Eilar Hardy fifth player named in Notre Dame football investigation

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The relief that the investigation phase of Notre Dame’s academic fraud probe had ended Thursday was mitigated for head football coach Brian Kelly by a new dangling detail.

Reserve safety Eilar Hardy now joins projected starters cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive end Ishaq Williams and wide receiver DaVaris Daniels as well as reserve linebacker Kendall Moore in limbo, while the process moves into the hearing phase.

Hardy is a 6-0, 202-pound senior from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, who saw no game action in his first two seasons at ND before making 10 appearances last season, including two starts. He was running third team at safety through training camp.

A university official confirmed Hardy as the fifth player now being held out of practice and competition. Kelly acknowledged Hardy was not at practice Thursday and was the only player who fell into that category.

The 17th-ranked Irish open the season as a 21-point favorite Saturday at home against a Rice team that won 10 games last season, but returns just 10 of 22 starters.

“The investigation has concluded and so for our football team, we feel like this brings a big part of closure for us,” Kelly said Thursday after holding practice in Notre Dame Stadium on the new FieldTurf surface. “So now we can really just focus the next 48 hours on preparation for Rice.

“You never want to hear about a young man being pulled from practice and competition, but I think we’ve talked about this. There’s accountability and responsibility and that will ensue here over the next week or so.

“Again, from my perspective, the most important thing now is we have some closure and we can move forward knowing that we can prepare our football team.”

The five players in question, meanwhile, will prepare for hearings. Based on his past experience with the honor code process, Kelly expects an expeditious conclusion to a procedure that began with the start of the investigation phase on July 29.

“I’m assuming if they follow the same process here that the next step would be first they’re obviously presented with the charge of inquiry and then the hearing itself,” Kelly said.

He added that since the investigation is closed, the possibility of additional current players being added to the group in limbo is now a dead issue.

Kelly has held the first four players out of team meetings during the process, which wasn’t part of the terms of their suspension. Rather, Kelly didn’t feel the players would get much out of meetings because they would be distracted.

Given that there’s a conclusion on the horizon, Kelly said he will consider revisiting that stance.

“I think we’re probably closer to that now,” he said. “We’ll start to consider next week. If this process moves quicker, that’s a conversation I’ll have with (athletic director) Jack (Swarbrick).”

Notre Dame senior safety Eilary Hardy (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN).