What's buzzing:

Notre Dame trying to stay united during investigation into academic scandal

Pat Forde
Yahoo Sports

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – After nearly an hour at the podium, Brian Kelly walked up the steps of Isban Auditorium in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, his Notre Dame media day duties complete.

Behind him, director of football media relations Michael Bertsch was politely firing a pre-emptive shot at reporters, dissuading them from asking Fighting Irish players and assistant coaches questions about the potential academic scandal that threatens to derail this Notre Dame football season before it starts. Bertsch announced that players and coaches would not answer questions about the "ongoing investigation."

Walking up the steps, Kelly almost breezily echoed the words – seemingly to himself, but out loud: "Ongoing investigation."

The light tone was misleading. Are there two words college coaches like less than "ongoing investigation"? Probably only these two: "You're fired."

If the ongoing investigation ends badly enough, Kelly conceivably could hear those words as well. Of course, that's miles down the road, and certainly nobody in a position of power is saying any such thing at Notre Dame. The school fought hard to keep Kelly from the NFL in January 2013, and he has been its most successful football coach since Lou Holtz. You'd think the administration would dearly love to avoid hiring a fifth coach this century, in yet another reboot intended to recapture the elusive glory days of championships past.

View gallery

.
Quarterback Everett Golson missed all of last season. (AP)

Quarterback Everett Golson missed all of last season. (AP)

But Notre Dame truly is a place that values its academic reputation above its athletic achievements, so this is a serious deal. DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore are being withheld from practice and games while the school looks into potential academic cheating. The starting quarterback, Everett Golson, missed all last season after being caught cheating on a test. Many of the alums who have a Notre Dame degree on the wall would rather lose to USC 20 years in a row than have the elite academic reputation of their alma mater sullied.

So there will be some anxious days for Kelly and his staff as the ongoing investigation on-goes.

Notre Dame's vigor in pursuing these allegations deserves credit, because there are plenty of athletic factories that wouldn't. The idea of underprepared, overwhelmed or entitled athletes cheating their way to passing grades is neither new nor rare. It happens.

A quick story: When I was a freshman at the University of Missouri, I sat down to take my very first college final in an economics class. It was a big auditorium class, and there were four versions of the final exam interspersed on the desks: A, B, C and D. Immediately after sitting down, a wide receiver on the team who was from my high school sat next to me and urgently whispered, "What test do you have?"

"B," I answered, not knowing why he cared.

Next thing I knew, he and two teammates (both starters on a team that was bound for the Holiday Bowl) had scurried around the room and secured three copies of the "B" exam. Then they sat on either side of me and copied every multiple-choice answer I filled in with my No. 2 pencil. I had rarely seen them in class all semester, so it was no surprise they knew none of the material. But it was an unnerving experience on several levels.

When we left the auditorium, the answer key was posted on the wall. I checked the answers, did the math and figured that "we" had all gotten As. That afternoon, the receiver from my high school dropped off a six-pack at my dorm room as a thank-you. I found out that beer doesn't taste very good to guilty taste buds.

That was 1983. I'm sure similar scenes have played out many times before and since. A small percentage of times, the athletes are caught.

View gallery

.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks to his players at practice. (AP)

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks to his players at practice. (AP)

If they are, the consequences can be profound but public. No football program is more public than Notre Dame's, and no football program evokes more schadenfreude when it falls from its lofty idealistic perch.

"No one likes Notre Dame," said safety Matthias Farley, "outside Notre Dame."

So it's not fun to be a Fighting Irish football player who is a suspected cheater. Ask Golson.

The Irish players stuck to the no-comment game plan Tuesday regarding the "ongoing investigation," but Golson provided some insight into what Daniels, Russell, Williams and Moore might be going through. The words he used: "embarrassed" and "humiliated."

Golson was in California working with quarterback guru George Whitfield when he watched the 2013 Irish open the season by laboring past Temple – that was hard. Then he watched the Irish lose to Michigan – that was harder.

"The Michigan game kind of tore me up a little bit," he said. "It was humiliating, but you have to feel that."

Humiliation became motivation. Golson made it back to Notre Dame, regained his starting status and is in good standing academically. He said he has spoken to his four under-investigation teammates, but declined to offer specifics of what he told them.

Farley said the message is unity.

"No one has different feelings about anything," he said. "We love 'em the same."

And then he declined comment, silenced by the "ongoing investigation" that will linger over this storied program for an undetermined amount of time.

View Comments (233)
  • NHL Three Stars: Lightning clinch playoff spot; Sabres don’t lose

    NHL Three Stars: Lightning clinch playoff spot; Sabres don’t lose

    The winger scored two goals and added on assist in the Bolts’ 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens, despite the absence of his linemate Tyler Johnson. He played 13:57 and was a plus-3. The Bolts are now 5-0-0 vs. Montreal this season and clinched a … More »

    Puck Daddy - 8 minutes ago
  • Australia seeking momentum for Ashes on Caribbean tour

    By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia will resist the temptation to tinker with their team on tour against West Indies and plan to field their best 11 in a bid to sweep the two-test series and build momentum for the Ashes, selector Rod … More »

    Reuters - 9 minutes ago
  • Djokovic, Nishikori and Raonic reach last 16 in Miami

    Djokovic, Nishikori and Raonic reach last 16 in Miami

    By Simon Evans MIAMI (Reuters) - Defending champion Novak Djokovic defeated Belgium's Steve Darcis 6-0 7-5 on Monday to power into the last 16 of the Miami Open along with Japan's Kei Nishikori and Canada's Milos Raonic. The Serbian world number … More »

    Reuters - 11 minutes ago
  • Tsarnaev's lawyers try to show brother in charge of bombing

    Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzkhokar Tsarnaev started their case by trying to show that his older brother was the driving force behind the 2013 terror attack. A cell site analyst testified that Tsarnaev's cell phone was being used in … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 4 minutes ago
  • Blazers clinch spot, near division title

    Blazers clinch spot, near division title

    A playoff spot secured, next up for the Portland Trail Blazers is the Northwest Division title. The Trail Blazers haven't won the division since 2008-09, when they shared it with the Denver Nuggets. Portland's last outright title came in the … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 12 minutes ago