VERNON HILLS — The tail end of Bill Bellecomo’s football practice at Vernon Hills High School last Friday briefly turned into chaos.
Just shy of 5 p.m., several Chicago news stations showed up at the field unannounced to ask questions about the school’s former star wide receiver, DaVaris Daniels. Daniels was one of four players named in an ongoing academic fraud investigation at Notre Dame, hundreds of miles away in Indiana.
A half hour after Bellecomo’s squad left the practice field, a news helicopter still hovered over the Cougars’ freshman practice nearby. At times, it was difficult to hear cadence calls from the players on the field.
“We actually left our practice field four or five minutes early because we were tipped off the news media was on their way,” Bellecomo said. “Right as the reporters came up, we were quickly exiting the other side of the field. I don’t know what they expected to find here, other than wanting a live shot from the school DaVaris used to go to perhaps. DaVaris was an amazing person who was truly — and I mean this — truly liked by almost everyone when he went to school here. He affected people that way.
“Anyhow, during the last hour of our practice, [Brian] McDonald [the school’s athletic director] told me they [the news trucks] were on their way. At least one of them showed up at our former head coach Tony Monken’s house. It was pretty wild for a few minutes. Just out of nowhere, suddenly there’s a bunch of news trucks here and a helicopter.”
Bellecomo kept the media’s arrival a secret from his team.
“We didn’t know until just now that coach even ended practice early,” Cougars senior safety/running back Richard Clark said the next day.
“I didn’t want the kids to have to potentially go through that, with reporters asking them questions about it, so we made a decision to get them off the field as quick as we could,” Bellecomo said. “It didn’t disrupt too much because practice was almost done, but we did have to make a choice to leave the field early.”
Daniels, who is projected to be Notre Dame’s top returning receiver, was previously suspended by Notre Dame for poor grades but was reinstated to the team in May. A cbssports.com report Aug. 16 said Daniels denied any wrongdoing stemming from the school’s latest investigation. That investigation is said to have found alleged evidence that several players turned in papers that appeared to be written by others.