SOUTH BEND, Indiana — The future of five Notre Dame players barred from practices and games because of possible academic dishonesty could be determined by the end of next week.
Coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that committee hearings into the case should be concluded by the of next week "if all things move in the manner that they're hoping, and that they're able to get through all of the information."
The eighth-ranked Irish, who play Syracuse (2-1) in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Saturday night, have been practicing and playing without cornerback KeiVarae Russell, receiver DaVaris Daniels, defensive end Ishaq Williams, linebacker Kendall Moore and defensive back Eilar Hardy.
The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said at news conference Aug. 15 that suspicion about the players was initially detected at the end of the summer session and the case was referred to the school's compliance office July 29. Jenkins said if it is found the players violated the school's honor code, penalties could range from an F on an assignment to an F in the course to dismissal from school.
University guidelines state that honesty committee hearings are held at the departmental or college level, which could complicate things because the players are in different departments at the university. Russell is in the college of business, Daniels, Williams and Hardy are in the college of arts and letters with three different majors and Moore is a graduate student.
Kelly declined comment on his thoughts on the process of the five players being withheld, saying he doesn't have an opinion "and I really wouldn't want to share it publicly." Asked how the process could be improved, he said the situation is "very complicated" with "NCAA implications."
"We're probably going down a path that has never gone before," he said.
Asked to elaborate, Kelly said "a committee of this fashion has not, in my understanding, been set up before." University spokesman Dennis Brown would not elaborate, saying the university is not going to be commenting on the process.
Kelly said he didn't know about anyone beyond the five being involved in the academic dishonesty investigation and said he isn't aware of any possible NCAA violations or of victories from previous seasons possibly being vacated.
"I think I would have been informed of all those things, if we were in that kind of immediacy, if you will," he said.
Separately, Kelly said the Irish coaching staff is looking at making changes along the offensive line to get more physical inside.
"We're still in the process of figuring out who the best five are on the offensive line," he said.
The Irish (3-0) struggled along the line in a 30-14 win over Purdue on Sept. 13. They needed to settle for a field goal early in the second quarter after having the ball 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line, failing to get in the end zone on consecutive runs. On their next drive, they started on their own 2-yard line and got just 1 yard on consecutive runs. Everett Golson was sacked four times and knocked down several other times during the game.
Kelly said a final decision hasn't been made yet, but the depth chart passed out Tuesday listed left tackle Ronnie Stanley as the only player still in the spot where he's been the first three games. Steve Elmer, who started the first three games at right tackle, and Christian Lombard, who started the first two games at right guard, were flip-flopped.
Nick Martin, who started the first three games this season and 11 games last season at center, is listed at right guard. Matt Hegarty, who started the last two games last season at center, is listed as starting center. Kelly said Conor Hanratty, who started the first three games at right guard, and Mike McGlinchey are also being considered as possible starters.
"We're still in the mix of trying to find the right five guys," he said.