By Chris Hine Chicago Tribune
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he experienced “shock” and “disappointment” when he found out from athletic director Jack Swarbrick that four of his players were under investigation by the school for academic fraud.
Kelly, making his first public comments of the investigation the school announced Friday, professed not to know a lot of information about the investigation beyond the involvement of his four players.
“We hold our players to a very high standard here at Notre Dame; I believe Notre Dame to be vigilant on that end,” Kelly said. “We don’t say one thing and do the other. I’m proud of Notre Dame and the way that they act. We don’t look the other way.”
Kelly said he feels for the four players involved in the investigation — cornerback KeiVarae Russell (who played at Mariner High School), receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore and defensive end Ishaq Williams — and said the investigation is limited to those four players. The school said evidence the four players — and several other students — submitted homework and papers that was not their own work was detected July 29. The investigation began shortly thereafter.
“I care for those four guys deeply,” Kelly said. “They’re a part of our program, but I have a job to do and I have another hundred players I have to be concerned with. My focus and attention is on continuing to develop our players on a day-to-day basis.”
Those running the investigation have not questioned Kelly, nor does he think the he will be questioned.
Other highlights from Kelly’s remarks and from Notre Dame’s open practice Saturday:
—The four players have access to Notre Dame’s facilities, they can not practice or participate in games but have access to meals and facilities. They will not participate in meetings.
—Kelly on his role in recent academic scandals involving the team: “This isn’t the time to have a debate on what my leadership or lack thereof is. My focus is on my football team and getting this team ready. There’s a time and place for that. People have their opinions and certainly they’re entitled to them. I’m going to focus on this football team.”
—On the recent history of academic transgressions: “One of the reasons why I wanted to come here was there were some core values as one of the preeminent Catholic institutions that you can’t compromise on and that’s integrity. If you see something if going on that’s not right … it’s important that it’s addressed. I applaud the university for doing that. Along the way, I lost a starting quarterback and some key players, but I came here because I wanted to be associated with a university that had those standards.”
—Kelly on criticism he may receive for recruiting student-athletes prone to academic transgressions: “I think we’ve brought in the right young men. I think we have to continue to do a better job educating them. We have to do a better job of providing them the resources. Look, this is never a one-sided issue. We have to internally look at providing our student-athletes all the resources necessary that if in fact they took shortcuts that they don’t. And we have to look hard at that. That’s something that will ensue over this issue.”
—On the on-field impact of losing these players: “As players, you don’t replace KeiVarae Russell, he’s one of the best corners we’ve had here in quite some time.”
—Cole Luke and Cody Riggs were the starting cornerbacks at the Irish’s practice Saturday. Isaac Rochell took Williams’ place on the first-team defensive line while Will Fuller, Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown were the starting receivers.
—Those that sat out Saturday’s practice not in pads included receiver Justin Brent, linebacker Doug Randolph, tight end Tyler Luatua, defensive lineman Jacob Matuska. Tight end Mike Heuerman returned to the field after he recovered from hernia surgery.