The NCAA on Tuesday denied Notre Dame's appeal of a decision to vacate 21 football victories because of academic misconduct, prompting the school's president to show his displeasure in the form of a lengthy letter.
Rev. John Jenkins criticized the decision by saying that the school was being punished for enforcing its honor code after the Fighting Irish were forced to vacate their wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Notre Dame had accepted specific NCAA findings and acknowledged cheating involving several players and a student athletic trainer, but appealed the penalty to vacate victories.
"We are deeply disappointed by and strongly disagree with the denial of the University's appeal, announced today by the NCAA," Jenkins wrote in the letter, which has been posted on Notre Dame's website.
"To impose a severe penalty for this retroactive ineligibility establishes a dangerous precedent and turns the seminal concept of academic autonomy on its head. At best, the NCAA's decision in this case creates a randomness of outcome based solely on how an institution chooses to define its honor code; at worst, it creates an incentive for colleges and universities to change their honor codes to avoid sanctions like that imposed here."
The NCAA said in November 2016 that its investigation found a former student athletic trainer "violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct for two football student-athletes and provided six other football student-athletes with impermissible academic extra benefits."
Notre Dame won 12 games in the 2012 season before losing in the BCS National Championship game against Alabama. The Fighting Irish recorded nine victories in 2013, including a win in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The NCAA stripped Notre Dame of 21 victories, fined the school $5,000 and placed it on one year's probation in November 2016.
"In academic misconduct cases, the penalty of vacation of team records has, until now, only been applied in the case of serious forms of institutional culpability: when coaches, administrators, or persons with academic responsibilities are complicit in cheating, or when an institution fails to monitor or lacks control over its athletics program," Jenkins wrote. "In Notre Dame's case, two of the students had received assistance from a full-time undergraduate student who had part-time employment as an assistant to our athletic trainers.
"Student-to-student cheating is not normally within the NCAA's jurisdiction, but the NCAA concluded that the student's role as a part-time assistant trainer made her a 'representative of the institution' and justified a vacation of team records penalty in this case."