Notre Dame is one of the only Division I schools that actually cares about its academics.
That might seem like an odd thing to say, especially on the heels of an academic fraud scandal in which four players were removed from the team last week for cheating.
But that's exactly the point: the Fighting Irish coaches actually punished players for not adhering to the university's honor code.
Can you remember the last time a high-profile football player at a major college program was kicked off his team for not doing his part in the classroom?
It happened last fall, when National Championship starting-quarterback Everett Golson was kicked off the team for cheating on a single exam.
Notre Dame stepped up then and, this time, it didn't hold back either.
A real loss
Four players, including three starters, were benched.
An internal investigation by the school listed junior wideout DaVaris Daniels, junior defensive back KeiVarae Russell, senior defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and senior linebacker Kendall Moore as prime suspects in an academic fraud case.
They are being accused of submitting papers and homework that was written for them by others and claiming them as their own.
Russell is one of the top cornerbacks nationwide while Daniels was a starter for the 2012 national championship contender. Meanwhile, Williams was a projected starter and Moore was a quality backup with experience in 13 games last season.
A matter of principles
Look, the whole "student" part of being a student-athlete has always been a bit of a fantasy to help sell the NCAA's strategy of not paying its money-making performers their true worth.
But as long as the charade of a real education was being trotted out to justify college sports' massive profits, it was up to the universities to make sure that the kids were at least learning something.
One of the most important lessons athletes needed to learn was how to be accountable for following the rules just as much as their fellow, less-famous students.
Even as the NCAA schools propagated the notion that a free scholarship was adequate reimbursement for players' contributions to their profit, they were also the ones who often tried to skirt by educational requirements to keep players eligible.
We saw it with the scandals at North Carolina, which made up a whole department of Afro-American studies to make classes laughably easy for its players.
Before that, there was the 2012 Harvard cheating scandal. And then before that, the University of Georgia basketball team which underwent such rigorous test questions as, "How many points does a 3-point field goal account for in a Basketball game?"
The point is that colleges are often the problem when it comes to ensuring academic credibility for their athletes.
But in this case, Notre Dame had the solution and it was a tough one: get them off the field.
I'm not certain other programs would be willing to make that difficult decision.
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