SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Four Notre Dame players, including two starters, will not be allowed to participate in football activities as the university continues an internal investigation into academic misconduct, the school announced Friday.
Notre Dame said in a statement that there was "evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others." That evidence was reported to the athletics compliance office on July 29, and an immediate investigation was launched. The NCAA was notified Friday.
Backup linebacker Kendall Moore is also being held out of practice during the investigation.
All four players were part of Notre Dame's 2012 team, which lost in the BCS national title game to Alabama. Daniels and Russell were starters on that team. Williams was projected to start this year, as well.
Williams and Moore are seniors this season, while Daniels and Russell are juniors. The Fighting Irish are ranked No. 17 in the preseason USA Today/Coaches poll.
A source told ESPN that the four players did not practice Friday.
The Fighting Irish are now facing the possibility that a second straight season could be affected by academic misconduct issues.
Last year, quarterback Everett Golson missed the season after being suspended from school for what he called he called poor academic judgment. The Irish finished 9-4 behind Tommy Rees, but coming off an appearance in the BCS title game in 2012 it was a step back.
Golson is back, but now coach Brian Kelly could be scrambling to fill holes before opening his fifth season in South Bend at home against Rice on Aug. 30.
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Kelly was "devastated" by the news.
The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, and Swarbrick expressed support for Kelly.
"We have great confidence in Brian and his staff," Jenkins said. "They have been nothing but supportive."
Jenkins said Notre Dame has notified the NCAA about the inquiry. Because of potential violations, the four players can't compete until the conclusion of the investigation and the university honor code process.
Jenkins said during a news conference that no student has been judged responsible for "academic dishonesty."
"Nobody has been dismissed," Jenkins said.
Jenkins would not speculate when asked how far back the misconduct could have taken place.
"Integrity is at the heart of our mission, and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame," Jenkins said. "If the suspected improprieties are proven, we will use the experience to reinforce among our students the importance of honesty in all that they do.
"We are also examining ways of better conveying to students that they can avail themselves of legitimate academic assistance without resorting to cheating."
Jenkins said there is no timetable about how long the investigation will take.
"We will take as long as it takes to have a thorough and fair investigation and proceed through our academic honor code process."
He said such investigations at Notre Dame aren't common "but it happens."