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Brian Kelly pledges that ND will not ‘look the other way’

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly watches during practice Saturday  Aug. 16 2014 South Bend Ind. Notre Dame is scheduled

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly watches during practice Saturday Aug. 16, 2014 in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame is scheduled to open their season against Rice Saturday Aug. 30, 2014 (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)

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Updated: September 18, 2014 6:46AM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The ­future of four of coach Brian Kelly’s players is up in the air.

And the possibility exists that previous Notre Dame victories will be vacated.

The word “distraction” would be quite an understatement.

Notre Dame opens the regular season in less than two weeks against Rice. While the team practiced Saturday, the dark cloud of an academic investigation hovered over the program.

The university is looking into suspected academic dishonesty on the part of several students, including wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore. The four will be held out of practice and games until the investigation concludes.

Kelly publicly addressed the situation for the first time Saturday. He made clear the standards expected at the school.

“We don’t say one thing and do the other, and I’m proud of Notre Dame and the way that they act,” Kelly said. “We don’t look the other way. If we find improprieties as it relates to this matter, we are going to address them and deal with them.”

A member of the academic staff became suspicious that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others. The investigation started shortly thereafter.

Kelly’s initial emotions were “shock and disappointment” when athletic director Jack Swarbrick informed him on Thursday. Russell has 26 starts and Daniels is the top returning receiver. Williams was also slated to start. Kelly said the four are welcomed to be with their teammates in such instances such as meals, but as of now they are not participating in team meetings.

“I feel for all of those guys,” Kelly said. “… I care for those four guys deeply. They’ve been part of our program. But I have a job to do. And I have another hundred players that I have to be concerned with.”

The school said Friday it would vacate any victories if the players were deemed ineligible at the time of participating. Kelly said such a situation wouldn’t change his perception of the 2012 season, which concluded with a trip to the BCS national title game.

“I’ve never really counted my victories,” Kelly said. “It’s not something that I really have spent much time thinking about.

“The satisfaction that I get is in the preparation and the relationships that I have with our players and the accomplishments that you have from year to year with your team and how you play the game. I never really put much stock in that.”

Kelly said investigators have not interviewed him. He also didn’t think it was the appropriate time to have a debate about his leadership.

“My focus is on my football team and getting this team ready,” Kelly said. “There is a time and place for that. People have their opinions and certainly they are entitled to them. I’m going to focus on this football team and getting them ready in two weeks for Rice.”


Twitter: @lamondpope

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