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Cheats could bring heat on ND coach Brian Kelly

SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head coach Brian Kelly Notre Dame Fighting Irish waits torun onfield with his

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 28: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish waits torun onto the field with his team before a game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Notre Dame Stadium on September 28, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Oklahoma defeated Notre Dame 35-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brian Kelly

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Updated: August 17, 2014 9:52PM



There has been a broad range of controversies involving Notre Dame’s football program since Brian Kelly took the reins as coach in December 2009.

Who remembers the heartbreaking story of Lizzy Seeberg? A freshman in 2010 at Saint Mary’s College, Seeberg, who was from Northbrook, took her own life. Less than two weeks earlier, she’d gone to ND campus police and reported having been sexually assaulted by a Fighting Irish football player. The allegations did not lead to charges against the player, but Notre Dame would draw criticism for what some categorized as its attempts to suppress the story.

What did Kelly have to do with any of it? Hopefully, nothing at all.

Later that year came the tragic death of student manager Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old from Long Grove. On an extraordinarily windy day, Sullivan was high above ground on a scissor lift, recording a football practice, when a gust toppled the lift and, sadly, you can imagine the rest.

Critics suggested Kelly should’ve been cautious enough to keep a kid out of the sky in such conditions. Maybe, but sometimes terrible things just happen.

On a lighter note, Kelly became infamous for a while in 2011 for completely losing his cool on his own players during games. F-bombs directed from an apoplectic coach toward a college player on national TV make for a really bad look.

Some wondered if it was the beginning of the end for Kelly in South Bend, but did his public meltdowns ever put his job in jeopardy at all? Goodness, we’d think not.

But fast-forward a little less than three years, and things might be different. And perhaps they ought to be. You know where this is going, and that is straight to the heart of the current matter at Notre Dame.

The football team has a big-time cheating problem.

Not on the field, but in the classroom. We learned in 2013 about starting QB Everett Golson, who was booted from the program for the season after getting caught cheating on a test. On Friday, we learned about four more players — DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore — under investigation by the school for possible “academic dishonesty.”

In the case of this scandal, cheating would be defined as submitting work they hadn’t actually done themselves.

And they might not be the only ones. University officials already have said non-athletes at the school are being investigated. It doesn’t take much of a flight of fancy to imagine the possibility additional football players and other athletes — current and former — will be implicated as the investigation continues.

Notre Dame president the Rev. John Jenkins made sure to clear Kelly’s name Friday, emphasizing that there was no evidence to suggest Kelly knew about the cheating.

“We have great confidence in Brian and his staff,” Jenkins said.

According to Jenkins, this is hardly even a football matter. “This is not a student-athlete issue,” he said. “Students sometimes make mistakes.”

But when those students are high-profile athletes, the world tends to notice. When they’re football players at Notre Dame, a trend of players cheating in the classroom is going to turn into an epic scandal.

Is it a trend yet? Let’s go with a guarded no. If ever the answer changes to yes, though, there’ll be such heat on Kelly, he’ll have no chance to withstand it.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SLGreenberg



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