SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly describes himself as a "bystander" in the university's investigation into academic improprieties that has implicated four members of his football team.
Kelly does not expect to be a part of the university's investigation, in terms of either being implicated or involved in the proceedings. For now, the fifth-year Irish coach — who signed a contract extension a year ago — said he knows as much information as was released by Notre Dame President John Jenkins, CSC, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick in a press conference Friday.
"My emotions were shock and disappointment at the time but anything I could do to help Jack in that situation," Kelly said of his reaction upon being informed of the investigation Thursday. "Certainly as you know, the football coach is not going to be involved in any investigation as it relates to these academic matters. I'll be just like (everyone). I'll be on the outside looking in as it relates to this ongoing process."
Notre Dame revealed Friday it is in the early stages of an investigation into possible academic dishonesty from "several" students, including football players DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams. All four players have been removed from football activities — as in practice and games — until the investigation is complete. Expulsion from the university would be the most severe punishment if the players are found guilty of academic dishonesty.
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Kelly talked about each player in the past tense and said his team is planning to move forward without Daniels, Moore, Russell and Williams for at least its season-opening game against Rice Aug. 30. Replacing those players -- three of whom were expected to start -- won't be easy, but that's where Kelly said his focus is right now.
Still, academic issues have mounted for Notre Dame in the last year and a half. Everett Golson was booted from campus for the 2013 fall semester after cheating on a test, while Daniels missed the 2014 spring semester due to poor grades. Kelly, though, touted the accountability fostered within the program for these academic transgressions.
"You have to create an environment for your players on a day-to-day basis that they know you can’t cut corners and that they’re going to be held accountable on a day-to-day basis," Kelly said. "That’s the most important thing for me. So, if you let your players do whatever they want and they feel like they’re not accountable, then I don’t think you should be a head coach.
"I think if you create an environment and lay out the expectations of your program and they’re not met, then they should be held accountable. That’s been the case every year I’ve been a head coach."
Kelly said no other current players are being investigated by Notre Dame, though Jenkins and Swarbrick reiterated time and time again Friday the investigation is still in its early stages.
If the investigation finds former players were culpable for academic violations, or any of the four players — a junior, two seniors and a graduate student — were guilty dating back to previous seasons, Notre Dame would voluntarily vacate wins from games in which those players participated.
Kelly, though, said he wouldn't view the vacating of wins as a major black mark on his résumé.
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"I never really counted my victories," Kelly said. "It’s not something that I really have spent much time thinking about. The satisfaction I get is in the preparation and relationships with the players and the accomplishments that you have from year to year with your team and how you play the game so I never really put much stock in that."
On Friday, Swarbrick said there have been "hundreds" of academic success stories to come out of Notre Dame in an attempt to balance the ignominy of the investigation against the school's brand as a beacon of academics amid a number of football-first powerhouses. But given the Golson situation and the current investigation, the national headlines on Friday tore into the perception Notre Dame has so proudly touted.
Kelly, though, said he's confident Notre Dame has recruited the right kind of players for the school — i.e. gifted academically and athletically — and, if something has to change, it's more on the side of making it known seeking the easy way out academically isn't acceptable.
"I think we've brought in the right young men," Kelly said. "I think we have to continue to do a better job educating them, we have to do a better job 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. And that's something that will ensue over this investigation."