Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell expresses frustration over drawn-out process
SOUTH BEND — The second burst of frustration from Notre Dame’s Frozen Five in less than a week seeped into the public eye Wednesday via social media.
Standout cornerback KeiVarae Russell, the highest-profile player among the five at the center of the school’s 65-day-old academic fraud investigation, took to Instagram and provided a peek into the process and how the junior feels about the way it’s playing out.
A Notre Dame official confirmed the authenticity of Russell’s account.
"Just think about how mad these people are going to be when they realize they couldn't hold me down,” he wrote in the caption for a photo of him practicing at the Culver Academies in early August.
“When all my dreams still become fulfilled. When I use them for a degree. When I come back and dominate the NCAA. Just think... #ItsBeenAwhile."
Russell and starting wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and defensive end Ishaq Williams as well as reserve linebacker Kendall Moore have been held out of practices, games and meetings since Aug. 15. Backup safety Eilar Hardy joined them in limbo on Aug. 28.
Their teammates will host 14th-ranked Stanford (3-1) on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish are No. 9 in the latest AP poll.
Daniels talked to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler for a story published on Friday, before Daniels’ hearing was held.
Russell addressed some questioning commenters with a response shortly after his initial post. According to his later comment, Russell was able to tell his side of the story at a hearing earlier Wednesday.
"Noooo, still not not back. It sucks,” he wrote. “Hearing went well in my opinion though. Was able to express my case from my POV and bring light alot of what was false ‘evidence.’ But they are making me wait till every hearing is done to make a decision... it sucks.”
Russell expressed more frustration to his followers in a comment on a previous post.
"This school is becoming ridiculous,” he wrote. “I killed my meeting: I was so prepared and ready and was able to refute damn near every suspicion they had.
“Described details of assignments thoroughly so they couldn't say I didn't do it, AND THEY STILL SAID MY DECISION WONT COME UNTIL ALL 5 OF US (and some other minor hearings) ARE DONE. Decision MIGHT come next week, not even 100% it's tough to understand these people."
The protracted nature of the process has become a flash point for much of the fan base as well. But from a legal standpoint, the elongated procedure actually may make Notre Dame more litigation-proof in the aftermath of decisions finally being handed out and made public.
“Notre Dame could claim it’s protracted, because they are being exhaustive in their review, being cautious that they’re providing the athletes some degree of due process,” said Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated legal analyst and University of New Hampshire law professor.
“They won’t use the phrase ‘due process,’ but something along the lines that they’re ensuring this investigation and disciplinary proceeding is done according to school rules.
“I work for a university and, honestly, these are long processes. They’re not often compatible with the sports schedule. And without knowing exactly what’s going on and looking at it from afar, I think Notre Dame would argue if they’re sued that there’s no real viable legal claim, because they’re ensuring that they’re following their own procedures,
“A school gets in trouble when it starts fast-tracking things, when it skips steps. Then suddenly the person who’s punished really could bring a lawsuit.”
But McCann doesn’t see a potential lawsuit attacking the length of the procedure or a specific punishment having much chance of success.
“I say that because courts are usually deferential to universities in applications of academic procedures,” McCann said. “This would be not only true of athletes, but students generally.
“First off, courts usually will not interfere with a school’s disciplinary process until it’s complete and all appeals are exhausted. In my view, it would be premature for any of them to file a lawsuit until they’ve exhausted all internal appeals at Notre Dame.
“At that point, whenever that is, if they were then to sue, the normal standard of review that a court would apply is called ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ Basically unless Notre Dame was just irrational in how it went about disciplining players, the court would likely not find fault.”
The Notre Dame honor code does include a lot of gray area and does take into account prior disciplinary infractions. So there’s a chance the outcomes of the five cases could have varying degrees of penalties if the players are indeed found guilty to some degree.
“It could go to either the severity of the misconduct and past misbehaviors or some combination thereof,” McCann said. “As long as there’s some kind of rational reasoning for one player to get a stiffer penalty than another, it would be hard for one of the players to say he has been harmed under the law.”
Staff writer Tyler James contributed to this story.