Is there finally an end in sight for Notre Dame's suspended players?

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Perhaps there finally is a clear end point for the Frozen Five suspended Notre Dame football players.

Maybe. Sort of.

The process, 58 days old on Wednesday from the start of the academic fraud investigation, is still shrouded in “no comments” from the academic side of campus and loaded up with “ifs” in the latest smattering of information Irish head coach Brian Kelly received on Friday.

“I was informed that the academic committee has been formed officially,” Kelly said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

“And if all things move in the manner that they’re hoping and that they’re able to get through all of the information, that the five student-athletes will get their hearings concluded by the end of next week.”

Being held out for the fourth game in a row are starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell, starting defensive end Ishaq Williams, starting wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, reserve linebacker Kendall Moore and backup safety Eilar Hardy.

The eighth-ranked Irish (3-0) play Syracuse (2-1) Saturday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (8 EDT; ABC-TV). Their first possible game back, if the timetable holds up and if any are reinstated, would be an Oct. 4 home game with 16th-ranked Stanford (2-1).

Hardy has not practiced or been in team meetings since Aug. 28. The other four have been held out of those activities since Aug. 15.

Kelly said the five have been working out with Notre Dame director of football strength and conditioning Paul Longo in the interim and have watched the home games at least from the stands.

So how quickly could the five be reintegrated and make meaningful contributions if they happen to be cleared?

“The only thing that gets you in shape for football is football,” said Aaron Taylor, current CBS college football analyst and former Notre Dame All-America offensive lineman.

“So they could be in great condition, but not necessarily ‘football shape.’ It’s foolish to think that in one week of practice you could step in and pick up right where you left off.

“I think in an ideal situation with a super-experienced player, two weeks would be a reasonable expectation to get maximum production. It’s going to take a while for them to get their sea legs underneath them. And I’m not sure it’s any easier for one position versus another.”

Fans, and even the father of DaVaris Daniels, have taken to social media to express outrage over the length of the process.

“How many #Irish fans feel that this is a bit ridiculous and unfair to the 5 young men?” Phillip Daniels tweeted Tuesday afternoon on his Twitter account. “The FBI don't take 2 1/2 months to solve crimes!”

As for Kelly, he’s not willing at this point to go down that road.

“I don’t have an opinion, and I really wouldn’t want to share it publicly,” he said when asked about his thoughts of the way the process has been handled to date.

As to whether the group of five have essentially been found guilty, given the amount of games and practice time they’ve already missed, Kelly responded, “I really don’t have enough information to really give you an opinion on that.

“We’re probably going down a path that has never been gone down before.”

Kelly clarified that to mean the formation of a special academic committee to handle the hearings being the area where new ground has been broken. Typically, honor code violations are handled by the honesty committee of the college or department that offered the course in question.

When asked for clarification about this special committee and the composition of it, university spokesman Dennis Brown declined comment and ND athletic director Jack Swarbrick did not respond to a request for comment.

All of which left Kelly to sort of fend for himself to provide answers for a fan base starving for detail.

“I do not have any knowledge of vacating wins or NCAA implications,” Kelly said. “I have not been informed of that. And whether that is impending, I think I would have been informed of all of those things if we were in that kind of immediacy, if you will.”

But information has been spotty and unpredictable. And Kelly, on the outside looking in for much of the process, is looking for ways to refine it, moving forward.

“Certainly these are dialogues and that Jack and I are having,” Kelly said, “because there are clearly ways that we believe, internally, that we need to get better.

“So we don’t wait until January to have those conversations. We’re having them right now.”

Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell (center) hopes to get back on the practice field sometimes next week if reinstated from his suspension. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)