Four days after the news broke that four Notre Dame football players are sitting out practice waiting the outcome of an academic investigation, the talk of Irish football Media Day centered right on that topic.
"To lose any of your players, especially given the circumstances, that's always difficult," Irish coach Brian Kelly said in front of a big media contingency. "But I'm responsible for not just four players, 105 plus, over 30 support staff. I've got to get going. I've got to move immediately to getting better as a program and as a football team. I don't spend much time on the past, don't mortgage the future. I try to stay in the present."
And because he feels he has that responsibility, Kelly knows what's happened over the last week does not change the goals this time has.
"Expectations haven't changed--they can't change," Kelly said. "We don't have a conference championship to play for, so we only have one goal in mind, and that is to get in the playoffs, and that's our only focus, to be one of those four teams to get in the playoffs. That's the only way you can think. There's only one way to put it together that way."
Kelly says there has been no clarity on when the investigation into whether cornerback KeiVarae Russell, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore participated in any form academic fraud will be resolved.
Players and coaches are conditioned to bounce back when a player is lost to an injury. It's the nature of the game in sports and in football in particular. I asked Coach Kelly if this was different however because its four players all at once, including three starters.
"Sometimes I think the coaches get more worked up about it than the players," Kelly answered. "Players have such resolve. They're young guys. They get over it. They move on. Coaches get way too worked up about it sometimes."
"The players were affected by the loss of their players as it relates to teammates, but not necessarily as it relates to playing time. Coaches are worried about the playing time element, like all right, how am I going to fill in for these snaps. So it's an interesting dichotomy how it works."
"I see it, obviously, the loss of four kids that I care about. Our players moved on quickly from it, and we just immediately treat it as next man in. Get the next guy ready, and that's how we've always operated here."
The Irish say their focus is totally on Rice in the season opener on August 30th.