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Brian Kelly is ready for his close up

Dec 10, 2009, 5:40 PM EST

After ten days of wild rumors, wild goose chases, and wild denials, it’s being reported that Brian Kelly has agreed to coach the Notre Dame football team. The agreement ends a clandestine search orchestrated by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, his first real test as the man in charge of his alma mater’s athletic department since taking the job sixteen months ago. While many assumed that Kelly would be the one ultimately tapped to be the next man in charge of the Irish football program, the way the decision came to be was far from routine.

Brian Kelly walks away from a 12-0 Cincinnati football team that will now play the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl with Kerry Combs as the interim head coach. That Kelly was willing to walk away from a team that was a 48-yard field goal and a replay official away from playing in the BCS National Championship game goes to show you that the Notre Dame job still means something.

Kelly wasn’t only willing to leave town before a bowl game against the mighty Florida Gators,  he was willing to take over a Notre Dame team that just lost it’s two most prolific offensive weapons, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. It’s a team that will now rely on untested and unhealthy quarterback Dayne Crist, who is only 40 days removed from an ACL tear in his right knee. Even with the instability at quarterback, Kelly’s largest problem will be solving an Irish defense that was historically bad.

So why would a coach that’s presiding over a top college program in a conference ripe for the taking be willing to walk away and take over a Notre Dame program that hasn’t consistently won in 20 years? As we all get to know Brian Kelly, the answer will become obvious.

Brian Kelly has won football games at every stop in his coaching career. He won prodigiously at Grand Valley State. He won big at Central Michigan. He pushed Cincinnati to the apex of college football. And while Kelly won football games with offensive wizardry and tenacious defense, his greatest skill of all might be his upward mobility.

“He’s a salesman, is what he is,” Grand Valley State coach Chuck Martin said of Kelly back in 2007. “Whether it’s Grand Valley State or Central Michigan or Cincinnati, he has kids believing they can move mountains. His number one strength is offense. His number two strength is how good he is politically at getting people to believe in his program. He sells it door to door, which not a lot of coaches do. I remember at Central Michigan, somebody asked him how long the rebuilding cycle would be. He said, ‘About 10 seconds.'”

That Kelly believes he can move mountains should come as no surprise. That Kelly would be willing to jump into the eye of the media storm that comes along with the job and tackle the ghosts of Notre Dame’s past, should be enough evidence that Kelly’s self-belief is far from wavering.

Kelly will be named the ESPN Home Depot Coach of the Year tonight, but he’ll face a much larger task when he meets the press for the very first time as the head coach of Notre Dame. He’d be wise to take note of his predecessor’s stumbles when meeting the press for the first time, and no doubt Kelly will now that anything he says today or tomorrow will be used against him in the years to come.

While many Irish fans hoped for Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops, the hiring of Brian Kelly is solid, if not spectacular. For the first time since Lou Holtz, the Irish will be managed by a battle-tested, proven winner at the collegiate level. While there will surely be growing pains, there likely won’t be any of the fatal flaws that doomed the last three regimes.

More important than Xs and Os, Kelly’s political savvy and ability to sell an image could be his greatest asset, as he tackles a job that’s become one of the more polarizing posts in major sports. Notre Dame is in desperate need of a coach that can become a media darling. Kelly’s quick ascent to the top has shown us he’s capable on the sidelines. As we’ll find out in the days the come, he’s more than ready for his time in the spotlight as well. 

101 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. leomcm - Dec 10, 2009 at 7:13 PM

    A Kelly to lead the Irish! Gosh and Begora! Me thinks he may just send any “Irish” earthbound ghosts still lingering in the halls, classrooms, football fields, or offices into the Light of Redemption. On the other hand they just may wish to hang around now to view what’s been missing here for so long. Maybe we will hear once again “No one, and I mean no one pushes us around in our backyard.”

  2. sharkey - Dec 10, 2009 at 7:58 PM

    @ “Kelly’s largest problem will be solving an Irish defense that was historically bad.”
    Kelly’s Cincinnati team, to me, looks a lot like this year’s Irish had they won all their close finishes. Judging by the ACC Championship against Pitt, they are all offense, very little defense.
    Even if Kelly was to coach them in the Sugar Bowl, they would be nothing but Gator Bait. They cant stop Tebow and the Florida offense, and the Gator defense will easily overwhelm the offensive line. Look for a masacre in New Orleans.

  3. Ted - Dec 10, 2009 at 8:04 PM

    Congratulations to Kelly…after living 5 miles from GVSU and watching them become a national power in DivII, I never would have dreamed he would become the ND coach. Obviously, a man that has the drive, expectations and PASSION for excellence that will help ND not only stabilize, but excel. Great pick…GO IRISH!

  4. Lando - Dec 10, 2009 at 8:19 PM

    Im sorry sharkey but could you tell us again about that ACC title game agaist pitt. cause we all missed it!!!!!!!

  5. sharkey - Dec 10, 2009 at 8:28 PM

    Whoops!!! Living here in FSU territory, I’ve been talkin’ ACC all week long! Meant Big East.

  6. Max - Dec 10, 2009 at 8:47 PM

    What a waste of talent! I wish Kelly nothing but whatever . . ..

  7. willmose - Dec 10, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    Well, let’s see. Knock Kelly because a team he isn’t going to coach is going to lose a game hasn’t yet been played! And if Cincinnati wins the Sugar Bowl, then you will say Kelly wasn’t all that great because they could win without him. Hey dude, you are too much.

  8. DTS419 - Dec 10, 2009 at 10:21 PM

    I was a big fan of ND going after Kelly, but I will also admit to being a little concerned about the defense. After all, Cincy gave up more points to UCONN this year than ND did.
    However, I think the statement that Cincinnati looked a lot like ND had they won all their games is a true testament to Kelly. Cincinnati? I remember when Penn State beat them 81-0 not terribly long ago. If Kelly got Cincy to where they are now, even with a questionable defense, imagine the possibilities at ND. I’m sure Kelly is aware of ND’s defensive problems as well as any of us, and I’m sure it will get plenty of his attention.

  9. robertg - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:06 AM

    1. take the money and run kelly demonstates the complete lack of integrity and loyalty which have characterized his entire career and, knowing full well that kelly cannot suceed at notre dame, builds a huge back end into his contract for his very early retirement after the local and national notre dame media shills and the notre dame administration turn on kelly and his family and his staff and their families 2 years or less from now.
    2. swarbrick and jenkins betray every core value for which notre dame has stood in the past and join our list of proprietors of crooked college football enterprises for economic extermination in the civil courts.
    3. the fighting irish spirit and traditions of which notre dame has been the custodian for so long have left notre dame forever for worthy locations.
    GO IRISH!!! FAR AWAY FROM NOTRE DAME!!!

  10. Bielfriend - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:32 AM

    Hey Sharkey: You’re an IDIOT who didn’t do your homework!!! This years Bearcat defense only returned (1),ONE STARTER from the 2008 squad!!!!! They still went 13-0. Tebow and the overated Geckos will get stomped!!! I can’t wait to see Tebow crying on the sidelines again. He has been all “Smoke and Mirrors” his whole career!!!!! THE IRISH ARE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Rudy

  11. OJ=USC most famous alum - Dec 11, 2009 at 4:35 AM

    Um I wouldn’t go so far as to say Florida is overrated considering they were the defending national champs and beat everyone they played this year except Alabama, which looks like the best team in the country. As far as Tim Tebow doing it with all smoke and mirrors, I think he did it with heart, desire, and passion. If the ND players played with half the emotion that Tim Tebow does on his worst day then ND might have a chance to be great again. The fact that Tebow cried at the end of the game showed me how badly he wanted that game. Dang I would take that kid any day if I was a college coach! Next year more than anything I’m going to watch how much passion the players bring game after game. I am too young to remember the Holtz days so I watch old games on YouTube and find myself amazed at how different the old ND teams looked. Man Zorich and Stonebreaker played with such passion and enthusiasm you couldn’t help but get pumped up playing next to those guys. That’s the kind of stuff that is lacking from the current ND teams and we need a leader like a Tebow or a Zorich to help bring it out of these guys.

  12. robertg - Dec 11, 2009 at 6:49 AM

    1. did swarbrick and jenkins do any background checks on kelly? of course not. swarbrick and jenkins were much too desperate to bother, having ben rejected by urban meyer and stoops and quite a few others.
    2. certain reporters intimately familiar with kelly’s past have done that background check and made the information available online.
    3.in wes morgan’s article “wes morgan column: notre dame football lands big winner, big talker in brian kelly” wes morgan of the kalamazoo gazette writes online on 12/11/2009 as follows:
    “Kelly waited to inform the bearcats of his decision until three hours after they had finished dessert at the team banquet thursday-three hours after the news broke and 10 days after their first gut pang. he ushered them into a meeting room and thanked them for making the opportunity possible. according to the associated press report, little, if any appreciation was reciprocated.
    ‘he went for the money’ mvp wide receiver mardy gilyard said after storming out 60 seconds later ‘ i’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long. i don’t like it. i feel there was a lttle lying in the thing.’
    money talks. what know now(and what some already knew) is that kelly, with a background in politics, tends to do the same. coaches lie and the art of double-speak has become standard operating procedure in the big-dollar business.
    from the time notre dame dismissed charlie weis, kelly, who had led his former team to a 34-6 record in three seasons, reassured cincinnati of his devotion. and just when the bearcats started to believe him, he chased a prettier( insert one with more money) skirt out the door.

    what should be truly disappointing for irish fans, however, is that character no longer seems to be part of the coaching criteria( insert at notre dame). kelly could have kept his mouth shut and still worked both sides. instead, he made promises he never intended to keep.
    perhaps in this, the worst decade of nd football on record, that was of no consequence to swarbrick, who was certainly in an inenviable position. but, as the college game continues its greedy slide, the players continue to be duped by snake oil salesmen.
    hard fellings come with any split. but kelly, whether he cares or not, comes to northern indiana with burned- bridge baggage that notre dame didn’t need…”
    4. still more highly negative information about kelly’s background and character appears in usa today online on 12/11/2009 in articles by kelly whiteside ” notre dame asking kelly to wake up echoes in south bend” and in mike lopresti’s 12/11/2009 ” brian kelly takes over a notre dame that’s not so special any more.”
    5. the bcs game between florida and cincinnati? kelly saw the massacre coming and bailed out of cincinnati before that very ugly massacre could take place( after all, kelly will not have the assistance of dishonest big east officials to save his 4 loss cincinnati from that massaacre by florida, just as the son of a dishonest boston politician that kelly is.
    6. swarbrick and jenkins have brought to notre dame another real disaster in kelly, including a coach without honesty, intergity and character, major character flaws from which both swarbrick and jenkins also suffer.
    GO IRISH!!! GET AS FAR AWAT FROM NOTRE DAME AS POSSIBLE!!!

  13. sharkey - Dec 11, 2009 at 6:50 AM

    While I may not be totally sold on Brian Kelly yet, I am completely sold out on Notre Dame. There is nothing more I would like for Kelly to be the Second Advent of Lou Holz and pull our team out of mediocrity.
    My sincerest welcome and best wishes to our new coach. May his victories be many, and his losses few.

  14. robertg - Dec 11, 2009 at 6:59 AM

    1. kelly simply is not the second coming of anything good for notre dame.
    2. every other notre dame coach had integrity, honesty, and character and do did notre dame as an institution until swarbrick and jenkins threw all of those good and fine core values into the sewers.

  15. sharkey - Dec 11, 2009 at 7:04 AM

    Please forgive me. But being an IDIOT and not having done my homework, it is hard for me to think of any Big East team as dominating, elite, or any other superlative you may want to use since those teams previously described as such moved to the ACC. Perhaps that will change after the Sugar Bowl, but I doubt it.

  16. john - Dec 11, 2009 at 7:43 AM

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! We got us a COACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally the CW abortion is in the rearview mirorr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BYE BYE CHUCKY!!!!!!!!!! HELLO BRIAN!!!!!!!!!!!welcome to the BEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. jfrie63780 - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    I am glad my beloved Irish now have a coach. I just do not like the way it was handled by Kelly. Sorry but to leave your team high and dry before a bowl game is just wrong. All he had to do was say yes I am the new Notre Dame coach effective after the Sugar bowl. Recruits would know he was coming and he could have finished what he started with his team. The coaching staff left at ND could have worked with him , like the presidential transition teams do, to keep recruits and get a few he wants. I do not trust someone that has now done this to a team twice. First Central Michigan and now Cinncy. Whats to stop him in three years leaving for another top program offering more money?

  18. Joe - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    Brian Kelly to the Irish is one of the smartest ideas Jack Swarbrick could have made. I was not born until ’89, so I have never seen an Irish national title. All I can do is go off of stories of Tony Rice and “Rocket” just dominating on the field and making teams look stupid. i have never seen a Heisman winner either. With all of that said, I feel like Kelly can return the Irish to glory so I can see it as well. Davie, Willingham, and Weis were all assistants. I don’t even want to get started on that waste of space, Bob Davie, but Willingham just did not have the tools to run such a team with grand traditions and lots of national attention, possibly the most. Charlie, as much as loved him on the sidelines, was trying to run an NFL team in a college town. And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t equate. Kelly has been a head coach in two college divisions, and has one every he goes. He knows how to run a college football program and he is a man who can handle, and also enjoys the attention from the media. At any rate, I hope that the Irish can finally wake up those hibernating echoes and return to glory once again. GO IRISH!!!!!

  19. Joe - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:50 AM

    Brian Kelly to the Irish is one of the smartest ideas Jack Swarbrick could have made. I was not born until ’89, so I have never seen an Irish national title. All I can do is go off of stories of Tony Rice and “Rocket” just dominating on the field and making teams look stupid. i have never seen a Heisman winner either. With all of that said, I feel like Kelly can return the Irish to glory so I can see it as well. Davie, Willingham, and Weis were all assistants. I don’t even want to get started on that waste of space, Bob Davie, but Tyrone Willingham just did not have the tools to run such a team with grand traditions and lots of national attention, possibly the most in the country. Charlie, as much as loved him on the sidelines, was trying to run an NFL team in a college town. And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t equate. Kelly has been a head coach in two college divisions, and has one every he goes. He knows how to run a college football program and he is a man who can handle, and also enjoys the attention from the media. At any rate, I hope that the Irish can finally wake up those hibernating echoes and return to glory once again. GO IRISH!!!!!

  20. Joe - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:51 AM

    For some reason that posted twice. Sorry everyone!

  21. robertg - Dec 11, 2009 at 9:14 AM

    1. having exhibited the character flaws of dishonesy and lack of integrity and loyalty at both central michigan and cincinnati,there is nothing whatsover to indicate that kelly would not leave notre dame for some other school that pays more money and offers the full time football player options and no academic or character standards options that notre dame does not currently offer unless. of course, swarbrick and jenkins threw a waiver of thopse notre dame core values into the sewers, along with the character requirements which have been a sine que non for every previous notre dame coach.
    2. however, the win at any cost, even cheating with dishonest officiating, is exactly the path down which swarbrick and jenkins have been trying to lead notre dame instead of declaring war on the current corrupt officiating, rules enforcement, and rankings systems that permitted dishonest conference officials to steal 6 wins from charlie and his staff and from notre dame’s student athletes.
    3. with swarbrick and jenkins gone and with notre dame alums who succeeded as student athletes also playing football at notre dame, in the nfl, and in their personal and business lives in full charge of every decision relating to notre dame football and every single nd bashing media shill banned from the notre dame campus, charlie’s wife and son might just forgive notre dame and charlie’s assistants just might come back.
    4. the phony paper loss problems can be cured by declaring war on the corrupt officiating, rules enforcement, and rankings systems.
    5. with jimmy clausen and golden tate, it is really a question of how far tyhey have gone in the nfl direction. they left because of the manner in whicvh charlie and his staff were treated and because they did not trust swarbrick and jenkins.
    6. we have all seen how charlie and his staff can do wonders on the recruiting trails if they have the full confidence and backing of the notre dame administration.
    7. as mike lopresti put it his 12/11/2009 usa today article “brian kelly takes over a notre dame that’s not so special anymore” kelly has to “…assure the masses-who have noted how cincinnati gave up 45,36 and 44 points in three of its last 4 games-that he understands how to build a defense, or at least will find someone who understands how to build a defense…”
    8. in addition, when kelly tries to recruit for notre dame, these facts about how kelly has betrayed and lied to his players at central michigan and cincinnati are certainly not going to go over well with recruits and their families and their high school coaches.
    9. obviously, swarbrick and jenkins have not done their most basic work in choosing kelly any more than they did in firing charlie and his staff.
    10. there was another coach that notre dame hired before tyrone and introduced as the new head coach at notre dame, who had failed to be accurate about some minor facts in his background much less significant than kelly’s character flaws.
    11. that coach resigned and was gone in a week.
    12. however, it does appear that swarbrick and jenkins have thrown the character requirements for notre dame coaches into the sewers.
    13. we also have been sold on notre dame for many years. however, what we admired about notre dame has been driven away by swarbrick and jenkins and the notre dame that we loved and admired does not exist now.
    14. none of the authors of these articles have any histories of nd bashing or hatred and their articles are full of quotes and facts that can be easily verified.
    15. if notre dame is to continue being notre dame, kelly cannot be notre dame’s head coach.
    GO IRISH!!!

  22. yurtle - Dec 11, 2009 at 9:20 AM

    robertg – Please take your meds before you respond, you come across as a complete nut job with absolutely nothing to say. Being a big ND fan and let’s be honest this is big business, I want them to win day in and day out. Go Kelly!!!!

  23. joe from dublin - Dec 11, 2009 at 9:25 AM

    Can someone take the bullet format option away from RobertG (we don’t have time to read his endless bullet points) along with his negative attitude. We should be nothing but positive on this hire. ND has finally brought in a head coach with a history of winning as well as exciting football. Kelly reminds me a lot of Holtz (A winner who can sell his style to the media, fans and most importantly the players). Crist and Floyd will be scary in his offense. The defense has talent. They were just young and still developing like the offense was two years ago. The right d-coordinator will cure some of the problems.
    This move has a lot of the ND haters and coaches at our rivals shaking in their boots. GO IRISH!!!

  24. Doug from GR - Dec 11, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    Funny that many years back, Brian Kelly’s dream job was Boston College, but taking Cincy to a top 5 finish made that unrealistic. For all the Cincy fans who feel that Brian dumped their school, please look back at how Kelly left his past programs. Grand Valley is going back to the DII championship game this week (?) and Central Michigan won the MAC championship. Not like he stripped everything out of the programs, to move on to his next program. He has go the best from the coaches around him as well as his players.

  25. Scott - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:00 PM

    In the real world, people don’t inform their employers that they are interviewing elsewhere. Would I have prefered to see Kelly come out and say “I want the ND job and I hope I get it”? Yes. If Kelly had done that and Stoops or Meyer took the job, then he’d have a huge issue at Cincy right now and people would be complaining that Stoops or Meyer bailed on their teams. Coaches work their way up from lesser programs. There isn’t a draft process for coaches…spent four years here and you get to move up a level. They work at GVS, then CM, then UC in order to get the job at Oklahoma or Florida or ND. Is Kelly my ideal coach? No. I do not like his political views (at least the ones that are being reported but I’m asking him to coach (which he has done well) not make laws.

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