Notre Dame says it will fight order to va­cate 2012-2013 wins

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Paul Skrbina

SOUTH BEND, IND. — In the midst of Brian Kelly’s worst sea­son as coach at Notre Dame, the school learned Tues­day that his best sea­son could be erased from the record books be­cause of aca­demic mis­con­duct.

The NCAA an­nounced Tues­day its rec­om­men­da­tion from the Divi­sion I Com­mit­tee on In­frac­tions that the Ir­ish va­cate all 21 of their vic­to­ries from 2012 — when they went 12-1 and reached the Bowl Cham­pi­onship Se­ries na­tional cham­pi­onship game — and 2013 be­cause an un­named for­mer stu­dent ath­letic trainer com­pleted sub­stan­tial aca­demic work for two play­ers and helped six oth­ers im­per­mis­si­bly.

The school also was placed on pro­ba­tion for a year and fined $5,000.

The school said it will ap­peal the de­ci­sion.

Kelly blasted the rul­ing and said he is con­fi­dent he will re­turn next sea­son as coach of the Ir­ish, even though his team is 4-7 head­ing into its fi­nal game Satur­day at South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He noted that a bowl ban and re­duc­tion in schol­ar­ships weren’t part of the pro­posed pun­ish­ment.

“It’s never hap­pened be­fore in the his­tory of the NCAA; a penalty has never been is­sued in this fash­ion be­fore,” Kelly said. “This was a dis­cre­tionary ac­tion by the com­mit­tee. That’s No. 1. No. 2, it was stu­den­ton-stu­dent cheat­ing. There was no­body im­pli­cated. The NCAA agreed across the board with that find­ing. [The pun­ish­ment] was clearly ex­ces­sive.”

Nei­ther the NCAA nor Notre Dame named the play­ers in­volved in the school’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion that be­gan in 2014. Re­ceiver DaVaris Daniels, line­backer Ken­dall Moore, cor­ner­back KeiVarae Rus­sell and de­fen­sive line­man Ishaq Wil­liams were sus­pended for that sea­son. Safety Ei­lar Hardy also was sus­pended but re­turned in mid­sea­son. Only Rus­sell re­turned to play for the Ir­ish the fol­low­ing year.

Quar­ter­back Everett Gol­son, who led the Ir­ish to the ti­tle game in 2012, said he was ex­pelled in 2013 for cheat­ing on a test but later re­turned to the school be­fore trans­fer­ring to Florida State upon grad­u­at­ing in 2015.

The NCAA said in a state­ment that the for­mer stu­dent trainer “par­tially or wholly com­pleted nu­mer­ous aca­demic as­sign­ments for foot­ball stu­dent-ath­letes in nu­mer­ous cour­ses.” Grades for play­ers in­volved were low­ered retroac­tively.

Kelly, who be­fore the Fi­esta Bowl in Jan­uary called him­self the “CEO” of the pro­gram, said he feels no cul­pa­bil­ity for the in­dis­cre­tions.

“Zero. None,” he said. “Ab­so­lutely none.

“When you hear about va­cat­ing wins, you think of lack of in­sti­tu­tional con­trol. You hear of clearly the abuse within the univer­sity rel­a­tive to ex­tra ben­e­fits, things of that na­ture. These don’t even come close to that.”

Kelly said the school goes to ex­treme mea­sures to en­sure its stu­dent-ath­letes re­ceive proper guid­ance and “re­sources nec­es­sary to suc­ceed.”

“But let’s not kid our­selves,” he said. “Eighty per­cent of col­leges go through cheat­ing. That doesn’t con­done it, but we know what the cul­ture is.”

Notre Dame’s pres­i­dent, the Rev. John I. Jenk­ins, said the school acted “hon­or­ably” through­out its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion and added that the NCAA agreed on the vi­o­la­tions.

“We be­lieve the penalty they have im­posed is not jus­ti­fied,” Jenk­ins said in a state­ment.

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