We’ve got a new rivalry on our hands — the tension has been brewing all off-season between LSU and Notre Dame, and it escalated this week when former Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron was photographed observing a spring practice in South Bend.
Apparently spending time in Indiana with his two sons, Orgeron told the team, “What a great coach and coaching staff you have. Some of the best players in the country are right here in this group. I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, but with this staff, this team, you’re gonna win it all.”
Orgeron had attempted to recruit ND head coach Marcus Freeman to LSU as a defensive coordinator before the 2021 season — Freeman ultimately ended up as DC at Notre Dame, where he was promoted to HC within a year, and Orgeron was fired from LSU with a nifty $17 million buyout. Coach O himself said it best — “it looks like he made the right decision to me.”
Coached by Freeman since that fateful week when Brian Kelly abruptly left his 12-year gig to take over for Orgeron at LSU, Notre Dame has remained the subject of much of Kelly’s attention (see this piece from last week for the gory details). Continually shitting on the administration, the facilities, and even the student-athletes, Kelly has dissolved any good faith that was left standing between the Notre Dame fan base and their all-time winningest coach.
After a few funny and bizarre choices in Kelly’s first few months at LSU, including badly dancing with recruits for promo videos and adopting a twangy accent less than a week into his stint in the south, Kelly has been putting on a friendly, easygoing face in interviews, but having experienced his version of “authenticity,” I find it hard to swallow the act.
Orgeron’s presence and statements in South Bend certainly can’t go overlooked as some coincidence, and the passive-aggressive relationship between a Kelly-coached LSU and Notre Dame is coming to a head on social media. After Kelly’s comments last week, essentially blaming ND’s supposed lack of resources on his inability to win big games, the ND Football Twitter account posted photos from a practice accompanied by the caption, “no excuses here.” Plus, we can’t forget Orgeron’s emphasis on winning it all “with this coaching staff” in his speech to the team.
Then, yesterday, special teams coordinator Brian Polian, one of the few coaches who left their same position at Notre Dame to follow Kelly to LSU, tweeted, “We are incredibly fortunate to have the Performance Nutrition Center for our student-athletes - one of the finest facilities in the country!”
Harmless without context, we can pretty safely assume that Polian is referencing Kelly’s interview from last week, in which he went into detail on how Notre Dame’s cafeteria for athletes was not up to par by his standards, and how much better LSU’s performance nutrition center was, as part of a bizarre implication that Kelly had failed to win a championship because football players were eating pre-cooked meals rather than having a personal chef.
And THEN, just to demonstrate how put-on this Dabo-style aw-shucks routine Kelly’s attempting to pull off really is, several screenshots were posted on Twitter yesterday of an Instagram story on Kelly’s official account that had been posted and then quickly deleted — but not quickly enough.
The story was a screenshot of a tweet that reads, “everyone who is connected with sources inside the current program KNOWS [AD Jack Swarbrick] is retiring in 2 years along with President Jenkins…Jack wanted to please the people so he didn’t search for a coach and hired Marcus, hope he made the right choice but I doubt it.”
Yep, that’s right — a tweet from an unknown source with a Pepe the Frog profile picture and one single like implying that not only are the president and athletic director of a major university planning a joint retirement in two years, but that Kelly’s successor — a man he himself hired and has publicly spoken positively of since the hire — was the wrong choice for the job.
The tweet was posted from an account that was created about a month after Kelly’s departure from ND. Since the Instagram story, all the account’s tweets have been deleted except one that reads “high school coaches know freeman’s been on shaky ground since day 1. they’re telling their kids to find a more stable landing spot.”. Among the 17 accounts that the poster follows are Polian, Kelly himself, and Kelly’s three children.
Since it’s just a screenshot, there is, of course, always the chance that it was a Photoshop job — and, of course, there’s always another chance that he was hacked, or some social media intern posted it by accident, or any number of situations in which Kelly himself did not put this tweet up. But to be honest, with the way things have been going between him and his former employers, it wouldn’t be a shock that he had something like this saved, or, as some are hypothesizing, if this is actually Kelly’s own burner Twitter account. The retirement rumor, if true, would be an enormous shock to the Notre Dame community and fanbase, as neither Jenkins nor Swarbrick have even come close to implying that their leadership will be coming to an end at some point in the near future.
At this point, I’m just hoping for a home-and-home series getting scheduled between the schools in the next five or so years. If it continues like this, there’s going to be so much animosity between the teams that it’s sure to be a thriller.