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Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd must pay price for DUI

Another “teachable moment” for Notre Dame? How many does it take before a kid there learns the lesson?

‘‘Look, we want our guys to make good choices,’’ football coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘I would parallel it to a parent that maybe their son or daughter was late for curfew. And that’s a teachable moment.

‘‘I’m thankful it wasn’t an event that was larger in scale and could have been catastrophic. I’ve been through those. I’ve been through murder investigations. This was a teachable moment. It was dealt with with the appropriate attention, and our players clearly know that I’m not happy about reading about Notre Dame in the newspaper when it comes to things like this.

‘‘They’ll have a very short leash. I met with our team Sunday. They clearly know how I feel about it.’’

What’s disturbing about Kelly’s comments is that they had nothing to do with Michael Floyd’s DUI arrest last weekend. They were made last July, after eight of Kelly’s players were arrested for underage drinking at an off-campus party.

Too many incidents

Even though it occurred less than four months after incoming freshman Matt James died in an underage-drinking accident during spring break in April — another supposed teachable moment ignored — the July incident was quickly swept under the rug and any discipline was of the slap-on-the-wrist, don’t-let-me-catch-you-doing-that-again variety. Nobody missed any games — the only punishment that really matters to a college football player.

It is with that context that I hope the Floyd arrest turns into a teachable moment not so much for the players, but for Brian Kelly and Notre Dame. Here’s the lesson: The only way you get through to these knuckleheads is by putting the hammer down. You keep sweeping things under the rug, slapping wrists, “hitting them over the head” with the message and “adjudicating and moving on,” and the next disappointment is only a matter of time.

Trust me. I’m a dissertation short of a Ph.D. in bad parenting. And this is a textbook case. Floyd was arrested for underage drinking near his hometown of St. Paul, Minn., in January 2010. He got off with a slap on the wrist. After the July underage-drinking incident went without notable punishment, it shouldn’t be a big surprise the problem has cropped up again.

That it was Floyd should be a little disconcerting, though. Kelly said Tuesday he went through ‘‘a range of emotions’’ when he heard about the latest Floyd incident. His first reaction should have been, ‘‘If my team captain, All-America wide receiver is drinking and driving, who else on my team is?’’

Everyone’s watching

Floyd makes this a hotter potato for Kelly. Everybody’s going to be watching this one. Fans, coaches, national media, Notre Dame professors, students and student-athletes. And most of all, Notre Dame football players, whether they know it or not.

Kelly was able to easily deflect questions about Floyd at his spring-football opening news conference Tuesday. Asked when a ruling on Floyd might be made by Notre Dame, he said, ‘‘I’m not really certain on what timetables have been put in place. Those are questions that I could not answer because I really don’t know the timetable.’’

But this one’s not going away. Floyd will either play for Notre Dame in 2011 or he won’t. And if his ‘‘punishment’’ turns out to be missing the opener against South Florida, it won’t be much of a ‘‘teachable moment’’ after all.

Floyd is a good guy, a good teammate and a great player who as a team captain and leader has to set an example — for better or worse. The less he plays this season, the bigger the impact he’ll make on Notre Dame football in the long run. There’s more at stake here than one player’s 2011 football season.

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