The Washington Post

Notre Dame coach baffled by Allen Pinkett’s “criminals” comments

So which one of these guys looks like a felon? (Joe Raymond/AP)

Notre Dame football radio analyst Allen Pinkett took the old “toughness” conversation to a new level Wednesday when he said the Irish “need to have a few bad citizens on the team.”

UPDATE (2:00 p.m.): IMG has barred Pinkett from contributing to the broadcast of Notre Dame’s season opener against Navy on Saturday in Dublin, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

In the wake of head coach Brian Kelly’s decision to suspend starting running back Cierre Wood and defensive end Justin Utopo for violating team roles and quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese for their roles in a fight with police in May, Pinkett suggested having players with criminal tendencies on the roster could actually help Notre Dame on Saturdays.

“I’ve always felt like to have a successful team you’ve got to have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett said during an appearance on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago. “That’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspicion which creates edge on the football team.”

But across the Atlantic in Dublin, where the team is preparing for Saturday’s season opener against Navy, Kelly isn’t buying the former Irish running back’s argument.

“I don’t know what he was trying to say,” Kelly said Thursday via “I can’t put any logic to it.

“I can’t wrap my brain around it.”

On Tuesday, Kelly defended his decision to suspend the four players by saying the program wants “more accountable citizens.”

Given the opportunity to clarify his remarks later in Wednesday’s radio interview, Pinkett instead reiterated his stance.

“I absolutely meant that,” he said. “The chemistry is so important on a football team. You have to have a couple bad guys that sort of teeter on that edge to add to the flavor of the guys that are going to always do right because that just adds to the chemistry of the football team. You have to have ... you just look at the teams that have won in the past, they have always had a couple criminals.”

Running back Cierre Wood was one of four players suspended for violating team rules. (John Raoux/AP)

Joe Theismann called Pinkett’s words “ridiculous.”

“To me, these statements that he is making are so ridiculous and so absurd, and I can guarantee one thing: I wouldn’t want him coaching any one of my kids,” the former all-American quarterback said during a radio interview with ESPN 100’s “Carmen, Jurko & Harry.” “I don’t know how you think that you can have a criminal element on a football team anywhere and think that you can be successful. To me, those statements are ludicrous, they’re irresponsible, they’re ridiculous.”

But while Pinkett’s words rubbed many Irish fans the wrong way, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom believes his view is not totally off base.

Yeah, it’s a cynical view, but there’s a history of national champions and contenders with rap sheets.

Like, I don’t know, Notre Dame. Like, when the oily Lou Holtz refused to suspend quarterback Rick Mirer and linebacker Demetrius De Bose after their arrests at an off-campus party just before the 1991 opener.

And don’t forget how much NCAA trouble the Irish faced in the wake of Holtz’ reign. So there you go: The Irish produced good teams when breaking laws and rules.

Kind of makes Pinkett’s point, doesn’t it?

What’s your take? Does Pinkett have a point, even if he worded it in­cred­ibly poorly? Do you want “bad guys” on your team?

Follow us: @MattBrooksWP | @CindyBoren


Pinkett says Irish need bad guys to give them an edge

Irish look forward to international matchup with Navy

Notre Dame coach says suspensions of Wood, Utupo solely his call

Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.


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