Heading into its intersectional rivalry game at USC this weekend, Notre Dame is already taking a loss.
On Tuesday, the NCAA said the Fighting Irish must vacate football wins from 2012 and 2013. Notre Dame finished 12-1 in 2012, losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship, and 9-4 the next season.
The penalty stems from academic misconduct on the part of a female student athletic trainer, who “partially or wholly completed numerous academic assignments in numerous courses” for two players and also provided impermissible academic assistance to six other Notre Dame football players.
An NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions panel said the two players for whom the trainer completed coursework and a third football player committed academic misconduct individually, which resulted in them playing while ineligible — one player during the 2012 season and two during the 2013 campaign.
The Irish beat USC both seasons.
The report doesn't name the players involved, but stems from an investigation that began in August 2014, when the university suspended defensive lineman Ishaq Williams, receiver DaVaris Daniels, linebacker Kendall Moore and cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who weren't allowed to play that season.
The school later benched safety Eilar Hardy, who was allowed to return in midseason. Russell returned and played for the Irish last season.
Coach Brian Kelly was not pleased with the decision and took no responsibility when he addressed reporters following the NCAA’s announcement:
University President Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a statement that the school plans to appeal the decision.
“We believe the penalty they have imposed is not justified,” Jenkins said. “We disagree with the decision of the hearing panel to impose, at its own discretion, a vacation of records penalty.
“In past academic misconduct cases, the Committee on Infractions has imposed this penalty only when it has found serious institutional misconduct.”
Notre Dame was ordered to vacate its wins in which the three ineligible players participated. The exact number of those games was unclear.
The NCAA also has handed down a $5,000 fine, one year of probation for the Notre Dame athletic department, a forced disassociation with the student-trainer and a two-year, show-cause order against the trainer.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
1:00 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the players involved in school academic investigation.
This article was originally published at 11:00 a.m.