Cottrell said during his early years on the Notre Dame force, officers were able to contact coaches or other athletic department employees in order to talk to student athletes who were the subjects of police reports on any type of case.
In one case involving a fight between two football players, Cottrell called head football coach Tyrone Willingham to ask for help getting in touch with one of the students.
“Willingham called the football player into his office and told me: ‘You can interview him right here,’ ” Cottrell recalled.
Willingham was coach from 2002 to 2004. Sometime after he left, Notre Dame officers were told they could no longer approach any coach or athletic department employee to reach a student athlete for questioning, Cottrell said.
Cottrell said the order came from NDSP Chief Phillip A. Johnson, who has worked for the campus police department since 1986 and became chief in 2007. Cottrell said he doesn’t know what prompted the change, or whether the decision came from Johnson or a higher-ranking campus administrator.
The change was announced verbally, he said. There was no similar policy for non-athletes, he said, such as those in student government or band.
Charming. I mean, on the one hand, I get that what happens off the field isn’t the coach’s concern, but on the other, knowing how these entrenched power structures mutate to protect themselves, it’s hard not to hear this as an effort to maintain plausible deniability.