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Notre Dame suspects four football players of academic cheating

(Reuters) - The University of Notre Dame's storied football team will hold four key players out of games and practice because of suspected academic fraud that could force the school to vacate past wins, the university said on Friday.

The South Bend, Indiana, university said the possible academic fraud was first found at the end of its summer session and included "evidence that students had submitted papers and homework that had been written for them by others."

Fighting Irish starting wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, defensive lineman Ishaq Williams and backup linebacker Kendall Moore were among the students involved, school athletic director Jack Swarbrick said.

The school has told the NCAA about possible academic fraud and the third-winningest football program may also have to hand back some of its wins.

"Notre Dame will voluntarily vacate any victories in which they participated," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president.

Davis had been suspended for the spring semester for academic reasons but his ban was later lifted.

Notre Dame, one of college football's classic powers and emblematic brands with their bright gold helmets, finished last season at 9-4 a year after losing to Alabama in the national championship game.

The team is ranked No. 17 in the preseason coaches poll and begin their season on Aug. 30 against Rice University.

Jenkins said an investigation was immediately launched when the university became aware of possible academic cheating on July 29.

Jenkins and Swarbrick said they did not know when the suspected cheating began or if it implicated more players or past players.

Notre Dame, which has struggled to be a consistent winner in recent years, has so far resisted pressure to loosen its academic standards for athletes like many of its rival schools.

There was no evidence head coach Brian Kelly other football coaches or academic staff knew about the suspected academic fraud, Jenkins said.

Starting quarterback Everett Golson was dismissed from Notre Dame last year for what he said was for cheating on a test. Golson is now back with the team after sitting out a year.

In June, the NCAA reopened an investigation into academic fraud at the University of North Carolina. The school's football program had been hit in 2012 with sanctions for academic fraud and impermissible benefits.

(Reporting by Eric Kelsey)

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