“Everett Golson just got suspended. Need me to handle?”
That was the text that rolled from Ryan Wooden (@Ryan_Wooden), working then at another site. It was early evening the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend 2013, and the last thing I expected to see as I scrolled absentmindedly through Twitter were reports of the previous season’s national runner-up losing its starting quarterback.
I wondered if perhaps I had stumbled upon a hoax, the byproduct of a slow season for college football. I wondered if perhaps I had indulged in one too many whiskey sours on my Las Vegas weekend.
Major college football news isn’t supposed to break the first, unofficial weekend of summer. Nothing of consequence, anyway–at least, for those not heeding the lessons of Jim Tressel’s sudden force-out from Ohio State two years prior.
A year has past, and Golson’s departure and subsequent yearlong absence from the Notre Dame roster seems no less surreal.
This is the lens through which I could examine Golson’s suspension: the star quarterback of a national powerhouse was ousted for the season, and as editor of a college football site it demanded coverage, Vegas vacation be damned.
From such a perspective, it’s all too easy to lose sight of certain realities–realities like that while a redshirt freshman can do remarkable things on the football field, he’s ultimately still a 20-year-old. And 20-year-olds are prone to serious lapses in judgement.
Golson suffered such a lapse when he cheated on an exam. And though youngsters err, they are not free from consequences.
Golson did not pass off responsibility for his “poor academic judgement,” instead accepting those consequences, as detailed at Yahoo! Sports.
At this point, I understand how my integrity could be in question but I want to reassure my supporters that through this experience I will return a better student athlete as well as a better individual. Lastly, I want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the opportunity already granted and also the opportunity going forth to regain my eligibility in the winter of 2014.
Because Golson accepted responsibility, he is afforded this second chance in 2014. Everett Golson will again captain the offense of Notre Dame team capable of contending for a championship. The sting of falling short in his previous attempt has festered for well over a year now, a consequence for his transgressions.
Without Golson in the lineup last year, the Fighting Irish finished 9-4 and capped the season with an unceremonious bowl-game win over Rutgers. There were such highs as a defeat of Pac-12 South champion Arizona State, and such lows as a loss to Pitt.
Now, Golson was anything but perfect in his redshirt freshman season. He finished 2012 with a sub-60 percent completion rating; he was awful in a near-miss against rival Michigan. But there were enough flashes of dual-threat explosiveness while leading the national runner-up’s offense that it was hardly a stretch to anticipate big things in Golson’s future.
For those who enjoy running through “What If” scenarios, one has to ask what if Everett Golson was Notre Dame’s quarterback in 2013?
Had he taken the next step many expected him to, the Fighting Irish’s season could have gone much differently.
Quarterback is a position given too much credit in good times and too much blame amid the bad. There’s certainly no guarantee Everett Golson was the difference between Notre Dame’s 9-4 finish and it again contending for the national championship.
Tommy Rees had his moments of brilliance. He passed for over 3200 yards and threw multiple touchdown passes in 10 games, including three in the Irish’s win over Arizona State.
But Rees also struggled. A tendency to throw interceptions, which opened the door for Golson to start in 2012, was again an issue. Rees was picked off 13 times, and threw at least two interceptions in five games. Not coincidentally, four of those were each of the Irish’s four defeats.
Rees’ lack of mobility eliminated an element of the offense at head coach Brian Kelly’s disposal when Golson was in the lineup. Essentially, Notre Dame had to play a much different style with Rees on the field than it would have employed with Golson behind center.
And as those losses accumulated–losses that were largely the result of offensive miscues–Golson could only watch with the knowledge that he could make a difference.
That agonizing reality could only have fueled Golson’s competitive fire. He’ll need every bit of it not only for the Irish’s 2014 chances, but his own. Golson is not locked into the No. 1 spot atop the Irish’s depth chart–not after talented youngster Malik Zaire stole the show in the spring game.
“Everett’s pocket awareness was OK. We’ve still got a ways to go there,” Kelly said after the spring game, per UND.com. “I’d like to see more catchable balls.”
Zaire could capitalize on his predecessor’s missteps in much the same way Golson did. That’s just one lesson Golson has now had a year to let resonate.