Can a college football season be derailed on May 3? Perhaps not entirely, but incumbent Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees took a huge (mis)step in that direction Thursday by being arrested on a preliminary felony charge of battery on a police officer and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, minor consumption and public intoxication.
Rees was arrested, along with Irish linebacker Carlo Calabrese, after trying to escape the scene at a house party and then registering 0.11 percent on a blood-alcohol test.
Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly can't be pleased that for the second offseason in a row he has to deal with one of his most visible players causing such a distraction.
“I am aware of last night's incident involving two of our football players," Kelly said in a statement. "I am of course very concerned given the nature of the allegations, but I am still gathering information. I'll withhold judgment until I can collect all the facts and speak with both Carlo and Tommy.”
Last spring it was All-American wide receiver Michael Floyd who was suspended from the team following an alcohol-related arrest. This spring it is Rees. The situations are similar, but you can expect far from similar results.
Floyd was an incredible talent who could afford to miss spring practice and/or some summer workout sessions and still impact a football game. Heck, he could've just shown up for games in September and still been the best offensive player for Notre Dame.
That ain't Rees.
The junior quarterback has struggled for much of his two seasons in South Bend to the point that despite starting 12 of 13 games last fall, Kelly opened up the quarterback job to four players.
Rees needs time working with his receivers. Rees needs time working in the weight room to build his athleticism. Quite frankly, Rees needs all of the advantages that he can create for himself and even then he may still perform poorly and lose the starting job. Rees needed Thursday about as much as he needs more defensive backs to face.
It is too early to determine what Rees' punishment within the football program will be. Given his cleaner history than Floyd, perhaps it will be more lenient. Kelly and Rees both spoke last month of how critical the summer voluntary workout sessions would be in determining a starting quarterback and now, who knows what Rees' ability to participate in those will be?
“You have to have that mentality, and you have to be a leader out there,” Rees said last month of the summer workouts. “Just take it one day at a time and do everything you can to get better. Summer's a big time for individual development. It's been a big time for me in the past, so I'm going to continue to try to grow throughout that period.”
Sophomore Everett Golson outplayed both Rees and junior Andrew Hendrix in the spring game, and if freshman Gunner Kiel is on the field for the Irish next season, then Rees' arrest will be the least of this program's problems. Golson just received an opportunity of a lifetime courtesy of Rees being a bonehead.
Take an inexperienced quarterback, add in a vicious schedule that includes road games at Michigan State, Miami, Oklahoma and USC, and it is very easy to envision yet another middling 8-5 (Irish Nation can only hope) season.
“Internal discipline is handled privately, in accord with our own policies and federal law,” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said in a statement about the incident.
Rees' discipline may be handled privately, but its impact on, and possible demise of, the 2012 Notre Dame football season will be all too public.