On the Bench: Notre Dame sits 4 players during academic investigation

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Cornerback KeiVarae Russell
Receiver DaVaris Daniels
Linebacker Kendall Moore
Defensive lineman Ishaq Williams

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Notre Dame has confirmed they are investigating suspected academic dishonesty on the part of several students, including four members of the football team.

The four players---cornerback KeiVarae Russell, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore and defensive lineman Ishaq Williams-- remain enrolled at The University, are not suspended from the team but are being withheld from practice pending the outcome of the investigation.

It's unclear how long it will take before the investigation is complete. University leaders said the process will take as long as it will need to take.

"At this time no one has been judged responsible for academic dishonesty. No one has been dismissed," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president.

Because of the potential for NCAA violations, the University notified the NCAA Friday, and the four football players will be held out of practice and competition until the conclusion of an ongoing investigation and the University honor code process. Any possible academic dishonesty by other students will be addressed appropriately.

“Integrity is at the heart of our mission and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame,” Rev. Jenkins said. “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. We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating.”

The story was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

Notre Dame says evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others was initially detected at the end of the summer session, and referred to the compliance office in athletics on July 29. The Office of General Counsel initiated an immediate investigation.

"This is not an athletic process, this is an academic process," Jenkins said. "They will all be judged as students first."

Jenkins explained that the matter is an academic issue first, before athletics. He stressed that the student athletes will go through the same process as other students potentially involved and punishment if necessary will be dealt with through the honor code.

Jenkins and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said that Irish football coach Brian Kelly was informed on Thursday of the investigation. Swarbrick said Kelly was "devastated" by the news.

"We have great confidence in Brian and his staff," Jenkins said, later reiterating that there was no evidence that Kelly knew what was going on.

The university statement that the investigation is ongoing. If it determines that the student-athletes would have been ineligible during past competition, Notre Dame will voluntarily vacate any victories in which they participated.

“The University is committed to thorough resolution of this matter, consistent with its commitment to academic integrity and adherence to NCAA rules," Jenkins said.

Russell has started all 26 games of his Notre Dame career and was expected to be the cornerstone of the Irish secondary in 2014 if not the entire defense. He's an All-American candidate. He had 51 tackles in 2013, making him the fifth best on the team.

Daniels missed the entire spring semester due to academic issues. He returned to campus this summer. He's been contending for a starting spot with Chris Brown. Daniels is Notre Dame's top returning wide receiver, catching 49 passes for 745 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013.

Ishaq Williams was expected to be a starter on a defensive line that lost Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. Kendall Moore is a fifth year senior.

Kelly talked as recently as Wednesday about Russell and Williams being starters in 2014. It came at the same press conference where Kelly announced that Everett Golson had won the starting job at quarterback. Golson missed the entire 2013 season serving an academic suspension for cheating on a test.

Notre Dame begins the 2014 season in just 13 days when they host Rice at Notre Stadium.

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