August 15, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Notre Dame looking at four football players in academic probe

DaVaris Daniels would be the top returning receiver for Notre Dame. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

South Bend, Ind. — Notre Dame football players KeiVarae Russell, DaVaris Daniels, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore are being held out of practice while the school investigates what it is calling “suspected academic dishonesty.”

The school announced Friday it 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.

The Fighting Irish open the season against Rice on Aug. 30.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said during a news conference that no student has been judged responsible for “academic dishonesty.”

“Nobody has been dismissed,” Jenkins said.

All were expected to be key contributors this season, coach Brian Kelly’s fifth at Notre Dame.

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

Russell, a junior, starts at cornerback. Daniels, a junior, is the team leading returning receiver. Williams, a senior, was expected to be a big part of the defensive line. Moore, a senior, is backup at linebacker.

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