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.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. SEC’

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.