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Notre Dame's academic scandal gives rival recruiters ammo

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The Irish coaching job just got a little bit tougher in every way, including the most important for the future of the program.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame has recruited at an elite level under coach Brian Kelly. Notre Dame's notable pitch line to recruits is "make a 40-year decision," implying that the Notre Dame education and alumni network will benefit the recruit long beyond the time when his playing career is over.

It works. Sixty-three percent of the players Notre Dame has signed under Kelly have been rated four- or five-star prospects, with another strong class underway. The mark is bested only by Alabama, Ohio State, and USC in that span.

We have an idea of just how hard the four reported dismissals will hit the Irish on the field this season. But it's impossible to say just how the academic cheating scandal unfolding at Notre Dame will impact the Irish's recruiting going forward. Here are some things to consider.

Negative recruiting fodder

This will be used against Notre Dame in recruiting by rival schools, no matter how shady that is. Coaches at some other schools already tell recruits with academic profiles close to the minimum accepted by Notre Dame that they won't be able to handle the coursework in South Bend.

That might sound rude. But given that Notre Dame is a tougher academic institution than many of its local and national rivals, it's a card some opposing coaches choose to play.

And now, coaches who would make those arguments have a lot to work with, in light of the four involved players and quarterback Everett Golson, who missed the 2013 season after academic issues of his own.

If you know how dirty the recruiting game is, it is fairly easy to envision a coach telling a recruit considering the Irish something like this:

"I recruited [one of the five players who's been in academic trouble at Notre Dame]. His test scores were higher than yours, and he still had to cheat to make it in South Bend. Are you sure you want to risk becoming ineligible or expelled if you go there?"

Of course, that can always blow up in the face of the rival recruiter. What if the prospect gets offended and decides to prove that he can handle Notre Dame's classes?

Admission standards

Another impact from the scandal could be a tightening of Irish admission standards. It is generally accepted in recruiting circles that there are some recruits Notre Dame won't pursue due to academics (notably junior college students and players with serious qualifying issues). But Kelly has more or less been allowed to recruit whichever players he wants.

Notre Dame is a school very proud of its academics, doing things the right way, and following NCAA rules, as its release Friday indicates.

"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."

If the Irish reputation takes a beating from this scandal, it's not unreasonable to envision Kelly being told by the administration to recruit a higher level of student, which would shrink the talent pool available to the Irish.