UPDATE: Irish suspend four, including KeiVarae Russell, DaVaris Daniels

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In the words of noted Irish fan Homer Simpson, “Notre D’oh!”

With speculation bubbling just below the surface for weeks, Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com reported Friday that four players — wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore, cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams — have been dismissed from the football program.  According to Feldman as well as Yahoo SportsPat Forde, all four were dismissed amidst academic fraud allegations.

That’s not exactly right.

The school released a statement Friday. It clarified that the students in question have been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Notre Dame also notified the NCAA of any potential violations.

“Integrity is at the heart of our mission and academic misconduct will not be tolerated at Notre Dame,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president. “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.

“The University is committed to thorough resolution of this matter, consistent with its commitment to academic integrity and adherence to NCAA rules.”

All three of the defensive players are starters or significant contributors, while Daniels is a starter on the other side of the ball, so the suspensions will have a significant and potentially devastating impact on the Irish moving forward.

Russell, a true junior, has started all 26 games during his two years in South Bend. A freshman All-American in 2012, Russell finished fifth in tackles last season, tops among all defensive backs. His work in pass coverage is superb, as evidenced by the fact that he led all Irish players in passes broken up (eight) and passes defensed (nine).

Russell is the only non-senior in the group.

Daniels’ 49 catches for 795 yards and seven touchdowns were all second on the team last season.  He had been ND’s leading returning receiver.

This is not the first bit of academic trouble Daniels has run into recently.  In January of this year, Daniels didn’t enroll in classes for the spring semester due to academic concerns.  He was readmitted in May.

Williams has played in 24 games the past two seasons and is a starter this season, while Russell has played in all 39 games the past three seasons after redshirting as a true freshman.

Everett Golson, who started at quarterback during the Irish’s run to the BCS title game, suspended from the university for cheating on a final exam.  He was reinstated in December of last year after missing the entire 2103 season, and was named the starting quarterback Thursday.

Former Nebraska OL coach Mike Cavanaugh hired by Syracuse

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Dino Babers has added a very experienced trenchman to his Syracuse coaching staff.

The school confirmed Tuesday that Babers has hired Mike Cavanaugh as his next offensive line coach. In a coaching career that spans 32 seasons, Cavanaugh has been a line coach in some form or fashion for 31 of them.

“Mike has an outstanding track record of teaching and developing quality offensive linemen,” Babers said in a statement. “He’s done it successfully at every level in college as well as the pros. This was an opportunity to add someone whose knowledge and experience will greatly enhance our staff and benefit our players.”

The past three seasons, Cavanaugh was the line coach at Nebraska. At the FBS level, he’s also served as a line coach at Oregon State (2005-14) and Hawaii (1999-2004).

From 1997-98, Cavanaugh was the assistant offensive line coach for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

“I’d like to thank Coach Babers for this opportunity and for welcoming me into the Syracuse family,” Cavanaugh said. “He and his staff have coached some of the most prolific offenses in college football. I’m excited to learn from them and to be part of the championship-caliber program they are building at Syracuse.”

The 2018 season will mark the first time since 2004 Cavanaugh is not a part of a Mike Riley-coached staff.

Kevin Stepherson one of four dismissed by Notre Dame

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At least in South Bend, Kevin Stepherson‘s freefall is complete.

According to 247Sports.com, Stepherson, along with three other Notre Dame football players — sophomore running backs CJ Holmes and Deon McIntosh as well as junior defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum — have been dismissed from the Fighting Irish program.  No specific reason or reasons for the dismissals were given.

Stepherson was one of four Irish players who were suspended for the team’s Citrus Bowl matchup with LSU, with the wide receiver’s suspension stemming from a handful of off-field issues.

Dec. 15, Stepherson was arrested for shoplifting.  The day before that arrest, Stepherson was pulled over on a traffic stop and charged with marijuana possession, driving without a valid license and speeding (he was clocked doing 80 in a 60 mph zone). To make matters worse, at the time of his twin arrests the receiver was already on probation for a marijuana-related arrest in August of 2016.

Adding to the off-field issues, Stepherson was suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for reasons unrelated to the arrest in August of 2016.

At the time of the second suspension, Stepherson led the Fighting Irish in receiving touchdowns with five and yards per catch at 18.9 despite missing one-third of the regular season because of the first suspension.  His 19 receptions and 359 receiving yards were both good for third on the team.

Another of the players who were dismissed, Holmes, was arrested along with Stepherson in the shoplifting incident.  Holmes ran for 32 yards on eight carries this season.

McIntosh was the fourth of the four players suspended for the bowl game.  At the time of his suspension, McIntosh was third on the team in rushing with 368 yards and five touchdowns.

Tiassum played very sparsely this past season, and wasn’t looking at much more playing time in 2018.

West Virginia, Pitt to renew Backyard Brawl in 2022 opener

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For those waiting for the renewal of the Backyard Brawl, we now know exactly how long you have to wait. The schools announced Tuesday that the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry will again be played on Sept. 3, 2022, in the season opener for both sides. The schools previously announced a four-game series from 2022-25, but the first matchup was set for Sept. 17, 2022.

The games in even numbered years will be held in Pittsburgh, while odd numbered games will switch to Morgantown.

Pitt and WVU last met on Nov. 25, 2011, a 21-20 Mountaineers win in Morgantown. West Virginia has won the last three meetings and 14 of the last 21, but Pitt holds a 61-40-3 all-time advantage in a series that dates back to 1895. Between 1929 and 1951, the Panthers and Mountaineers met annually, with West Virginia winning just once.

Pitt will complete its own rivalry renewal with Penn State over the next two seasons; the Panthers host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 8 of this coming season, and will visit Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019. Pitt hosts Notre Dame in 2020 and visits Tennessee in ’21. With today’s adjustment, Pitt is now set to open the 2022 season with back-to-back home games with West Virginia and Tennessee. Pitt is also set to visit both West Virginia and Notre Dame in 2023, and will face the Mountaineers and Irish again in 2025.

West Virginia opens this coming season with Tennessee in Charlotte, and visits NC State two weeks later. The Mountaineers visit Missouri and host NC State in 2019. WVU is set to double-up with Power 5 non-conference opponents every year through 2024: vs. Florida State (at Atlanta) and vs. Maryland in 2020, at Maryland and vs. Virginia Tech in 2021, at Pittsburgh and at Virginia Tech in 2022, at Penn State and vs. Pitt in 2023, and vs. Penn State and at Pitt in 2024.

Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione reportedly set to join CFP selection committee

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The College Football Playoff is set to replace six selection committee members before next season, and the first one is in. Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione will join the committee, according to ESPN’s Heather Dinich.

Castiglione will replace Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, who also served as the committee’s chairman.

This will be the third selection committee on which Castiglione has served, finishing the Big Three trifecta after he worked on the baseball and men’s basketball committees. He will be on the committee for the 2018, ’19 and ’20 seasons.

Castiglione will be forced to recusal himself from any discussions involving Oklahoma, a 2015 and 2017 participant in the College Football Playoff. Ohio State AD Gene Smith and Clemson AD Dan Radakovich also did the same regarding their programs. Radakovich is also set to cycle off the committee this year, along with former Arkansas AD Jeff Long, former NCAA executive Tom Jernstedt, former Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg.