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Brian Kelly is ready for his close up

Dec 10, 2009, 5:40 PM EDT

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. Scott - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    Sorry. I missed a ). Please don’t question my intellect due to my careless typing as is the norm here.

  2. Fan for Life - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    I think it is time for robertg to retire from blogging about Notre Dame. His failure to use capital letters; his numbering of paragraphs; and his delusions about some big lawsuit he is working on are making me weary. I’d like to move into the holiday season and the New Year on a positive note with a hope for better things to come. Anyone else?

  3. teo - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    What a friggin’ joke you are, RobertG
    1.) Kelly was making almost two million dollars per year at Cincinnati. He’ll make that plus a bump at Notre Dame to put up with idiots like you, RobertG.
    2.) The way that he did it was perfect, in my view. If he had celebrated the banquet by announcing, at its beginning, that he was leaving, the whole thing would have detracted from what the kids were able to accomplish. This is a team that went unbeaten — one of just a handful of the 119 programs in the country. They should be proud and should be able to celebrate their accomplishments without having the disappointment of Kelly leaving detracting from this celebration.
    3.) Good coaches are commodities and college football is a business. I know that this is hard to accept, but Charlie Weis was a commodity when ND signed him to a five year extension on a five year deal (after 7 games or whatever), too. Coaches are commodities — and the football program generates a tremendous amount of revenue for the school. If ND doesn’t take hiring a coach seriously, it runs the risk of losing that revenue.
    4.) You’re implying that the officials played a part in Kelly’s Cincinnati team going unbeaten. Officials play a part in every game. It hardly means they were the determining factor.
    No matter what ND does, you will be unhappy (unless ND abandons its fan base and joins the Ivy League). That is unfortunate. This was a big-time hire and the university should be applauded for the approach.

  4. joe from Dublin - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    One thing to add on all the Cincy fans down on Kelly right now for leaving before the bowl game. From a recruiting standpoint, it is as critical for Cincy as it is for ND to do this now. If both schools wait until after the bowl game with FU to hire new coaches, they have left the new coaches about 2-3 weeks to get the verbals commits comfortable with the new coach and to convince the guys on the fence who are uncommitted to get comfortable. Waiting is a disaster for both programs long term once the national championship is no longer a possibility. This is now standard practice. If national signing day was moved back, it would be different.
    I also will come to the defense of Kelly regarding his speech to the players last week saying that he was not going to ND. I want to remind everyone that he was not the main choice last week nor was he guaranteed a job there as the back up choice. Stoops was clearly being targeted all last week and Edsall and Harbaugh were on a list with him. It would be pretty bold of him to tell his team he was leaving or even interested in a job that was not anything close to guaranteed for him. If he made those comments this week, I would have justify their issue with him.

  5. mef811 - Dec 11, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    Why can’t you just be happy for your team, we’ve all been through a lot this past couple of years and I’m rather excited to get a new start! The glass is half empty doesn’t even touch your attitude your down right depressing and I will not be reading any more of your posts!! I KNOW (DARN)

  6. Kage10 - Dec 11, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    Kelly must have REALLY hated Cincinnati to just walk away from his season and his players before their biggest bowl game. He’s a scumbag. ND deserves him.

  7. ugetwutuask4 - Dec 11, 2009 at 2:34 PM

    This is the best day in ND history in a long time I’d say. Kelly is “THE MAN” and I don’t think anybody other than “COAH” as I so proudly will refer to MR. KELLY as from here on in, could have been a more perfect fit for ND. COACH wanted the job since way back, it is in COACHS’ blood when others ie URBAN & BOB probably had tiny lil doubts in the back of their OVERSIZED brain they could get the job done at ND. Thanks for the memories CHARLIE. THANKS for restoring the ND cupboard with talent and proving that there is still FIGHT’N the IRISH with the valiant uphill battle you fought after the BUSH PUSH loss but we must FIGHT on in a different direction. ND will make you proud once again some day, LOVE YA. COACH won’t do it next year I’m sure but he will get it done in three FOR SURE. I’m not sayin’ ND will be winning the ‘CHIP in three years but we will be playing in that game in three years, GAURANTEED. IF, we can now get a great D-coordinator? Although I like CORWIN but I doubt he’ll be around. And two, IF COACH can close in on recruits ie CHRIS MARTIN, PRATER, COOPER, GASTON JR, HENDERSON, ETC.? I believe ND has enough talent depending on DAYNES condition and adaptation to COACHS’ offense to go out next year and WIN 9 or 10 games and POSSIBLY make a BCS bowl bid. I know those are some HUGE IF’S ANDS & MAYBE’S and ?MARKS and I don’t want to be the one who starts the HUGE expectation mill for next year’s ND team but that’s how good of a COACH ND hired and he will have a competetive, fundamentally sound advantage over ND opponents!!! OOPS Did I forget to mention SCHEMATIC.

  8. Jake - Dec 11, 2009 at 2:42 PM

    I agree. I’m tired of his rambling manifestos, threats to sue everyone and anyone, and generally negative attitude.
    He’s a disbarred attorney with zero credibility. I’ve long since stopped reading, or attempting to read, his blathering but scrolling past them gives me a headache

  9. grandpashyena - Dec 11, 2009 at 2:53 PM

    Kelly needs to hit the ground running on two fronts. Recruiting players and recruiting a great defensive coodinator/coach. He needs to call Mack Brown and ask him who he would be looking at if he needed a new d. cooordinator. No one has done a better job of surrounding himself with great assistants. Mack is a great recruiter and has enough savvy to pick good assistant coaches especially on the defensive side. He recognizes that he lacks there and strives to have good d assistants. Kelly also needs to contact every recruit that Charlie nailed and keep them, then go after every 4 and 5 star defensive recruit still uncommitted. Sell ND, it’s a great commodity and excitement can be a powerful attractant to the recruits.
    The players staying will be fine. Work hard in the spring and the fall will work out.
    GO IRISH!!

  10. ugetwutuask4 - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:10 PM

    I could not agree anymore with you I’d much rather read STEPHEN OF TROY blogs. As a matter of fact I’m curiouse where is STEPHEN and his comments about our new coach? I guess he must be tied up trying to figure out how to make the transition from SC fan to ND fan a smoothe one for 2010!

  11. Laxman9 - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    Finally a coach I can get excited about! This guy has a knack for building programs from the ground up, just what The Irish need. Say what you will about how he left Cincinnati, It just tells me that he understands the task ahead and the importance and urgency of securing his recruiting class. GO IRISH!

  12. steve - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    If before the season someone said, “Charlie Weis will be fired at season’s end and ND will hire a coach whose team will finish #3 in the country at 12-0 and the coach will win the national coach of the year award,” I cannot imagine that every fan (other than perpetually bitter stone throwers like robertg) would have been thrilled. Of course, we would have assumed that the future coach would be Meyer, Brown, Saban, Stoops, Miles, or some other high profile coach. But now it is not good enough because Kelly comes to us from UC? Florida must be thankful that they didn’t reject Meyer because he came from Utah, or Texas with Brown because he came from UNC.
    On a different note, I lived in Cincinnati at a time when Bearcats football was less popular than HS football. I understand why UC fans are upset, but the truth is they would be nonexistent right now without Kelly. Their program is now strong enough that they can attract another solid coach. And in today’s marketplace of college football why do we expect loyalty? Coaches contracts are terminated for poor performance, personality conflicts, etc (heck, Weis had many years left on his contract). Yet when coaches leave early for a job that they perceive as a promotion we vilify them or characterize them as a cheat. In the corporate world people jump ship all the time for greener pastures and we congratulate them on their promotion!
    Finally, I’m discouraged by all the people who feel so entitled to trash the character of a person they don’t know simply from media reports and their own personal viewpoints (the same people who likely trash the media when they present things that they disagree with). Those who have worked with and played for Brian Kelly describe him as a man of integrity who is honest and a straight shooter. So does his dishonesty with his players surrounding the ND hire negate decades of proving himself to be a man of reputable character? Would any of us who were about to coach our team in their conference championship with a national title spot on the line tell our team that we were very interested in another job and likely would not be around the following week? If he had done that I suspect UC would have lost to Pitt and UC fans would hate him more now than by him simply being evasive in order to keep his team focused.

  13. Fan for Life - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:27 PM

    Comment to Jake
    You’re kidding about robertg having once been a real attorney – right?

  14. dbower - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:42 PM

    Anyone who blames Kelly for being dishonest is not being honest with themselves. Especially Gilyard! That idiot only has to remember what coach put him in a position to win the team’s MVP award.
    Kelly took over a program from D’Antoni that had some decent talent, but not great. He continued to build up the talent, and three years later had an unblemished record and a trip to Sugar Bowl. The situation is very similar at ND. Charlie may not have been able to keep his job because of the win/loss record, but he definitely went out there and brought in the talent.
    Gilyard and the rest of the naysayers need to keep in mind that when a good thing comes around you have to take advantage of it. If the NFL was knocking down his door one or two years ago, he would have bailed in a second to go get the money and the fame. As it is today, the kid might get drafted, and that will be thanks to his natural God-given talent and to Coach Kelly and the direction he took the program in.

  15. joes the man - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    kelly is an ass-@#!….great character to leave the cincy before their biggest game ever.
    lets hope he doesnt get a bigger opportunity while with the Irish–cuz we know he knows how to say “see ya–wouldnt want to be ya”

  16. jake - Dec 11, 2009 at 3:53 PM

    Ah, no. Not kidding.

  17. ugetwutuask4 - Dec 11, 2009 at 4:07 PM

    Period point blank these types of hires have gone the way they have because of the way the dates match up as far as conference championship game/bowl game dates, national signing day for recruits etc. Blame it on the wheel’s of BIG TIME NCAA FOOTBALL that keep rollin’ regaurdless of what program your favorite coach coaches. Anyone who thinks these coaches in there right mind are going to take there teams to bcs bowls and coach in that game and then be able to go on to another job notice I specifically said JOB not school, and be successful at there new JOB knows nothing about major college football. All this crap about he turned his back on CINNCI and lied to his players is coming from selfish fanatics from CINNCI who don’t realize that they were handed over a good football program in good shape. What about ND kids who lost the coach who they were close to and recruited them and also lost two teammates to the NFL? How much have they lost in the past month. I’m not complaining that’s just how today’s world of sports operate whether good or bad. In five years if Kelly bolts for the NFL after leading ND to a NATIN’L ‘CHIP I couldn’t be any happier for COACH after what he restored back in South Bend.

  18. Avon Domer - Dec 11, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    For all of you crying a river about Brian Kelly leaving Cincinnati to take the top job at Notre Dame, I have one question: Does everyone in America have the right to change jobs to better themselves except the most recent head football coach at the University of Cincinnati? Who are you to tell Brian Kelly, or anyone for that matter, where they should or should not work? It’s been Brian Kelly’s life long dream to coach at Notre Dame and he took advantage of that opportunity when it came his way, and guess what, he doesn’t have to apologize to you or anyone else for taking the position.
    That’s not to say that I don’t feel badly for his players and everyone else he left behind at Cincinnati, because I certainly do, and I would love to see them beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. It’s a huge disappointment for them and I have a great deal of sympathy for everyone there. However, lest we forget that Notre Dame went through the same thing years ago with basketball coach Matt Daugherty, who was in the midst of building a nice program at ND when he left to coach at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina. While some of my ND buddies didn’t agree with me at the time, I totally understood why he left for his dream job and I didn’t blame him one bit for doing it. It’s the nature of the coaching business folks!! My advice is grow up and deal with reality, or pick up a new hobby; perhaps stamp collecting!!
    BTW: Those of you stating that Coach Kelly’s defense was rather porous this season are 100% correct. However, did you know that he had 10 brand new defensive starters playing for him this year and they still ended up undefeated and in a BCS Bowl game. Pretty impressive if you ask me! Go Irish, Beat Boilers (Sept. 4)

  19. kejji - Dec 11, 2009 at 7:13 PM

    One thing robertg has going for him is he is fiercely loyal in a skewed kind of way..kind of like a pitbull…albeit a pitbull with a metal plate in its head, but nonetheless.

  20. joe from Dublin - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:25 PM

    The following are some questions for you:
    1) Have you ever moved to another job? If so, did you tell your employer that you were interviewing before you were offered the job? How would your future with your current employer have gone if they knew you were once ready to leave for a better opportunity? In Brian Kelly’s world, what would have happened if Kelly and ND were about to sign a contract and out of nowhere Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops called to say that he wanted the ND job? Do you think ND would honor their handshake with Kelly?
    2) Why is it that nobody has ever questioned the athletes on their commitment like they question coaches? Nobody has even said a negative word about Clausen and Tate this week on backing out on their 4 year commitment to ND. I do not have an issue with them going pro as I think it is the right call for each personally but make no mistake this is not in the best interest of the program or ND. When they signed with ND, each committed to 4 years at ND. Clausen even is quoted as saying that he wanted to “win 4 Championships”.
    3) Why the anger always? I am wondering if you are actually a USC fan in disguise.

  21. Jon - Dec 11, 2009 at 8:33 PM

    All this hype and talk over Kelly being name ND’s new football coach is just that, hype. Notre Dame hasn’t been a prominant player is college football for 20 years. Kelly will not change that. He will crash and burn just like the coaches before him.

  22. JWE - Dec 11, 2009 at 9:09 PM

    It is my considered opinion that not a single one of you know of what you speak/write. Kelly will do what Kelly does best!!! Let’s wait and see how that turns out.

  23. DocSavage - Dec 12, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    The fact is that Brian Kelly piously preached “Commitment” and “Teamwork” and made those Cincy boys work their butts off.
    They believed in him and his constant preaching and followed him 100 percent.
    But NOW that those Cincy boys finally get to play Florida at the Sugar Bowl, that stupid bonehead hypocrite Brian Kelly BETRAYS his boys, BETRAYS his faithful coaching staff, and runs off A WHORING with Notre Dame, leaving his own boys to die on Bowl Day!!
    Brian Kelly is the Tiger Woods of college football, and once again, Notre Dame is the worthless hoochie-girl. (The BCS and NBC/MSNBC are the pimps, of course.)
    So, once again, it is my glorious privilege to call on all the college football teams of the United States of America to DESTROY NOTRE DAME NEXT YEAR!!! Boo-Boo Brian and his little hooch Notre Dame WILL be brought to final justice in 2010.
    (Especially with Jimmy Boy and Golden Boy no longer there to save your whore bacon!! Mwahahahaha!!!)

  24. Jake - Dec 12, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    The ”whore. pimps” reference’s seriously detract from your message. If you can’t make your point without name calling you have no point to make.
    As far as your “glorious privilege”, perhaps you and Robertg should get together and exchange notes. You seem to be on the same page.
    Come om man, “final justice” is a bit dramatic for a college football game.
    Did it ever occur to you it may be in Kelly’s contract that once he has accepted another job he is not allowed to coach for Cincinnati? I have no idea if it is or isn’t but I understand that is not uncommon.
    He couldn’t put his full efforts into preparing for and coaching Cincy and recruiting for ND. You can’t serve two masters.

  25. robertg - Dec 12, 2009 at 4:22 PM

    1.we would like to thank jack swarbrick and take the money and run kelly for providing us with such excellent additional evidence at for use in the civil courts.
    2. we were already aware that phil purcell, who certainly took the money and was driven out of morgan stanley on wall street, after nearly wrecking that institution( look him up online in his wikipedia section. we vdid not contribute any information to that description of purcell), had played a key role in these atrocities. it is nice to have the video and transcript evidence of jack swarbrick confirming purcell’s role about which we already knew about from our own sources within notre dame.
    3. noticeably absent from swarbrick’s list of people who helped swarbrick out in these atrocities were the names of even one notre dame student athlete who also excelled playing football at notre dame, in the nfl, and in their personal and business lives.
    4. swarbrick’s attempts to hide behind the names of some notre dame student athletes who all advised him and purcell not to fire charlie( but to support charlie and his staff and to attack the current corrupt officiating, rules enforcement and rankings systems,which have turned college football into the massive con operation that it is now), as did notre dame’s alums who really know about football simply will not help swarbrick in the civil courts or to go underground simply will not protect swarbrick or jenkins, kelly, or purcell in the civil courts.
    5. while economic exterminations in the civil courts of deserving parties is one of our core special business and we do always win those cases without showing any mercy to those who deserve no mercy, i, as and irish catholic who has loved and admired the values for which notre dame has stood in the past, will take special personal pleasure in the economic exterminations of swarbrick and purcell and certain others within notre dame who have brought disgrace to notre dame.
    6. if kelly does succeed in cheating to win at notre dame, as he has done at every other school whose student athletes kelly has used to land the big bucks, that will not protect swarbrick or purcell or kelly in the civil courts either, any more than purcell was able to protect himself from us at morgan stanley, although we did let purcell keep some of his material possesions in those cases( we will take the rest now).
    7. choosing to join crooked college football enterprises instead of attacking the corrupt systems is perfectly consistent with the characters and career histories of swarbrick and jenkins and purcell, although their conduct and actions have betrayed ever core value for which notre dame has stood and for which the catholic stood and now does again after we eliminated in the civil courts certain elements, including priests, bishops and cardinals who were using the catholic church and its resources for a massive coverup of sexual predators within our catholic church.
    8. kelly’s boston alderman father has quite a history in boston politics and this apple has not landed far from that tree.
    9. for now, we remain in the settlement phase of these cases and the evidence keeps pouring in,along with lots of settlement money, as was the case in the enron and mci worldcom and many other civil rico cases, as we perfected our deadly economic weapons in the civil courts.

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