The NCAA announced Tuesday that it has denied an appeal by Notre Dame and will vacate 21 football wins the Fighting Irish recorded during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
That means, from an NCAA perspective, Notre Dame’s perfect 12-0 regular season in 2012 will be wiped from the record books. The Irish lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game that season. The Irish finished 9-4 in the 2013 season.
Notre Dame violated NCAA rules when a former Fighting Irish student athletic trainer committed academic misconduct for two football players and provided six other players with impermissible academic extra benefits. One other Notre Dame player committed academic misconduct on his own.
Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins was disappointed with the decision and released a long statement in a letter immediately following the appeal denial.
Let me be clear that we in no way excuse the very serious instances of academic dishonesty committed by our students. Academic fraud strikes at the very heart of our educational mission and the values of Notre Dame. That is why, when we first became aware that academic misconduct might have occurred, we spared no effort, consistent with the procedures of our Honor Code, to investigate each instance of possible academic misconduct. After an exhaustive investigation that covered four months, significant but appropriate penalties were administered by our Honesty Committee to all students found responsible for academic dishonesty, including the three members of our football team whose conduct underlies the vacation of wins penalty, as well as students involved who were not members of any athletic team.
The NCAA is not, of course, an academic association with general responsibility for academic integrity at America’s colleges and universities. It is, rather, an athletic association that regulates academic misconduct in certain narrowly drawn cases involving students who are athletes. Two such cases are: 1) when a representative of the university is complicit in the cheating and 2) when a student competes on behalf of the university while ineligible.
Readers can read entire letter from Jenkins here.
Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins: "Our concerns go beyond the particulars of our case and the record of two football seasons to the academic autonomy of our institutions, the integrity of college athletics and the ability of the NCAA to achieve its fundamental purpose."
— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) February 13, 2018
When the NCAA initially released its ruling in November 2016, Notre Dame acknowledged the cheating involving the five football players — all of whom were suspended at the start of the 2014 season — and the student athletic trainer. The Fighting Irish were only appealing the removal of victories.
Still, the biggest problem with vacating wins in college sports is that the losses aren’t removed from the record book, only the wins. So while Notre Dame’s all-time win total officially will drop from 906 to 885, the Fighting Irish have still “handed a loss” to an opponent 906 times.
In addition to vacating 21 victories, the NCAA fined Notre Dame $5,000 and in November 2016 placed the school on probation for one year.