Do you expect Everett Golson to be your starter in 2014? "I'm really focused on right now. For me to think about anything else, I'm just on the weight training/conditioning program. Coach (Paul) Longo and I just met one-on-one for the last hour or so. We're just going through summer workouts. That's really my focus right now."
What's your general reaction to Everett's situation? "I've used this before. I'm on 30 years now of college football. It's like being a dad. You're disappointed, but you know these things happen. You want your players to be accountable. There's a big sense of pride in knowing that Everett handled himself in the right way and took full accountability and responsibility, is going to do everything in his power to get himself back here at Notre Dame.
Disappointed certainly that it occurred, but not surprised. You can't be surprised when you're working with 18-to-21 year olds. I'm not surprised when my 15-year old knucklehead son comes home and does crazy things. We're there as a family and we hope to support him. And in this instance with Everett, I'm very proud of the way he's handled himself.
With quarterback specifically, how difficult is it to count on a guy who would make mistakes and put himself in position to be kicked out of school? "Again, I would say there are defining moments in everybody's life. Mistakes are made. Especially young kids make mistakes. I think Everett is going to take this and I think it's really going to be truly his defining moment that he's going to grow and learn and live from this mistake. I have a great deal of confidence that we're going to see a young man back here at Notre Dame. I'm hopeful of that. That's up to him and what the University has in front of him. I always look in the positive. I believe this is going to be an opportunity for Everett to really go.
Any plan for what Everett could do in the fall to make sure he can come back in the spring? "I am not engaged in that conversation directly. I clearly know that he is having those conversations and it is unfolding. We're not certain what that is going to entail at this time. I'm sure that will be communicated to me. But I know this in my conversations with Everett and his family, it's been whatever he needs to do, he's gonna do it to give himself the opportunity to be considered back here at Notre Dame.
How do you handle all these distractions while managing the day-to-day? "I focus on the day-to-day. I'm focus today on can't wait to get our guys back here on campus. Watched the Temple game again today, getting ready for Temple. Really just focusing on the process and the work in front of us with the guys that are here. I can't worry about who's not here. I focus on the guys that we have and next week we'll have the guys coming back on campus and I'm really excited about that.
Anybody else from the roster that you don't expect back?
"Not that I'm aware of.
Do you expect Eddie Vanderdoes to be part of the team this summer and fall? "It's just like all of our guys. We expect all of our guys in in June. But until they're here, you know my policy has been pretty standard on that one. I don't get too involved in who's not here. None of those freshmen are here yet. We'll see who shows up. There's always a surprise or two. We hope they're all here when they're asked to report in June.
What's your level concern on Tommy if he's the starter regarding his turnover issues from 2011? "Tommy knows exactly what the expectations are for him. He was a huge part of our undefeated season. He's gonna be part of this season as well. He knows what we expect of him on a day-to-day basis. Just like a guy who can't make tackles, you're probably not going to be on the field if you can't tackle and you're probably not going to be on the field if you throw interceptions, whether you're Tommy Rees or Malik Zaire or Everett Golson. That's pretty established within our program as to what the expectations are.
Any input on the final decision made on Everett? "It's pretty clear at the University of Notre Dame. There are expectations for all of our student athletes. Those expectations are clear when they get here. As you know based upon a number of things, I can't get into any specifics because it deals with areas that are not within my purview. Everett knew exactly what was expected of him. I think he's made it pretty clear that he didn't live up to those expectations and he suffered the consequences. He's accepted responsibility and we're all moving forward.
What has Malik shown you in the last five months that makes you believe he's capable of being the starting quarterback on August 31st? "Well I think he's made an impact in that his football knowledge and acumen, the way he's picked up things in a very short period of time, very impressed with that. I like the way his competed in the game. He showed a confidence and sense of control in his game. Those are all obviously very positive things we've got to keep in mind he's been here for one semester. Although we're very encouraged and believe he's got an opportunity to have a great future, it's really too early to tell. He's got a lot of work left. But early indications, we really like what we see from this young man.
What does the next 60 days hold for the quarterbacks? "As you know, the strength and conditioning coach is handed the baton, if you will, relative to the day-to-day workouts. Any football related activities are strictly voluntary. But these guys are highly motivated, committed and the expectations of every coach in the country is that their players are out working their skill in the off-season. As has been the case in years past, I'm sure these guys will be motivated to go out there and throw and do all the things necessary to develop their skills.
What kind of contact can you have with Everett during his suspension and what kind of contact can he have with his teammates during his time away. "My expectations are he's suspended for the fall. We don't know how that impacts whether he can be on campus or not. We're still getting a lot of that information. Once I get a better feel for what those parameters are, we'll be able to set a plan in motion. We know he's not going to be with us in the fall. And certainly we'll move once we get more information. Our University has been very transparent with us and giving us as much information as we can so we can put together a plan to help him.
When you found out this was going to be happening, did you reach out to Gunner Kiel at all about coming back? "(Laughing) No. That's not something that I've ever done, nor would I do. I'm gonna coach the guys that want to be here at Notre Dame. Gunner had his reasons for not wanting to be here. I think you guys know me well enough, I'm going to coach the guys that want to be here at Notre Dame.
What do you need to see or hear from Everett to ensure that he does have the ability to return a year from now? "I think what we're talking about from what I understand is he's been suspended for the fall semester. In January if he's here on campus and he's been allowed to come back to school, he would have had to have done the right things. I think he started in my eyes of accepting responsibility. Once you accept responsibility in my eyes and you follow through on what's asked of you relative to month after month, then that's all I need to see from Everett and then it's back to work.
"He's a teammate. We evaluate our players on their day-to-day work and how they progress. I expect all those things to take place. He doesn't have to show me anything but making sure that he took responsibility for his actions, which he did. He understands that he made a mistakes and he wants to atone for it. If the University allows him back into school, that would be enough for him to be back on the team. Then we're back to work, you've got to prove yourself. I've got to prove myself every day. He's gonna have to prove himself every day.
How much contact has there been from other schools inquiring about his availability for a transfer?
"I haven't had any contact with any schools, nor has our compliance office.
You invested so much into Everett last year, in some ways do you feel you starting from scratch at quarterback? "It's certainly going to be a challenge. He was our starting quarterback, started in the national championship game. We're very fortunate that we've got experienced quarterbacks in Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. No. These guys have been in the program, they've been with us going on our fourth year. We have great relationships, a great understanding of our offense. Again, it's gonna be a challenge. But that's what these kids are about. They overcame a lot last year and they'll continue to do it this year regardless of who's at that quarterback position.
Did you coach Cullen Finnerty at Grand Valley State? Can you talk about that situation, hoping for the best? "It's very chilling, He led me to a national championship as a true freshman. When I left, coach (Chuck) Martin took over and won two more national championships, my heart goes out to the family and his beautiful wife. We're just praying and hoping and sending all of our thoughts and wishes to their family and hope that this matter resolves in a positive way.
What do you take away from the Everett Golson situation and what can you and your staff do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. "I don't know that we can ensure. There are expectations throughout the country where everyone has to live up to expectations whether it's in the dorms or academically and mistakes are made. I think you have to make sure that in this business that all players understand that these are lessons learned and you don't try to coddle them. You make sure that they are educated on all the things that they need to do. I think for us it's just making sure that we continue to educate our players and continue to be there when we need us.
Do you think all this off-season news is from being at Notre Dame and being in the national title game or do you think it's from social media and the 24-7 news cycle? "I think it's both and I think we're under a lot of scrutiny on a day-to-day basis. I understand that. We welcome that. Our players sign up for that. I signed up for that duty. We're not apologizing for that. There's a lot of transparency. I think across the country you're dealing with young men that are going to make mistakes, but here at Notre Dame we're going to hold you accountable. But we're also going to give you an opportunity that if you do the right things, you're gonna get a second chance. That's a good thing.
How closely do you monitor your players on Twitter? Do you have any policies on that? "Absolutely. We try to educate our players on a day-to-day basis. But again, we're going into the same area that we've already been in and that it's on a day-to-day basis that we have to talk to our players just like a parent has to talk to their kids, reinforce good decision-making, making sure they're held accountable on a day-to-day basis. It's easy just to say I'm gonna take your phone away, but that doesn't help in the learning process.
"It's easy to say I'm gonna help you out with this situation that you got yourself in, but that doesn't develop the whole person. At Notre Dame we're about the kids, so we're gonna continue to develop our guys, continue to educate them and we think by and large our guys are gonna make good decisions with that education."