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August 28, 2012
What Notre Dame lost in suspending Cierre Wood can be quantified. The senior's suspension removed the program's first 1,000-yard rusher in five seasons from the lineup along with a potential breakout star.
But exactly why Wood, along with reserve defensive end Justin Utupo, was suspended for two games for an unspecified violation of team rules proved more difficult for Brian Kelly to summarize during his Tuesday press conference.
Kelly said the decision to suspend Wood for Navy and Purdue was his, not an addendum to punishment handed down by the Office of Residence Life. The head coach made that point black and white. As for the lengths of the suspensions, that proved gray.
Kelly suspended quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese for the opener following their May arrests. Michael Floyd didn't miss a game following a spring DUI arrest the spring of his junior year, although he was stripped of his captaincy and sat out spring drills.
"Each one, to me, there's different circumstances in each one," Kelly said. "I mean, the ultimate goal is we want them all to turn out like Michael Floyd's situation, where they make life decisions to change the way they are. And so the ultimate goal is to get with any kind of sanctions or any kind of suspensions, we want better citizens. We want more accountable citizens. We want people representing our program in the right way.
"And so there is not a matrix, and I just kind of go down and go, okay, (team rules violation) equals, two (games). And I'm not trying to be a wise guy about it, but it just takes a lot of time to put all those things together to make those decisions."
Wood, Utupo, Rees and Calabrese will not travel with the team to Ireland.
In Wood's absence, Theo Riddick moves into the starting lineup at running back with George Atkinson III elevated to second-string.
While Wood's suspension is relevant for the coming weeks, Kelly revealing the suspension as his decision could be more relevant for the coming seasons.
During previous coaching regimes player discipline, such as offenses for alcohol or marijuana, often didn't make it to the head coach's desk. Players were often suspended for semesters by the University before the football program could dock them games.
"I don't know that I would have been reticent to make decision, I probably would have checked to make sure that I could make the decision," Kelly said. "I learned in my first year that there were some decisions that I can't make.
"So I think that in all honesty, I probably would have checked around and made sure that I could make the decision. I was pretty clear after being in my third year that this was the decision that I could make."