SOUTH BEND —
“I'm proud of Notre Dame,” he said after Saturday's practice.
“We don't look the other way. We don't say one thing and do another.”
A subdued Kelly, entering his fifth season leading the Irish, spoke publicly for the first time since the university announced its ongoing investigation Friday.
Beyond the four players involved – cornerback KeiVarae Russell, receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore and defensive end Ishaq Williams – Kelly isn't aware of the scope.
If the suspected academic fraud occurred, Kelly said he was unaware of it while it was going on.
The coach's assertion was backed Friday by the Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, and Jack Swarbrick, the athletic director.
Kelly said he was first told of the investigation Thursday by Swarbrick.
“My emotions were shock and disappointment,” Kelly said. “There are no shortcuts in what we do. You can't win taking shortcuts.”
The university's legal office, which is running the investigation, has not questioned Kelly, and he said there were no plans to speak with investigators.
When asked whether the four players were committed to remaining at Notre Dame, Kelly said he could not guarantee that.
“I care for those four guys deeply,” Kelly said. “I'm saddened in a way. I want to make sure we're not jumping to an indictment of these young men because they're good kids.”
The players aren't suspended, per se, but Notre Dame is barring them from practices and games while the process plays out.
Kelly decided to also keep them out of team meetings and film sessions but will allow the four to attend team meals and use the exercise facilities at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
On the heels of Everett Golson's seasonlong suspension in 2013 for academic impropriety, as well as the embarrassing off-the-field incident involving former player Will Mahone, Kelly faced a handful of questions about his performance – and deflected them.
Kelly said the determination to root out cheating is part of what attracted him to Notre Dame in the first place: its commitment to principles higher than winning football games.
“If you see something going on that's not right, it's important that be addressed,” he said.
“That's integrity. It's a privilege to play at Notre Dame. It's not a right. And we hold our players to a very high standard here.”