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The Notre Dame football season has reportedly been dealt a serious blow and the Fighting Irish won't even take the field for its season opener for another two weeks.
Multiple media reports circulated this afternoon that four Notre Dame student-athletes, three of whom are starters, are part of a university investigation into academic wrongdoing.
The four players are redshirt junior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell, senior defensive end Ishaq Williams, and fifth-year back-up linebacker Kendall Moore.
The investigation also includes non-athletes according to the reports.
The University released a statement around 5 p.m. addressing the investigation. In it Notre Dame stated it was "investigating suspected academic dishonesty on the part of several students, including four members of the football team."
The statement went on to say that the NCAA had been notified and that all four players would be held out of practice and competition until the conclusion of the investigation.
"Integrity is at the heart of our mission and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University's president, in the statement. "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."
The statement pointed to evidence that the students being investigated had submitted papers and homework written for them by others that was initially detected by the compliance office in athletics on July 29 and an immediate investigation was begun.
It was stated that, if found to be guilty of academic fraud, all victories by Notre Dame in which the players involved played in will be forfeited.
Daniels already missed spring semester this year due to academic issues, but is expected to lead a young receiving corps this fall. He started nine games last season and played in all 13. Daniels caught 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, which were the second most in those categories among the Irish pass catchers behind the graduated TJ Jones.
Williams only started one game a year ago, despite the injuries decimating the defensive front a year ago. However, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said as recently as Wednesday that the fourth-year player had been solid this training camp.
“He's our starter strong side end,” Kelly said. “He's had a good camp and he's earned the starting role right now.”
Russell is expected to be a breakout star by many this season after having a nice second year as a starter. He started all 13 games a season ago and recorded 51 tackles, nine pass deflections and eight pass break-ups.
Moore is expected to provide depth at the outside linebacker position behind starter James Onwualu, John Turner, and Ben Councell.
Aside from Daniels' suspension in January, the program also lost returning starting quarterback Everett Golson in May of last year for academic misconduct. Golson missed the entire 2013 season, but returned to the university in January and was named the starter on Wednesday.
A press conference is scheduled for 6 p.m.