This just went from a rumor that was everywhere on Notre Dame boards to a three-alarm fire. The rumor: four Notre Dame players were going to be suspended for the year for some variety of academic fraud. Precisely the four players rumored were just absent from Notre Dame practice:
A foursome of Notre Dame veterans was not seen leaving the Irish practice field Friday afternoon. Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams, linebacker Kendall Moore and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels were not among the players who exited the LaBar Practice Field Friday.
Notre Dame did not respond to questions about their absence.
And Pat Forde reports that ND is investigating some academic fraud:
That's Notre Dame's top corner (Russell), wide receiver (Daniels), and defensive end (Williams) plus a backup linebacker. Russell and Daniels were on track to get drafted after this season if they entered the draft early; Williams has been a bit of a disappointment after being a five-star recruit.
There were also rumors that ND was going to vacate their 2012 wins over this, which I don't buy since that actually matters to the Irish and UNC just got off scot free for a scandal which I'm just assuming is infinitely worse than whatever tempest in a teapot the Irish are flagellating themselves for.
UPDATE: Bruce Feldman confirms that all four players have been dismissed, whether temporarily or permanently.
UPDATE II (ACE): According to the South Bend Tribune, this could go beyond current players:
A source told the South Bend Tribune the scale of alleged fraud is comparable to the highly publicized case at the University of North Carolina and that a former player or players could be tied in as well.
Repeated attempts for comment and clarity from Notre Dame officials have gone unanswered.
The scope of this is growing by the minute, it seems.
UPDATE III: Notre Dame just released a statement on the matter.
Note: A news conference at 6 p.m. [ET] today will be streamed live on the University’s website, news.nd.edu, and the athletics website, www.und.com.
The University of Notre Dame is investigating suspected academic dishonesty on the part of several students, including four members of the football team. Because of the potential for NCAA violations, the University notified the NCAAtoday, and the four football players will be held out of practice and competition until the conclusion of an ongoing investigation and the University honor code process. Any possible academic dishonesty by other students will be addressed appropriately.
This part may also be relevant to your interests.
That investigation is ongoing. If it determines that the student-athletes would have been ineligible during past competition, Notre Dame will voluntarily vacate any victories in which they participated.
There's also a rumor going around that up to 22(!) current or former players could be involved; thus far that's uncorroborated, however.