"I will be on the outside looking in as it relates to this ongoing process," Kelly said.
Speaking publicly for the first time since news broke Friday that DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore would be withheld from practicing with the Fighting Irish because of potential academic misconduct, Kelly acknowledged the personnel hits his program has taken in recent years because of the school's academic demands, while also saying that he took the Notre Dame job five years ago because he wanted to be associated at a place with such high standards.
"I knew coming to Notre Dame, and one of the reasons why I wanted to come here, was there are some core values as one of the preeminent Catholic institutions that you just can't compromise on, and that's integrity," Kelly said. "And if you see that something is going on that's not right -- and obviously through this investigation they found this out -- it's important that it's addressed. And so I applaud the university for doing that.
"Now, along the way, I've lost a starting quarterback and some key players. But I came here because I wanted to be associated with a university that had those standards. And I'm disappointed, I'm saddened in a way for these young men, because they're good kids. They made some bad decisions along the way -- and I'm not throwing these four in that category yet, obviously. But we can talk about Everett [Golson], certainly, in that situation.
"As it relates to the recruitment of the young men here, I think we've brought in the right young men. I think we continue to have to do a better job educating them. We have to do a better job of providing them the resources. Look, this is never a one-sided issue. We have to internally look at providing our student-athletes all of the resources necessary that if, in fact, they took shortcuts, that they don't. And we have to look hard at that. And that's something that will ensue over this issue."
Friday's news was the latest academic-related hit Notre Dame's prominent athletic teams have taken in the last 15 months, as the school suspended Golson, the football team's starting quarterback, last fall semester following what Golson called "poor academic judgment" the previous spring. Golson was reinstated last winter.
Daniels, Notre Dame's top wide receiver, and Jerian Grant, the basketball team's leading scorer, were in similar situations as Golson, being suspended for the spring semester this year before being reinstated in June. (Daniels had cited poor grades for his suspension, while Grant cited poor judgment.)
Now Daniels is among a group of football players -- including three starters -- that is being investigated internally for academic misconduct.
Kelly said he has not talked to the four players being investigated, clarifying that they cannot practice or play with the team but are welcome in the football building for meals and other activities. He said he will withhold them from team and position meetings for now, and he said that he has not been told of any other players on his current team who are being investigated.
Kelly said that he has not been interviewed or investigated himself.
Daniels, Russell, Williams and Moore were a part of Notre Dame's 2012 team that went 12-1 and lost in the BCS national championship game to Alabama. The Rev. John Jenkins, the school's president, said Friday that the school would vacate victories if it determines players have been ineligible during past competition.
Kelly said a potential vacating of the Irish's 2012 wins would not alter his view of that season's accomplishments.
"It wouldn't change in my eyes," the fifth-year Notre Dame coach said. "I've never really counted my victories, it's not something that I've really spent much time thinking about. The satisfaction that I get is in the preparation and the relationships that I have with the players and the accomplishments that you have from year to year with your team and how you play the game. So I never really put much stock in that."
Kelly was also asked if he felt the perception of him has taken a hit, this after his first year at Notre Dame was headlined by off-the-field tragedies that included a student videographer dying at practice and a student at nearby Saint Mary's College committing suicide two weeks after she reported she had been sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player.
"This isn't the time to have a debate on what my leadership or lack thereof is," Kelly said. "My focus is on my football team and getting this team ready. There's a time and place for that. People have their opinions, and certainly they're entitled to them. I'm going to focus on this football team."
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