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Notre Dame investigating fraud, bars four players from team

Michael Conroy/Associated Press
Brian Kelly will be without four players during Notre Dame's investigation into academic fraud.

Just weeks before the college football season is set to kick off at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish appear to have a major scandal brewing on campus.

Notre Dame confirmed in a press release on Friday that it's "investigating suspected academic dishonesty on the part of several students, including four members of the football team." The university reported the issue to the NCAA, per its statement, and announced that the football players involved in the investigation "will be held out of practice and competition until the conclusion of an ongoing investigation and the University honor code process."

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed during a press conference on Friday that wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive back KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore are the four football players that have been removed from the team. He also said no players have been dismissed from the team or the university.

Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins said on Friday that there's no evidence coach Brian Kelly or his staff knew about the issues.

All students being investigated, including some non-student-athletes, will remain enrolled until the probe is complete, according to the school's release.

Notre Dame found evidence late in the summer that students had turned in papers and homework that had been written for them by others and referred that evidence on July 29 to the compliance office on athletics, per the school's release. The school's office of general counsel immediately launched an investigation, according to the release.

Notre Dame announced in its release that it will "voluntarily vacate any victories" in which players involved in the investigation participated, if the investigation finds they would have been ineligible to play in those games.

Daniels was the team's leading returning receiver after making 49 catches for 745 yards and seven touchdowns. He was placed on academic suspension for Notre Dame's spring semester but was reinstated in May for summer classes and workouts. Russell was the Irish's top cornerback after starting 26 straight games, dating back to his true freshman season in 2012. Williams was on NFL radars as a draft prospect heading into his senior season as a starter, while Moore was expected to be a key contributor as a reserve linebacker.

The news comes nearly a year after quarterback Everett Golson was dismissed from the school due to an academic issue. Golson eventually revealed the reason for the suspension -- he cheated on a test. Golson was reinstated earlier this year and was just named the starter for the 2014 season by Kelly.

A source told the South Bend Tribune that the scale of the alleged fraud is comparable to North Carolina's sprawling case, which landed the school in hot water with the NCAA.

According to reporters at Friday's practice, none of the four players named in the report were seen leaving the Irish practice fields.

Notre Dame opens the season at home against Rice on Aug. 30.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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