NOTRE DAME — There’s a sign that hangs in the Notre Dame locker room, espousing head coach Brian Kelly’s code of conduct for players.
“Treat women with respect. Don’t cheat. Don’t lie. Don’t steal,” Kelly recited after practice Saturday, Aug. 16, making his first public statements on Notre Dame’s ongoing investigation of potential academic fraud.
“Our players see that every single day when they walk into our locker room,” he said.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick called Kelly into his office Thursday and informed him that the investigation involved four of his football players — cornerback KeiVarae Russell, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive end Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore.
“For me, my emotions were shock and disappointment at the time,” Kelly said. “But anything that I can do to help Jack in that situation.”
Kelly said he doesn’t know anything about the investigation that wasn’t already discussed during Friday’s press conference with Swarbrick and university president Rev. John Jenkins, CSC. Other than being told about the four players involved, Kelly won’t be involved in the proceedings.
He has not been questioned by investigators and does not expect to be questioned further along in the investigations.
“I’ll be on the outside looking in as it relates to this ongoing process,” he said.
Though he potentially loses three starters, Kelly applauded Notre Dame’s approach to the investigation. All four players are still part of the team, but they will not be involved in practices or games during the probe.
“It's a privilege to play at Notre Dame. It's not a right,” he said. “And we hold our players to a very high standard here at Notre Dame. I believe Notre Dame to be vigilant on that end. We don’t say one thing and do another. I’m proud of Notre Dame and the way that they act. We don’t look the other way.”
Kelly said he feels for and cares about the four players involved, “but I have a job to do. I have another 100 players I have to be concerned with.”
“Now it’s about football matters,” he said. “Preparing for not having four players on our team that we were counting on against Rice.”
Russell’s impact was especially important for an Irish defense thin on experience. The junior cornerbacks’s 26 starts are a team high.
“As players go, you don’t replace KeiVarae Russell,” Kelly said. “He’s one of the best corners we’ve had here in quite some time. But we’ll find a way.”
This investigation marks the latest in a string of academic issues involving Notre Dame players in the last 18 months. Starting quarterback Everett Golson was dismissed from the university after what he called “poor academic judgement” last spring. Daniels was suspended for the spring semester for poor grades.
Kelly, who has said Notre Dame “shops down a different aisle” when it comes to student-athletes, stands by the type of players he recruits.
“I think we’ve brought in the right young men. I think we have to continue to do a better job educating them,” Kelly said. “We have to do a better job of providing them the resources. Look, this is never a one-sided issue. We have to internally look at providing our student-athletes all the resources necessary that if in fact they took shortcuts that they don’t. And we have to look hard at that. That’s something that will ensue over this issue.”
As of Saturday afternoon, Kelly had not sat down with the four players involved in the investigation, but he planned on doing so within the next day.