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Sources: Notre Dame dismisses four players connected to academic fraud
Bruce Feldman
FOX Sports

AUG 15, 2014 1:35p ET

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 team is dealing with the repercussions from more academic fraud.

This time, four starters have been dismissed from ND after the school conducted an internal investigation this summer, sources close to the program told FOX Sports.

The players being investigated are receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive back KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore.

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.

The Irish, ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches poll, open the year Aug. 30 against Rice.

N. Dame investigating 4 players
Updated: August 15, 2014, 11:20 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Four Notre Dame players, including two starters, will not be allowed to participate in football activities as the university continues an internal investigation into academic misconduct, the school announced Friday.

Notre Dame said in a statement that there was "evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others." That evidence was reported to the athletics compliance office on July 29, and an immediate investigation was launched. The NCAA was notified Friday.

The group of players includes KeiVarae Russell, the team's best cornerback, leading returning receiver DaVaris Daniels, and defensive end Ishaq Williams, expected to be a key contributor on the line.

Backup linebacker Kendall Moore is also being held out of practice during the investigation.

All four players were part of Notre Dame's 2012 team, which lost in the BCS national title game to Alabama. Daniels and Russell were starters on that team. Williams was projected to start this year, as well.

[Image: ncf_u_daniels_600x400.jpg]
DaVaris Daniels started on the 2012 Notre Dame team that went to the BCS national championship game. Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports

Williams and Moore are seniors this season, while Daniels and Russell are juniors. The Fighting Irish are ranked No. 17 in the preseason USA Today/Coaches poll.

A source told ESPN that the four players did not practice Friday.

The Fighting Irish are now facing the possibility that a second straight season could be affected by academic misconduct issues.

Last year, quarterback Everett Golson missed the season after being suspended from school for what he called he called poor academic judgment. The Irish finished 9-4 behind Tommy Rees, but coming off an appearance in the BCS title game in 2012 it was a step back.

Golson is back, but now coach Brian Kelly could be scrambling to fill holes before opening his fifth season in South Bend at home against Rice on Aug. 30.

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Kelly was "devastated" by the news.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, and Swarbrick expressed support for Kelly.

"We have great confidence in Brian and his staff," Jenkins said. "They have been nothing but supportive."

Jenkins said Notre Dame has notified the NCAA about the inquiry. Because of potential violations, the four players can't compete until the conclusion of the investigation and the university honor code process.

Jenkins said during a news conference that no student has been judged responsible for "academic dishonesty."

"Nobody has been dismissed," Jenkins said.

Jenkins would not speculate when asked how far back the misconduct could have taken place.

"Integrity is at the heart of our mission, and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame," Jenkins said. "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 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."

He said such investigations at Notre Dame aren't common "but it happens."

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.

Jenkins said if it is found they violated the school's honor code the penalties could range from an F on an assignment, to an F in the course to dismissal from school. The penalty would be decided by an honor committee.

Quote:Depleted Receiving Corps

If DaVaris Daniels is continued to be held out, Notre Dame would be without its top three wide receivers from a year ago. Its top returning receiver would now be Chris Brown (15 catches in 2013).

Player Catches Currently
TJ Jones 70 NFL
D. Daniels 49 Investigated
T. Niklas 32 NFL

-- ESPN Stats & Information

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.

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."

The investigation is the latest in a series for the Irish in the past 15 months involving academics, starting with Golson.

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.

Swarbrick said the previous cases were different.

"Let's not confuse academic probation where you don't make grades in a semester with academic dishonesty. They are very different things," he said.

Jenkins said he believes it shows Notre Dame's honor system is doing its job.

"At any university you're dealing with young people. The vast majority of them make good decisions. But young people sometimes make bad decisions," he said. "Our job is to hold them accountable and to use those incidents as ways to educate them. That's what we're doing."

Information from ESPN.com's Matt Fortuna, Brett McMurphy and Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.

I'm no fan of Kelly, but his seat is getting rather warm... I don't care what Swarbrick "says," the ND boosters are getting restless. This is yet another scandal in a program that prefers a clean image. You had the alleged rape and suicide, the cameraman who was killed in the lift collapse taping the ND football practice, the highly publicized Golden Tate drunk driving arrestS, the Gunner Kiel recruiting saga, the Everett Gholson cheating scandal, and now this.

Kelly got A LOT of concessions from ND in going there, not the least of which was getting his FB players exempted from RESLIFE, the disciplinary board EVERY other ND student is subject to. His seat is warm and if the scandals continue, he's going to be looking for another job.

Maybe his "Dream Job" at Boston College???
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