One year after Notre Dame football lost its starting QB, Everett Golson, for the 2013 season after he was caught cheating on an exam, the Fighting Irish are dealing with the repercussions from more academic fraud.
Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, however, said in a press conference that an investigation is ongoing and the players will be held out of activities but have not been dismissed at this time.
The players involved are junior receiver DaVaris Daniels, junior defensive back KeiVarae Russell, senior defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and senior linebacker Kendall Moore.
Daniels, a starter on the 2012 team that appeared in the national title, was a second team All-Independent pick in 2013. Russell, one of the top cornerbacks in the country, was a first team Freshman All-American in 2012.
Williams was projected to step into a starting defensive end spot in 2014 while Moore played in 13 games last season and provided depth for the Irish.
It is unclear at this time if the four players will be allowed to return to the school in the future as Golson has after he sat out the entire fall semester. He returned to South Bend last winter and has won his old starting QB job.
Jenkins said there is no timetable about how long the investigation will take.
"We will take as long as it takes to have a thorough and fair investigation and proceed through our academic honor code process."
The university also is investigating if other students also are involved. Jenkins said it was too early to say if the four players acted together.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the players have not been suspended. He said they remain grant-in-aid students and have access to athletic facilities and resources.
Jenkins said evidence students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others was initially detected at the end of the summer session. The case was then referred to the compliance office on July 29.
"If the suspected improprieties are proven, we will use the experience to reinforce among our students the importance of honesty in all that they do. We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said he didn’t want to speculate on possible NCAA punishment, while Swarbrick said the NCAA usually defers to a university when it comes to academic integrity.
"There are a few narrow instances where that triggers an NCAA concern, but I must stress we have no evidence of most of those here. No involvement by a member of the coaching staff, no transcript impropriety, those sorts of things," he said. "If it has NCAA consequences, we’ll let them know."
Jenkins said the school would vacate victories if it is determined players have been ineligible during past competition. All four were members of the 2012 team that played for the BCS national championship. The fact that the university even discussed the prospect of vacating wins and actually named the four players in regards to an investigation underscores the scope of this process.
The investigation is the latest in a series for the Irish in the past 15 months involving academics, starting with Golson in May 2013. He was suspended for the fall 2013 semester what he called poor academic judgment.
Jerian Grant, the leading scorer on the basketball team at the time, was suspended in December for the spring semester for an academic violation. Daniels was suspended two weeks later for the spring semester and was recently reinstated.
The Irish, ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches poll, open the year Aug. 30 against Rice.
On Saturday, head football coach Brian Kelly addressed the media for the first time since the school’s announcement the day before. Kelly dismissed talk that he needs to do a better job of recruiting players who are better students to avoid the academic problems that have plagued the football program for the past 15 months.
”I think we’ve brought in the right young men,” he said. ”I think we have to continue to do a better job educating them. We have to do a better job of providing the resources.”