Conclusion of academic probe still at least a week away

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After not meeting with the media last Tuesday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly took to the podium for his regularly scheduled weekly press conference. While he addressed changes on the offensive line, injury news and the game Saturday night against Syracuse (we’ll get to that later), he also spoke about the status of DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams, still held out of football activities as an academic investigation continues.

While the rest of the university has been mostly silent since Rev. John Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick addressed the media in mid-August, Kelly has been forced to answer questions about the academic probe, putting the team’s football coach into the unfortunate position of being the university’s spokesman on an academic issue that’s not under his jurisdiction.

Kelly gave another update from his limited perspective, announcing that the five players won’t be available for Saturday’s game, but that the wheels of academic justice have slowly started to move.

“Friday of last week I was informed that the academic committee has been formed officially,” Kelly said Tuesday afternoon. “If all things move in the manner that they’re hoping, and that they’re able to get through all of the information, that the five student-athletes will get their hearings concluded by the end of next week.”

While the university doesn’t classify being held out of activities as a suspension, the reality of the situation is that these five players will sit out their fourth game of the season on Saturday night, and seem only a 50-50 proposition to be even eligible to play against Stanford the first weekend of October if the process moves at Kelly’s estimated timetable, something it has yet to do in the month-plus he’s discussed it.

So that’s at least one-third of the season gone before the five players having their day in front of the academic honor committee, a group made up of deans, professors and fellow students. When asked if that all but convicts the five as guilty of academic transgressions, Kelly shied away from that conclusion.

“I really don’t have enough information to really give you an opinion on that,” Kelly said, showing every bit the skill of a former political aid.

Of course, that these five were flagged in late-July at the end of the summer semester makes this quite different than a criminal process. And while degrees of guilt are likely what’s being examined by the honor committee, the fact that an NCAA investigation, the school’s general counsel, and an investigation that could go back years weigh into this has complicated a process that’s already mysterious.

“It’s a very complicated situation, obviously. There are a lot of pieces here,” Kelly said. “There are NCAA implications, certainly. We’re probably going down a path that has never gone before.”

Unprecedented paths tend to get Notre Dame fans bracing for the worst. And while Jenkins and Swarbrick mentioned the idea of voluntarily vacating wins if their investigation led them down that path, Kelly hasn’t been made aware of this process going that far.

“I do not have any knowledge of vacating wins or NCAA implications,” Kelly said. “I have not been informed of that, and whether that is impending, I think I would have been informed of all those things, if we were in that kind of I am immediacy.”

Immediacy is a funny word, especially in a process that started in late-July. But after hanging in limbo for almost two months, the fate of the five student-athletes is on track to be resolved… sooner than later, it finally seems.