Brian Kelly is on a mission to make himself Public Enemy Number One in South Bend, Indiana, for reasons unknown. His daughter will be graduating from Notre Dame next month, and at this point, if I were Kelly, I wouldn’t be too keen about showing my face on campus.
After 12 seasons at Notre Dame, during which he was given countless second chances and, after a rough start to his tenure, eventually became the winningest coach in Notre Dame history, Kelly shocked Irish fans when he announced in January that he would be leaving for LSU.
While it came out of the blue at the time, there was widespread support for the school’s decision to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to the head coaching position, and a sense of appreciation for Kelly’s years with the program and understanding of his choice to move on.
But he hasn’t moved on. For some reason, he will not shut up about Notre Dame, even after months in Baton Rouge. In a recent interview with AP, he went into the most detail yet about his decision to move, doubling down on some questionable remarks in recent months that boil down to him blaming Irish players and the ND administration for his failures in major games against ranked teams, whether during the regular season or the postseason.
I can understand having some issues with administration — Kelly asked for updated facilities that he never got, and that could have been frustrating. But during the four years that I was a student there — Kelly’s final four years as head coach — the school built an enormous new indoor practice facility and finished a four-year, half-billion dollar project that completely revamped the stadium. In the years before that, they installed turf for the first time at Kelly’s request in Notre Dame Stadium and, perhaps most importantly, allowed Kelly to stay after going 4-8 in 2016 and losing to Duke at home.
But instead of just talking about LSU’s resources or the appeal of playing in the SEC or wanting a change of pace after a decade or even that $95 million contract, Kelly continues to talk shit — or, at the very least, imply shit about Notre Dame. Let’s take a look at some quotes from the AP piece and another CBS piece from yesterday.
On why he left: “I felt like I did everything that I could at Notre Dame and they felt like they did everything they could for me.”
From where I’m standing, there’s no way to take this aside from Kelly implying that he was the reason that ND made it to the big games, and ND was the reason that he lost the big games. He did everything he could until he hit the ceiling that they apparently put over him — an excuse, nothing more, and one that will fall through very quickly if he’s unable to win the big ones at LSU in the coming years.
On LSU’s nutrition center: “We don’t have that. We hand out food that’s precooked. Did you walk into the [Guglielmino Athletics Complex at Notre Dame]? There is no training table. We bring food in from the cafeteria. You get a sack lunch.”
Alright, there is no more “we” between Kelly and Notre Dame. You have a new “we” now — particularly if you’re going to be shitting on the Irish facilities like that. I mean — a sack lunch? He’s making Notre Dame look like they have the resources of a middling Division III program. While there’s no doubt that there’s room for improvement in the athletic facilities at Notre Dame, a fact that AD Jack Swarbrick has acknowledged, this comes across as really over the top and unnecessary.
On being at LSU: “You’ve got players that want to be great.”
I mean, you can’t get much lower than blaming the kids that you recruited and coached for your own inability to succeed. To make this statement is to tell the world that this is a new development — that the athletes at Notre Dame who made multiple CFP playoff and BCS championship appearances under Kelly did not win it all because they were somehow lacking the desire for greatness. It is a comparison between teams that is completely unfounded and that allows Kelly to shirk any responsibility for a lack of greatness.
On recruiting: “It starts with the ability to recruit within 3 hours of your campus…”At Notre Dame I was in a plane for four weeks. I’d have to go into every state and pull their best player from their flagship high school. When I went to California, I had to beat USC or UCLA. When I went to Texas, I had to beat Texas or A&M. When I went to Florida, I had to beat Miami.”
Kelly’s recruiting was always a point of contention with Notre Dame fans — happy to be getting consistent 10-win seasons, you could kind of overlook his lazy recruiting efforts, but it’s clearer now than ever as Marcus Freeman gets what seems like a new four- or five-star commitment every week in his first few months of leading the program. Kelly didn’t want to put the effort in, so the ease of recruiting he hopes to find in Louisiana will probably be a good thing. Yet another shoddy excuse for not winning the big ones, and also kind of a revealing statement that he wants to be somewhere where he doesn’t have to work hard to earn the commitments of top recruits.
All I have to say at this point is good luck to LSU. I’m sure you’ll enjoy everything being your fault when things go wrong and everything being to Kelly’s credit when things go right. Authenticity and the ability to accept accountability can’t be bought, even for a hundred million dollars.