Notre Dame Football and the Federal Case of Lizzy Seeberg’s Death



In 2010 Notre Dame dealt with off the field concerns that were much bigger issues than just the gridiron; huge issues and topics that make football look very insignificant by comparison. Two very young people lost their lives in incidents connected to the program. The Declan Sullivan tragedy . And then there’s the Lizzy Seeberg case, which the state of Indiana closed. The next day, the Feds re-opened the case.

The incident allegedly occurred on September 1st 2010. The alleged assault victim, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg of Northbrook, IL was diagnosed with clinical depression and possibly committed suicide nine days later. (The overdose on anti-depressants was ruled a suicide) Seeberg’s alleged sexual assailant is currently on the Notre Dame football team.


The identity of the alleged assailant never came out. The fact that the only true witness has passed on makes things rather murky. But what we know for sure is that an incident of this magnitude is not receiving the amount of media coverage that it should.

While the tragic loss of Declan Sullivan and his macabre tweets forecasting his own death made every wire service, every network, every website and saturated the news cycle during the 10 day attention span (on average) that American news consumers possess, Lizzy Seeberg has gone largely unnoticed and well under-reported by the press.

And that really is the only opinion and judgment I have for you in this post. I think it’s a crime that the media isn’t saying much about something that is literally a “Federal Case.”

So I invite you to click on a must-read piece about what happened to the Seeberg family. Authored by Notre Dame alum Melinda Henneberger, Editor-in-Chief  of Politics Daily. It tells the story of the Seeberg family, who have sent 11 members of their clan to the University of Notre Dame, and how ND has treated them in response to their loyalty will likely shock you.

I don’t claim to know much about the facts of this case, but I’m hoping to become more educated on it. Henneberger’s piece is a good start.

Here’s a couple especially powerful excerpts:

Tom and Mary’s daughter Lizzy, a 19-year-old freshman at Notre Dame’s sister school, Saint Mary’s College, committed suicide in September, 10 days after reporting that she had been fondled against her will by a Notre Dame football player whose aggressiveness terrified her so much that she froze, cried, and broke out in a rash.

Her fear for her safety in his dorm room after another couple left them alone was 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, she said in a police statement, until he was interrupted by a cell phone call and angrily “threw her off.” The accused, a star whom head coach Brian Kelly has publicly praised in interviews both before and after Lizzy’s death, has a history of behavior problems that continued even after he was recruited by Notre Dame; he was suspended during his senior year in high school for throwing a desk at a teacher who’d taken away his cell phone. Yet after Lizzy’s allegations, he never sat out a single game, during a time that he could not have been “cleared,” because he was not even interviewed by authorities until five days after she died — 15 days after she’d filed her complaint. “How did they even know it was a ‘he said/she said,’ ” Lizzy’s mother Mary asks, “when they didn’t talk to the guy for 15 days? They didn’t know what he’d say.”

Between 10 and 11 p.m. on August 31, she and a friend had a couple of beers in one of the guy’s rooms, then went to the football player’s room to have a “dance party.” After the other couple left, according to the report Lizzy filed with police, the player told Lizzy to drink out of an opened beer container, and though she was hesitant, she did so, she said, because of the “tone” of the demand.

He “began to talk to Lizzy about his sexual activities and ask her about hers,” an account by the Seeberg family lawyer says. “Lizzy did not feel safe. She asked to go to the restroom,” but he insisted there wasn’t a ladies room on the floor, and said she would “have to pee in the sink.”

“I was extremely scared at the time of the assault,” Lizzy told police, “and believed my safety was at risk resulting in doing what he asked of me.” After she got out of the room, she immediately told her friend about what had happened, and e-mailed her therapist in Chicago.

The friend Lizzy told about the incident in detail immediately after returning to campus that night was not interviewed by the authorities until Sept. 22 — the day before the Seebergs’ meeting with Notre Dame’s lawyers. On Sept. 23, the investigator in charge of the case at the university’s police department told Mary Seeberg that he didn’t know just how quickly they could finish looking into the allegations: “They said they were pretty busy because it’s football season and there’s a lot of underage drinking.” The investigator also told the family that he had conducted a phone interview with the young man who’d sent Lizzy the menacing text, and had told him to “knock it off and not have any more contact.”

To read the whole piece go here

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter, Yardbarker Network, and Fox

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports

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  1. Mr. Banks, thank you for your article. As a proud Notre Dame graduate, I cannot express how deeply this story troubles me and how earnestly I desire for the truth of the matter to be heard. That said, I have found Ms. Henneberger’s article as well as the coverage of the Chicago Tribune to be poor presentations and evaluations of the available facts. I believe the following article describes the situation honestly and analyzes it fairly: Please note that there are several questions put forward by the author that I sincerely hope are answered. If the university truly did fail Ms. Seeberg, then I hope it will pay a price for that failure. But, there currently appear to be too many holes in this story to make any judgments.

  2. paulmbanks says:

    It’s very troublesome that two circumstances stand in the way of us learning more 1. the only major witness is dead 2. the only questioning, which was sparse occurred with a very large gap between the incident and the record-taking.

    I’ll take a look at your link, see what it says and comment again.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to look at that article. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  4. paulmbanks says:

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. but I haven’t had free time until now, and it was a long piece with a lot of legalese in it.

    first off this jumped out at me

    (Note: Notre Dame disciplines students for having sex which can in and of itself result in expulsion).

    what? que?

    and before moving forward I must say I agree with the author’s statement here

    Honestly, without all the evidence (that the police and investigators have access to), we cannot come to an accurate conclusion.

    But we can try to put the case in perspective.

    I brought that up to a commenter who attempting to call out my integrity ont he Chicago Now version of this post

  5. paulmbanks says:

    The attempts by NDSP to contact the accuse certainly puts the Univ in a more favorable light. And the piece in general does make ND look somewhat better about all this. And obviously much more favorable than the Poltics Daily piece. but in the end it’s the same as the original post I excerpted- it’s just gotten grayer.

    We’ll never know the ansers, just more questions.

    I’ve heard rumors about exactly who this player is. But I certainly won’t post that name here on this comment board. If you’ve heard rumors of who the alleged is. DM me at Twitter


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