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It comes with the territory

Dec 16, 2009, 2:00 PM EDT

Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about Brian Kelly and his decision to come to Notre Dame. In the last two days, he’s been on a media tour that would have an A-list movie star complaining of over-exposure. But after listening to Kelly on multiple radio stations — whether it be national outlets like ESPN or Dan Patrick or a local South Bend station — the message has been the same. Say this for the man, he is as media savvy as any coach I’ve seen.

Over the past few days, debate has swirled about Kelly’s honesty during the entire process. Whether it be in the comments section here or among talking heads on ESPN2, people seem intent on questioning the integrity of Kelly for making the difficult decision to leave his team before the Sugar Bowl. The fact that none of us know what truly happened is immaterial. This incident will likely be Brian Kelly’s “decided schematic advantage.”

This is how it starts:

A coach is put in a terrible position because everybody with even a conversational knowledge of college football concludes that Brian Kelly is a candidate for the Notre Dame job. Whether or not he’s even thought about the job, whether or not he’s been contacted, whether or not his people have even talked to Notre Dame’s people, the rumors of Brian Kelly to Notre Dame — however manufactured they are — become a story. And as the hot-seat warmed for Charlie Weis, the speculation around his potential replacement swirled, to a point where even ESPN was talking about Brian Kelly as the front-runner for the job. 

Both Brian Kelly and Jack Swarbrick have been adamant and consistent on the timeline regarding Kelly taking the job. While I’m not naive enough to believe that a search firm or somebody representing Notre Dame didn’t contact Kelly’s agent and gauge his interest in the job, there’s no reason not to believe him.

(If you’re interested in reading about the reality of coaching hires, check out Andy Staples excellent breakdown of the machination. That gives me every reason to believe that Swarbrick and Kelly probably only spoke briefly before ever agreeing on anything.)

Still, people are quick to attack Kelly for lying to his players in Cincinnati, often sourcing the anger-filled comments of star wide receiver Mardy Gilyard as their “proof” that Kelly purposefully mislead his former team. (No doubt, someone will quickly link to this article, but if you’re to believe the timing, Kelly had yet to hear from a single-soul at Notre Dame.)

If time heals all wounds, Mardy Gilyard is a quick healer. The All-American wide receiver, who flourished both on and off the field with Brian Kelly as his head coach, has already tempered his comments greatly, backing off his previous stance. Here’s what Gilyard said on a radio appearance two days ago:

“I have no problems with Coach Kelly. My message got skewed because I was speaking out of anger. I just want to make it clear: He didn’t do anything but help me personally. When nobody wanted to, he took it upon himself to deal with Mardy, and I thank him for that.

“I know he has a family. He has to do the best he has to do to support them. That’s what a man should do. For him to come to Cincinnati was a blessing for us. That’s the one thing that people should remember about BK. He came and he helped spring board us to where we needed to be in the national spotlight.”

The fact that Gilyard has already moved on — without even talking to Kelly yet –should be enough for most people. Yet this controversy, one that plagues nearly every coach that leaves for a better job in college football, will quickly become the source material used by people who either dislike Notre Dame football or Brian Kelly to label him dishonest or a liar. This will be his “decided schematic advantage” moment, the genesis for the arrogant and brash tag that Charlie Weis was never able to shake off.

During Kelly’s media tour these past few days, he’s been asked repeatedly about the decision and his response has mirrored his comments from his introductory press conference:

“Transition is very difficult, and those situations are extremely
emotional. But I handled myself in a manner that was up front and
honest. The two watch words for me in dealing with our student athletes
and anybody is professionalism and integrity. And I believe that in
those areas, that’s the way I handled myself. When I had the
opportunity to inform our team, I certainly did that.”

For many of us, it’s easy to look at Kelly’s track record, the evidence presented, and give the man the benefit of the doubt. But for just as many others, it’ll be easy to merely bang the liar drum, and do it long enough until it just becomes accepted as true.

Whether those people are talking heads, anonymous message-board posters, or rival coaches in recruits living rooms, I fully expect the dishonesty/liar card to be played constantly by those who either root or recruit against Notre Dame.

Whether it’s true or not is hardly the issue. When you’re the head coach of Notre Dame, it simply comes with the territory. 

  1. Brendan - Dec 16, 2009 at 4:53 PM

    What I find to be quite humorous is that Cincy fans have been screaming about how we stole their coach before the bowl game. How did they get Kelly in the first place? By taking him from Central Michigan before their bowl game… How did they get their new head coach Butch Jones? By taking him from Central Michigan before their bowl game… If any fanbase should be enraged it should be the Chippewa’s, Cincy keeps taking their coaches before bowl games!

  2. jan - Dec 16, 2009 at 6:08 PM

    Agreed….but let’s be realistic – all bowl games (with possibly the exception of the ONE championship bowl game) are used by coaching staffs to get early practice for next year’s season. Knowing which players will be available, which coaches, etc. they use the practice time to prepare for the upcoming season, get more visibility to targeted recruits, and maybe play more for “fun” than any other game all season. It makes more sense to have next year’s coach running the show.
    I’m glad Cincy will have their new head coach in place in time for their bowl game. It sounds like like Mardy Gilyard (and other Cincy fans as well) are resolved to this as well.

  3. irishfanintx - Dec 16, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    Thanks for another timely and relevant article Keith. It seems that there has not been a lack of “anonymous message-board posters”, many of them ND fans, who have been willing to attack Kelly’s character and call him a liar. I have asked several times for a link to a story, other than the initial interview with Gilyard, that would support this position but have yet to see any. I am also glad to hear from Kelly on the matter and believe him when he says he handled the situation “in a manner that was up front and honest.”

  4. irishfanintx - Dec 16, 2009 at 6:54 PM

    Let me correct my earlier comment, StephenofTroy did provide a link that quoted 2 players, Asron Webster in addition to Gilyard, saying BK told them he would not leave Cincinnati.

  5. Keith Arnold - Dec 16, 2009 at 7:01 PM

    That’s the same link that I posted to above in the article, which was reportedly before Kelly ever talked to Swarbrick.

  6. Jake - Dec 17, 2009 at 7:03 AM

    Very good article once again showing that people believe what they want to believe and see what they want to see. ND will always have the haters because ND is and always has been an elite school. Some people just can’t live with that notion.

  7. StephenOfTroy - Dec 17, 2009 at 5:32 PM

    Thanks for posting the correction, irishfan… I was about to fire off an “are you kidding me” comment when I read your first one.
    Did you notice that Gilyard, while he may have “resolved himself to” the situation, did not back off ONE IOTA from the point that Kelly lied? That’s because Kelly did lie. And now Kelly is lying about having lied.
    But, oh, wait, now I’m beating a drum or playing the dishonestliar card, right? I suppose if someone runs over my dog and I complain about it, there’s a card for that one too. Gotta move on. Just look at the recruiting work he’s doing! Lying? Quit living in the past, dude! We might WIN this year!

  8. StephenOfTroy - Dec 17, 2009 at 10:04 PM

    This is not the same as the “decided schematic advantage” moment Weis gave ND’s detractors.
    Weis, from what I can tell, subjectively believed his statement. He just turned out to be wrong. Maybe he didn’t factor in the difficulty of calling plays against a defense when his staff had NOT illegally videotaped its signals. But he apparently believed he was telling the truth.
    This is not the same as going into a room full of your own players, lying to them telling them that you’re not leaving, then leaving, and then lying to the media about what you told that room full of your own players.
    It’s a red herring to argue that Kelly, when he talked to his players, had not yet talked to Swarbrick. That makes no difference.
    If you tell your players you’re not going anywhere, that isn’t the same as telling them “I don’t have an offer yet, and if I did, I’d take it.” Kelly told his players that all the talk they heard about him going somewhere was just foolishness, and led them to believe STRONGLY that he was staying in Cincy.
    If I tell my wife that I love her and I will be with her forever, then on my way home from work I meet Naomi Watts and decide to run off with her, my wife won’t see the logic in my telling her “well I told you that I would stay with you before I knew what my other options were.”
    Full disclosure: I’m not married. But my significant other knows that if Naomi Watts wants to talk to me about anything, I will do what Brian Kelly said and “entertain the request.”
    Oh, and this post was about ND football. It may not survive censorship if Keith Arnold doesn’t like it. But it’s about ND football. And Naomi Watts.

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  10. irishfanintx - Dec 18, 2009 at 7:11 PM

    I think Kelly made it pretty clear back in his March interview on what his thoughts were on Cincinnati job. Seems to be the same thing he has said all along.

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