In 2010, a student at St. Mary’s College claimed that she was inappropriately touched by a Notre Dame football player. Four days later, Lizzie Seeberg committed suicide.
On Saturday, former Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo acknowledged at the Scouting Combine that he was the player Seeberg accused of impropriety. While denying the claim, Shembo admitted that he had some sort of involvement with Seeberg.
“I’m innocent,” Shembo told Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. “I didn’t do anything. I’m, pretty much, I’m the one who ended it and pretty much told the girl that we should stop, that we shouldn’t be doing this and that’s what happened. So, I don’t know.”
Shembo said he has been asked about the incident by every team that has met with him in Indianapolis.
“I was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Shembo said of his reaction to the allegation; he reportedly was interviewed for the first time about the situation 15 days after Seeberg died. “I was a freshman. I don’t think games even started, and she was older than me. . . . I was like, ‘What?’ I was confused. They were asking me questions, and I didn’t know what they were talking about because I didn’t do anything.”
Shembo explained that he would have commented much sooner, but that Irish coach Brian Kelly instructed Shembo not to discuss it.
“I wanted to talk about it [then],” Shembo said. “I wanted to, but they had to keep everything confidential. Now that I’m out [of school], I can talk about it.”
It’s hard to tell whether the decision to instruct Shembo to say nothing was aimed at protecting Shembo, Seeberg, or the football program. It’s clear the Shembo believed his interests would have been served by addressing the situation.
“The reason I wanted to talk was just to clear up my name,” Shmebo said. “My name was in flames, pretty much.”
And here’s one way that unionization would help a college football player. The union would have the ability to bargain with the school for a procedure that provides the player with specific protections in situations like this — up to and including the ability to talk about something publicly that the coach is directing him not to talk about.