to certain people's agenda and would just rather have a clean slate. Good luck Will.

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