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Three of four Notre Dame players investigated for academic fraud are starters

Suspended Daniels, Grant readmitted to Notre Dame
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FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2013 file photo, Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, left, pushes off Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen on his way to an 82-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind. Notre Dame has reinstated Daniels, the football team's leading retuning receiver, and Jerian Grant, the basketball team's leading scorer, after they were suspended for the spring semester for undisclosed academic violations. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Notre Dame is reportedly investigating four players for academic fraud.

From our Pat Forde:

Sources said four members of the football team were interviewed by school officials Friday: receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive back KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and linebacker Kendall Moore. The probe also is looking at non-athletes, sources said.

The situation was described to Yahoo Sports as a potential “honor code violation,” which could result in the ineligibility of the players. Under NCAA protocol, if any fraud that occurred impacted players’ eligibility the school could ultimately vacate victories. Both Daniels and Russell were significant players during Notre Dame’s 2012 season, when the Irish went 12-0 before losing to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.

Daniels, Russell and Williams are listed as starters according to Notre Dame's depth chart on Rivals.com.

Notre Dame will have a press conference at 6 p.m. ET about the investigation. The school issued a statement Friday afternoon.

“Integrity is at the heart of our mission and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president. “If the suspected improprieties are proven, we will use the experience to reinforce among our students the importance of honesty in all that they do. We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating.”

Evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others was initially detected at the end of the summer session, and referred to the compliance office in athletics on July 29. The Office of General Counsel initiated an immediate investigation.

Daniels had 49 catches for 745 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. He's Notre Dame's leading returning receiver. If he's unable to play in 2014, the Irish's leading returner at receiver would be Chris Brown, who had 15 catches for 209 yards in 2013. In 2012, Daniels had 490 yards receiving. He was unable to enroll at Notre Dame for the spring semester after he had a GPA below 2.0 in the fall semester. He was readmitted for summer classes.

Russell had 51 tackles and an interception in 2013. In 2012, he started all 13 of Notre Dame's games as a freshman and had two interceptions. Williams had 17 tackles a year ago and had 1.5 sacks.

Notre Dame recently named Everett Golson as its starting QB. Golson, who was Notre Dame's starter in 2012, missed the 2013 season after he had cheated on a test. He reapplied for admission to Notre Dame after the fall semester and was back in school for the spring 2014 semester.

If Notre Dame is forced to vacate any victories as a result of an investigation, the Irish would be the first team to appear in the BCS title game to vacate victories since USC. In 2010, the NCAA mandated that the Trojans vacate wins in games that Reggie Bush participated in, including the 2005 Orange Bowl. The NCAA also handed the Trojans a loss of scholarships and a bowl ban.

North Carolina was punished by the NCAA in 2012. The NCAA banned UNC from postseason play that season and also limited scholarships because of impermissible benefits and academic impropriety under former coach Butch Davis.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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