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With all eyes watching, a dig for truth begins at Notre Dame

Aug 15, 2014, 9:29 PM EDT

Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick

The college football world stared at Notre Dame on Friday. Some snickered as they hoped to see smoke and fire emerge from the Golden Dome. Irish fans braced for impact, with even the most level-headed dreading impending doom, with things getting worse by the minute as Notre Dame brass stayed silent.

Early reports looked ugly. And while they didn’t — or haven’t yet — turned out to be correct, the latest academic blunder coming from a football program aspiring to carry the torch for doing things the right way on and off the field could do seismic damage.

At this point, it’s too early to tell. Credit Notre Dame’s administration for doing the right thing early, alerting the NCAA to their investigation and holding four players out of practice and games until they do more digging. So while that takes place, the facts of the current state of affairs are worth presenting.

“Several students” are part of the academic investigation, with four current members of the team. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick acknowledged that DaVaris DanielsKendall MooreKeiVarae Russell, and Ishaq Williams were indeed the student-athletes in question, confirming multiple media reports.

If we are to believe Dan Murphy at, as many as 22 former football players could be involved. Head coach Brian Kelly was alerted to the investigation on Thursday, news that “devastated” the Irish coach, Swarbrick acknowledged.

Evidence turned up at the end of summer semester, with classes ending July 25 and final grades/graduation taking place on August 3rd. Kelly kicked off spring practice on Friday, August 1 with an opening press conference, where he stated all of his players were in good academic standing.

The head coach didn’t know that as his team heading to Culver Military Academy, an academic probe had been handed over to compliance and then to the university’s office of general counsel. With all four players involved in the probe participating in practice earlier this week, the news surely landed as another gut punch to a head coach whose best players can’t seem to avoid making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

(The surprise also carries over to the players’ families. Per Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated, the fathers of Moore and Williams had heard nothing from the school. As of Friday night, the family of DaVaris Daniels hasn’t, either.)

While it’s difficult to do, the presumption of innocence is probably worth attempting. But in the viral wasteland that is Twitter-based reporting, let’s put aside the fact that university president Rev. John Jenkins and Swarbrick vehemently denied that any player has been dismissed or any judgment has been passed.

“Nobody has been dismissed,” Jenkins said. “We will take as long as it takes to have a thorough and fair investigation and proceed through our academic honor code process.”

The disciplinary process at Notre Dame is notoriously secretive. And while progress has been made from the draconian days of the fairly recent past (remember the leniency granted Michael Floyd?), hoping for an expedited process for an academic issue that could go back a few years might be a pipe dream.

After a day spent chasing rumors and shadows — each more sordid than the last, listening to Swarbrick and Jenkins provided a calm that was difficult to comprehend. Sure, things were bad. But after years (maybe even decades) of wondering about the decision-making process at the university, it’s clear that grownups are handling things. The results of their findings might be ugly, but the search for truth will not be.

But even if Notre Dame’s two most important administrators did their best to make sure the assembled media understood this situation was an isolated incident, it’s hard not to connect some rather ugly dots.

Quarterback Everett Golson became a national story for his academic suspension. Basketball standout Jerian Grant suffered a similar fate, forced off the court for another academic impropriety. The Irish hockey team lost Robbie Russo, one of their best players, in a situation that looked mighty similar.

As Notre Dame pushes to compete at the highest level of college football, the university has gotten more aggressive in their acceptance of prospective student-athletes with questionable academic profiles. And it’s hard not to jump to conclusions when athletes like Tee Shepard, Eddie Vanderdoes, Golson, Daniels and now this quartet bubble to the surface.

That’s why it’s worth re-reading part of Jenkins’ statement, released earlier today.

“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,” Jenkins said, in part. “We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating.”

The resources have been committed, with Adam Sargent,the associate director in Notre Dame’s Academic Services for Student Athletes, among the most respected and above reproach people on campus. But ultimately the push and pull between advancing the academic profile of the university and holding blue-chip student-athletes to those standards might prove impossible.

The tragedy of it all is that 2012 served as a rallying cry for those that believed the balance could still exist. But that magical season could go up in smoke as a result of this investigation, with Notre Dame acknowledging that they’ll vacate victories if players are retroactively found to be ineligible.

For now, we wait. For the truth, for an internal investigation, and for the ripple effect that’ll likely be felt on the field, in the locker room, and in every building under the Dome.

But with the leadership of the university still standing strongly behind their head coach and his process, Jenkins did his best to put things into perspective, sounding (maybe ironically) like a father speaking of his college-aged sons.

“At any university you’re dealing with young people. The vast majority of them make good decisions,” Jenkins said. “But young people sometimes make bad decisions. Our job is to hold them accountable and to use those incidents as ways to educate them. That’s what we’re doing.”

132 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. pat199192 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    Why are so many people posting negative comments about the university. Notre Dame is doing the right thing. This is about kids making bad decisions. Now they will have to pay the price if all of this turns out to be true

    Notre Dame is doing the right thing once again. From what I’ve read the athletic department received evidence of the cheating and went directly to the proper authorities who seem to immediately suspended the players and launched a public investigation.

    This is only a reflection on the dishonest individuals who made all the wrong decisions

    • c4evr - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:18 PM

      Go back to the days of The Gipper and tell us how ND always does the right thing. The university created a behemoth long ago that could no longer be sustained once they embraced higher academic standards. What irony… Build your name on the superiority of its football program, then claim academic superiority as the reason for dismantling it. Take the time to listen to some past players (Rudy, Bob Gladieux, even Joe Montana) and tell me these guys benefitted from ND’s high academic standards. Face it, the whole “40 year decision” amounts to nothing more than joining a fraternity in most of these players’ cases.

      • runners00 - Aug 17, 2014 at 12:04 PM


        This is a joke ND has been in the top ten percent of colleges and universities by nearly every measure for the last several decades. Football helped in the first half of the 20th century. But for the last several decades, ND has been an outstanding academic institution.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      Dumb move my ND

      • papadec - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        Not your ND, never was, never will be. You can claim to be a ND fan all you want – nobody will ever believe you.

    • jommy995 - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      If you fret more over the image or reputation of the university than the well-being of the kids, you’ve missed the whole point of what Notre Dame is about. If you hope the kids get booted with no chance of returning, you’ve missed the whole point of what Christianity is about. People disappoint. It’s what we do best. Grace and redemption are what keep things interesting.

  2. ndfenian - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    “As Notre Dame pushes to compete at the highest level of college football, the university has gotten more aggressive in their acceptance of prospective student-athletes with questionable academic profiles”

    This sentence from Keith could be misinterpreted by some to suggest that ND has allowed football players in with previous incidents in high school of academic impropriety. I would assume that’s not the case. But we do know that ND has become a little more flexible in recent years in admitting football players who’s grades and SAT scores are not as up to par. I remember reading Tom Lemming, the recruiting guru, pointing this out, adding something like “things have gotten better at ND in that regard”. I have applauded this move. I always point to guys like Tony Rice and Chris Zorich who didn’t have the best grades/SAT scores, but graduated in four years at ND as proof that it is possible to achieve great academic and athletic success at ND.

    Here’s hoping that these four represent an isolated case. Here’s hoping the dots do not connect to tell the story of many football players struggling at ND. We know the academic profile of the school is higher now than it was in the late 1980’s. The fear we all share is that the academic difficulty at ND will render impossible football success.

  3. irishmob89 - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    People bashing Notre Dame as a university need to get a clue. First off, Notre Dame is investigating this, not the NCAA. It isn’t like Notre Dame was trying to sweep this under the rug like certain schools would and the NCAA came after them. The Irish informed the NCAA and have been taking the necessary steps to resolve this matter. There is no evidence that Brian Kelly and his staff knew about this so those saying Kelly needs to be fired don’t know what they’re talking about. And like other people on here have said, this isn’t an athletic matter, it’s an academic matter.

    If this turns out to be true and it most likely is, DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, and Kendall Moore and anyone else involved need to be dismissed. No one game suspension, no slap on the wrist, they need to be dismissed.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      You mean like Golson…

      This University is becoming a joke to the publics eyes.

      1) Girl gets Rapped
      2) Floyd gets arrested
      3) Kid Dies on Ladder
      4) Kid beats up cars and attacks police
      5) Golson gets booted for cheating
      6) Lack of institutional control THE CHEATING SCANDAL

      This all sounds like the SEC but nope its ND… And somehow we are so different.. What a joke

      • Keith Arnold - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        Of all your stupid comments, this one might be the dumbest.

        Feel free to go away whenever.

      • c4evr - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:50 PM

        He may go away, but the reality that kids -and their parents are taking note – can’t be so easily dismissed. ND is not the SEC by any stretch, but it’s attempt to hang with them and the rest of the NCAA field is showing stress fractures. And mostly, I contend, because of a head coach who wasn’t groomed in a big time program and is I’ll-equipped to handle the magnitude of ND experience.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Live by the sword die by the sword. That rap sheet looks like it belongs with Florida State or Ole Miss. I am just stating the facts and its hard to argue the opposite. This program over the years has had some really bad stuff happen. You got to ask yourself who is running the show over there.

      • getsome99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        That’s clearly the part you can’t seem to get although many on this board have tried to help explain it, so it must be something in your genetics that’s holding you back. The difference is in the way we handle these situations. The SEC schools and USC would cover up any cheating scandal. We have reports of 4 players cheating and they were suspended immediately pending the internal voluntary investigation. SEC/USC wouldn’t have an voluntary investigation unless it became public and the NCAA came snooping around. But even then, the SEC/USC would allow the players to play until the investigation proves them to be guilty. Often times, the investigation takes several years (see USC) allowing the questionable player to play multiple season while ineligible (see Reggie Bush).

        Notre Dame fans have never claimed our football program was perfect. We know college kids will make mistakes and cheat on a test or get drunk/arrested. We handle the situation and hold players accountable even if that means losing a star player for the season. Jameis Winston raped a student and got stealing and won’t miss a snap over it. Criticizing the ND community because we stand behind character and integrity says something about you and the rest of the ND haters. If it’s the judgmental ‘holier than thou’ persona that pisses you off, then don’t make it so easy for us to judge you.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        getsome99 – Assuming everyone is cheating with no proof is just ridiculous. How are you so sure Alabama or USC is cheating ? Where is the proof ? Every Time a team lands a top recruit outside of ND its assumed by the fan base the school is paying them. This is the crap I cant stand about our fan base. This silver spoon mentality. Notre Dame has the rap sheet not Alabama. USC did their time now they are running on the up and up and you guys still bash USC. Like I said live by the sword die by the sword but we are no different from anyone in the country. This sport is nothing but lies cheats and thugs and everyone knows it.

      • getsome99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        Where is the proof? That question pretty much makes my point. It ain’t cheating if you don’t get caught right? Again, the SEC programs who have been punished in the past forced the NCAA to investigate and recommend punishments. Never voluntary. So if a school doesn’t self report these incidents, it didn’t happen is what you’re saying. Cheating takes place at EVERY college. Every time a former player at one of these other schools tries to blow the whistle, the school goes to great lengths to discredit those players as bitter looking for monetary gain. We dismiss our fair share of good players each year for academic or conduct reasons. The only time I hear about an SEC team losing a player is by injury or a younger player surpassed them on the depth chart.

      • getsome99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        Didn’t Alabama suspend or dismiss up to 10 players last season? They must have been expendable.

      • irishdog80 - Aug 16, 2014 at 6:51 PM

        Hey JG, remember it is Ready, Aim, Shoot not Shoot, Aim, Ready.

        Here’s some of the info that you need and it is easily found on the internet. I think, even you might be able to do it:


        And let me know how many games USC has won since Pete Carroll left the program in shambles…look it up.

        Oh, and check on academic suspensions in the SEC. I bet you won’t find that many since we all know all of the SEC players are stellar students. Or is it that the programs treat academic issues as “team issues” since the NCAA allows them to handle them internally?

  4. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Lack of Institutional control – Parents are looking at this as a negative. What else is going on at that school that we do not know about. Are there priests sleeping with football players.

    Football Program looks weak – Potential commits are looking at this as a huge blow to the team. Recruiting is already suffering and many kids are asking themselves why play for a team that is undermaned with few blue chip players.

    I predict we lost at least 2 or 3 commits over this along with not being able to fill out our class… This Is as bad as the Jerry SANdusky Scandal and will have the same effect.

    • irishmob89 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM

      Oh yes, academic cheating is right on par with the Jerry Sandusky scandal *sarcasm*. Recruits have already been interviewed and have said it doesn’t change their commitment status….and once again, your recruiting logic is flawed. 7 out of 128 schools have had top ten classes the past two years, and Notre Dame is one of those schools…so at least get some facts straight before you decide to run your mouth.

      Watching some Notre Dame videos on youtube, there’s a guy who has multiple accounts who is a U$C fan and he trolls EVERY and I mean EVERY Notre Dame video…I’m 99% sure it’s you.

      • bettis646 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        why reply to the moron??

      • johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        After all the kids dismissed and who have transferred we are recruiting in the 17 to 20 range. Get a clue and lay off the ND cock…

    • getsome99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      Any recruit who doesn’t want to come to ND because 4 players were dismissed for cheating can go play somewhere else. Those are not the type of players we want on this team. We’ll gladly take the players who are committed to represent Notre Dame in a positive way off the field while kicking your team’s a** on the field.

      On another note, anymore 5 stars transfer from USC this week?

      • c4evr - Aug 16, 2014 at 11:32 PM

        If we don’t want them on the team, why is BK recruiting them?

    • grandpaof4 - Aug 17, 2014 at 7:22 PM

      As an ND senior Alumni, I can tell you that honor and honesty are much more important to us than winning a football game. The lessons we learned from ND carry over into our entire lifetime. Winning a football game with a bunch of cheaters is no glory at all.

  5. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Posted in Texas website Tillary is looking to jump ship and head to LSU… SEC Player to SEC School thats interesting… And USC reporting that they will thump our ass as our Depth is as thin as theirs. SOSO reporting also looking at Texas now with Strong… What a nightmare

    • irishmob89 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Posted on Obama’s government dependent website: John continues to be an unemployed loser who trolls the internet all day since he’s too LAZY to get a job.

  6. don74 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    There’s a lot written about this…Andy Staples of SI wrote a pretty balanced piece

    Stew Mandel of Fox Sports pretty much kills ND

    John Walters….ND alum wrote a good piece in Newsweek.

  7. fnc111 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    @ylli, I’m always right. And so is most everyone else. It’s called opinion. Some have homer views and others have objective breakdowns. I called it as I see it.

  8. yllibnosredna - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM

    @fnc, you obviously were not captain of your hs debate team. Granted, there are quite a few pollyanna homers on this site, but you constantly trend on the other end of the spectrum–almost invariably negative and obtuse in youracomments. However, as mentioned before, I do agree with your contention that championship level success on the gridiron and academic excellence at an elite institution are practically incompatible pursuits. The afore-mentioned Walters article (good read btw) stops just short of endorsing this harsh reality. Hats off to Swarbrick, BK, and co. for trying their damnedest to make it work, but it’s a largely unachievable pursuit.

  9. getsome99 - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    The 2011 and ’12 recruiting classes continue it’s downward spiral. We already knew the strength of this team is the ’13 and ’14 classes, which is loaded and deep. The future is now and for us diehards who get restless wanting to see the new players on the field, this should be an exciting season.

    As for depth, these 4 players were done after this season anyway. A couple guys will lose a redshirt this year but from Keith’s post on Thursday, we were surprised to learn these freshman are ready to play.

  10. nudeman - Aug 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Meanwhile, taking a break from the Paper Chase, in other news from America’s Heartland …

    NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon, the school’s top recruit, was charged with misdemeanor assault on Friday, accused of knocking a woman unconscious with a punch that also broke several bones in her face.

    Mixon has not participated in team activities since July 25, when Norman police say the incident occurred at a local restaurant.

    On signing day, Mixon was listed as’s No. 1 running back and’s No. 1 all-purpose back. As a senior at Freedom High School in Oakley, California, he gained nearly 2,100 yards and scored 30 touchdowns from scrimmage.

    Oklahoma has not made a decision on Mixon’s status.

    Where does one start with this?
    Knocked her out and broke bones in her face = misdemeanor????
    And OK hasn’t made a decision on this POS.
    Still trying to determine if he’ll be suspend for a half or a full game?

    • jommy995 - Aug 16, 2014 at 4:47 PM

      Kinda like beards and tattoos. Went out of style for awhile. Now it’s back. There should be an internet list kind of like what we have for sex offenders. Beat up a chick, get your name and mug shot posted here for life. With or without the beard.

    • wisner74 - Aug 16, 2014 at 5:59 PM

      Nude – If it were the NFL, Mixon MIGHT get a two-game suspension. Things are getting problematic when the NFL is dealing more severely (albeit still horribly inadequatey) with this type of behavior than colleges are.

      How can you sit in the stands and root for a kid like that?

  11. gtizzo - Aug 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    I heard Swarbrick defend the difference between academic fraud and academic suspension or probation. Swarbrick was right…the difference between the two needs to noted. Golson didn’t make grades and was suspended. Golson didn’t cheat or lie about who did his work. The players in this case may have lied about who did the work. Blaming academics or saying they can’t coexist in college football is a silly thing to say. ND isn’t going to change it’s principals, you get the grades or you don’t play. Maybe ND needs to accept that, and so do most of there fans. Notre Dame stands on principal which is why I have been a fan for so long. The media is just using this to rip ND because it fits their bias about student athletes and this fits the narrative. This happen at Stanford and it would have been an after thought.

    • jommy995 - Aug 16, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      What planet you from? Golson’s semester abroad was for cheating.

  12. bearcatboy - Aug 16, 2014 at 5:37 PM

    Nerds doing homework for athletes. This is like a tale is old as American sports. How often do you think this happens in d-1 athletics? We all know this is happening at every school. 80% of the time I hear an interview I think to myself, “How the hell is this guy in college? How did he pass high school?”. Do people realize that if these guys weren’t good at football they would have no chance of getting into Notre Dame? Why can’t ND just sweep this under the rug like everybody else? Hopefully they just miss the Rice game.

    • grandpaof4 - Aug 17, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      To answer your question, WE expect more from Notre Dame.

  13. bearcatboy - Aug 16, 2014 at 5:47 PM

    J.J. Stankevitz says, “The investigation raises serious questions about Notre Dame’s self-proclaimed status as a beacon of academics amid more football-focused powerhouses. Given the investigation goes beyond the football program, it raises questions about the school as a whole.”

    – Who is this J.J. tool? Self-proclaimed status? They don’t proclaim squat, they have stats they speak for themselves. This does not raise questions about the school as a whole. A small percentage of students athletes are cheating. It’s not like the institution has created some secret club for kids who want to cut corners. He also makes Ishaq Williams sound like he is the best DE to play at ND. Lets be honest, his career has been a disappointment.
    This kid should not be doing this

  14. 1historian - Aug 17, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    To me the most important paragraph in this post is this ” While it’s difficult to do, the presumption of innocence is probably worth attempting. But in the viral wasteland that is Twitter-based reporting, let’s put aside the fact that University president Rev. John Jenkins and Swarbrick vehemently denied that any player has been dismissed or ANY JUDGMENT HAS BEEN PASSED. (Emphasis mine.)

    That is what is driving this affair, and us in its wake – the latest rumor, the latest tweet, the latest facebook, etc.

    Do we have confidence in the administration, the university, to do what needs be done with this? I do.

    FYI – I am 70 years old, I have a trac-phone, I know nothing about twitter, social media, facebook, or whatever. Nor do I care.

    FYI – The greatest sportswriter who ever lived was Red Smith, and he graduated from ND.

    Let me close with this – Haters of ND – THIS IS YOUR HOUR. NEVER will you have a better chance to score some cheap points, make snarky remarks, and all those other things that you so love to do.


    Notice if you will that I used the plural instead of the singular in that exhortation.

  15. grandpaof4 - Aug 17, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    This is what happens when you lower the academic standards and let “students” like this into Notre Dame. In addition to their lack of intelligence, they lack morals. Notre Dame needs to get back to higher standards if they want to gain back the respect these people lost for it.

    • dbldmr - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      A senior alum here as well….

      Before decrying anyone’s lack of intelligence or morals, how about waiting until the university weighs in on what happened? I don’t know what Notre Dame was like when you were there, but when I was a student (in the 60s) there was a standard distribution of both intelligence and morals. There were saints and sinners and a whole bunch of us between the two extremes. The same thing applied to the general intelligence of the student population.

  16. bearcatboy - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    Well if this incident tells us anything, it’s the evidence that Kelly has been able to recruit the level of athletes they were not getting before!!!

  17. bearcatboy - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:25 PM

    when this went down, did anybody else think of the comments Paul Hornung made about 10 years ago??

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