Hands Off

Hands Off

A head coach heretofore successful in putting his stamp on every aspect of the Notre Dame football program will be a bystander for a pending investigation that could affect him most.

Four of Brian Kelly's players have been removed from team practices and games pending an internal, ongoing investigation into "academic dishonesty."

That's what we know. The head coach today offered he knows the same. Maybe less.

"Certainly you know a football coach is not going to be involved in any investigation as it relates to an academic matter," Kelly said. "I will be just like you, I'll be on the outside looking in as it relates to this ongoing process."

He later added, "I don't have a lot of facts. I was just alerted to the situation on Thursday by (director of athletics) Jack (Swarbrick). I don't have any of the information. I would defer to what you picked up in the press conference yesterday as having more information than I do."

He'll learn more, of course. But the process mandates he be kept at arm's length regarding adjudication. Kelly will be informed of the players' fate, collectively or individually, when it's determined. Frustrating as that reality may be for both Kelly and Notre Dame fans, the fifth-year Irish head man, at least in part, probably doesn't mind.

A football-only foxhole has presented, and Kelly will bury himself and his remaining 77 scholarship players in it.

"I care for those four guys deeply," Kelly said of fifth-year senior Kendall Moore, seniors DaVaris Daniels and Ishaq Williams, and junior Keivarae Russell. "But I have a job to do and I have another 100 players that I have to be concerned with and my focus and attention is to continue to develop our players on a day-to-day basis. Creating the right environment for our guys to continue to live and learn and make the right decisions.

"They care about their teammates just like I do," Kelly later added. "They're competitors, they're wired to play football and play a team sport. And when it's time to play they're going to play for their university, they're going to play for themselves, they're going to play for their families -- that's how they've done it their whole lives."

Kelly has not yet spoken to the players in question, but plans to over the next 24 hours. He has not yet decided if they'll be allowed to formally address the team, though each is welcomed to enter the Guglielmino Athletics Complex to train, and to eat and commiserate with their teammates.

He chose to keep his comments to the team regarding their missing mates private.

Kelly though spoke for the masses when he offered that the quartet in question and those that came before and since had a responsibility bestowed upon them when they first walked through the university's doors.

"It's a privilege to play at Notre Dame. It's not a right," Kelly said. "We hold our players to a very high standard. I believe Notre Dame to be vigilant to that end. We don''t say one thing and do another, and I'm proud of Notre Dame in the way that they act. We don't look the other way. If we find improprieties as it relates to this matter, we're going to address them and deal with them.

"In our locker room we have a very simple covenant: "Treat women with respect. Don't lie, don't cheat, and don't steal.

"Our players see that every single day when they walk into that locker room. It's been on that wall every single day since I took this job."

Asked how he feels when such a covenant is broken, Kelly said, "I'm a parent and this is an extended family for me. It hurt. But, I know the business I'm in. We have 18-21-year olds we have to educate."

For many Irish fans its alarming that Kelly did not know of any such improprieties. For some, that's an indictment, for others, it illustrates the long-existing reality of a handful of adults in charge of scores of college students.

Regardless of your stance, it's a strike against him that likely won't afford the 24-year coaching veteran the benefit of the doubt should another similar present in his time at the helm.

"When the investigation is complete, I'll want to know," said Kelly when asked point-blank if he wants to know more. "It's too early for me and I'm not involved in it right now. Certainly anytime there's a situation that affects your program, you want to know. But there's a time and place for that."

Since his involvement couldn't have reasonably been timely, it has to be after. And Kelly is confident his efforts prior were thorough and encompassing.

"You have to create an environment for you players on a day-to-day basis in which they know that they can't cut corners, and that they'll be held accountable," he said of his role. "That's the most important thing to me. If you let your players do whatever they want and feel like they're not culpable, I don't think you should be a head coach. If you create an environment and you 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 coach. That's how I've lived my life, that's how I've coached in everything that I've done."

It's how he'll ultimately be judged, and as with his players, the timeline and result to that end is unknown.

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