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Kelly narrative taking shape

Apr 10, 2010, 10:47 AM EDT

As spring practice continues, the national media takes its swing through South Bend for an update on the state of the Irish football program. With Brian Kelly now at the helm, its only natural that people compare his way of doing things to that of his predecessor, Charlie Weis.

Two of the most prominent, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and SI’s Stewart Mandel took their turns dropping by the Golden Dome. And with Kelly’s philosophy and style drastically different from that of Weis, it’s pretty easy to see the narrative develop.

From Schlabach:

It hasn’t taken Notre Dame’s returning players long to realize life is
going to be different under Kelly, who replaced Charlie Weis as their
coach Dec. 10. Kelly has instituted several changes at Notre Dame, from
where the players eat and study to how they practice and dress. He even
wants them to arrange their lockers in a uniform way and had large
charts printed to show them how to do it.

Kelly said the changes are designed to make the Fighting Irish more of a
“team,” instead of individual players performing only for themselves
and future NFL careers.

“Most of the guys here were more interested in whether they were on Mel
Kiper’s Big Board,” Kelly said. “I want guys who are more interested in
what they can do for Notre Dame.”

“It says, ‘God, Country and Notre Dame’ outside of my office,” Kelly
said. “I think my job is to put teeth back into that. Everybody looks at
Notre Dame and assumes it’s special. Well, define that for me. I’m
still defining ‘special.’ It’s about team, team, team. I’m trying to get
it to where they understand this is about Notre Dame, your teammates,
your family and then yourself. I think they had it flipped the other
way. It started with me and Notre Dame was at the other end.”

And now Mandel:

Practice tempo is just one of a bundle of changes the Irish are
adjusting to in what Kelly called “a 180-degree turn from the way this
business was run to the way I’m running this business.” The 48-year-old
Massachusetts native still refers to himself as a “Division II coach,”
having spent 13 years as head coach at Grand Valley State prior to
winning conference championships at Central Michigan (2006) and
Cincinnati (’08 and ’09).

As he peeled back the curtain on
Weis’ regime, during which the Irish went 16-21 the past three seasons,
Kelly found what many of us on the outside had suspected all along: For
years, Notre Dame had run more like an NFL franchise than a college
program. For many, career aspirations came before championships.

“A lot of these guys signed up for Notre Dame because of the idea
that ‘Hey, we’re going to get you to the NFL,'” said Kelly. “That was a
good pitch. You had a guy that had great credibility to do that. I can’t
pitch that because I don’t have that background. Mine is, I know how to
get you to a BCS game.

“My impression, in the short amount
of time that I’ve been here, is guys were playing for themselves. The
priorities have to be Notre Dame, playing for your family, playing for
your teammates and then playing for yourself. I think that was upside
down. ‘Selfishness’ and ‘entitlement’ are two words that would be

Part of any coaching transition is to quite literally change the standard operating procedure, and if the beginning of spring practice has shown us anything, Kelly has done just that. And while it’s only natural to throw a coaching staff that was fired for lack of results under the bus, Kelly has done a good job distancing himself from that stance.

“Coach Weis’ pedigree was the NFL,” Kelly said. “It was a different way
of going about it and it was what he was exposed to. Coach Weis had the
NFL pedigree and that big ring on his finger. He coached Tom Brady and
led him to a Super Bowl, and he told kids he could do it for them, too.
That would be my pitch, too, but I haven’t done that.”

How the Weis era will be remembered will take a few years to find some context, but the departure from a pro-style system and philosophy to Kelly’s uptempo strictly collegiate approach will ultimately be judged by wins and losses.

  1. TLNDMA - Apr 10, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Kelly’s approach seems to be that every aspect of your preperation is important. From what you eat, to study habits, to how you arrange your locker. That said a player’s mental approach must be way up on his list. If your number one goal is the NFL, you’re not going to fit.
    Some may find these things trivial or tired cliches, but if the 85 guys in that locker room buy in, look out.

  2. Art Vandelay - Apr 10, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Well said TLNDMA. We were all looking for a motivator and I think Kelly is that guy who has a chance to get all 85 buying in to the program. Weis’ approach seemed more NFL and business-like. We need to get these kids fired up emotionally on the meaning of teamwork and I think Kelly’s doing that. I was sure there was some way that Meyer was in play when Weis was let go and I wasn’t too keen on Kelly coming in, but I like what I’m seeing so far.

  3. TLNDMA - Apr 10, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    Art my feeling on Meyer is that he has NO shot at ever being ND’s coach, after what has transpired the last few years in Gainesville. I don’t mean on the field, I mean on the police blotter. And I thought that before Weis was fired. I think we have the right guy. He reminds me a lot of Lou. He believes in his systems and methods and if you want to play you better believe too.

  4. grandpashyena - Apr 12, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    UCLA players tell of John Wooden teaching them how to tie their shoes properly. Not saying that Kelly is John Wooden but attention to detail and getting every one on the same page is important in college athletics. I’m very hopeful that Kelly is a great match.

  5. ourlady$ - Apr 13, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Back to “old school boys”. The philosophy is simple but the execution is not.If everybody is “buying” into it, then there is nothing that can stop this team, except themselves.
    Coach Kelly is the ultimate motivator and we are lucky to have him.

  6. RichBosh - Apr 13, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I didn’t know much about Coach Kelly before his arrival in South Bend, but the more I read about this guy, the more I can’t wait til fall.

  7. rehab 90731 - Apr 13, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    blah-blah-blah…yes I am fer The Irish, but I fear no coach can change this program…too much student first, not enough athlete…ask Will Yeatman when he said ND has “a way of doing things around here”…Yeatman gets drunk and is expelled, a recruit gets drunk and dies; I think ND is a supporter of Prohibition or something…no look, I don’t drink booze, and kids abuse it way too much, but too many 5* kids avoid this place becuz of the grades first/no booze policies…sure BK will improve the W-L record, but forget winning a BCS vs a cheater program. No coach can change a thing unless the Admin changes first. Go Irish !

  8. shazamrock - Apr 13, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Charlie Weis knew about offense. QB’s and receivers to be exact.
    And they were very good at moving the ball through the air.
    His running game was putrid. The defense was the worst. Special teams were marginal at best.
    Kelly Knows how to build winning programs from top to bottom. It’s all about hard work, team play, attenion to detail, and togetherness. I just watched Duke win the NCAA mens basketball title using the same philosophy. I have no doubt that Kentucky had more over-all talent, but Duke’s “team” approch wins out most times in college sports.
    BK and ND will be stronger. They will have better team play. They will win games. They will gain confedence. Everthing will come together. With ND’s rich tradition and history behind them, to spur them on, when they get it rolling, there will be no stopping them!

  9. Irish Pride81 - Apr 14, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    So you are saying we should drop our standards in order to win football games. That could be the dumbest things I have heard yet! IF Notre Dame were to lower it standards, it would be no better that the cheaters you talk about. Think about it. Stanford wins. Duke wins (yes in basketball, but same standards). lol,

  10. rehab 90731 - Apr 14, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Stanford and Duke may have high or higher standards, but they are PARTY schools to the max, and do not have the Puritan drinking standards of The Irish …ND barely beat Duke in CFB the other year, cannot beat UCONN now, wtf ? I am not encouraging drinking and pot, but out here in California recreational use of dope is gonna be legal come November…all the 5Stars will wanna go to USC/UCLA school leaving ND sober and dry…perhaps if we are lucky, SC will be too stoned to care about anything else….hey, maybe ND does have a chance vs SC !!!! OK

  11. atlantadomer - Apr 14, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Well, I can’t say that I’m with many of the posters on this board or many others. As an alum, I have a vested interest in the program, when the football team does well – everything else is better.
    However, I’m staying “Missouri” on Kelly. He’s got to show me. He’s got to show me the following:
    1. He will not wilt under the bright lights. This guy has never ever been around a top tier program. He never played for one, he never coached at one. Think Gerry Faust.
    2. He will not allow the team to be flat and get outplayed by a lesser opponent who is treating the game like their freaking Superbowl – Happened way too often with Charlie. His biggest downfall. Why this scares me is that Kelly has never been the “overwhelming odds-on favorite, with 100 years of tradition”.
    3. A gimmick offense will work consistently in a place like northern Indiana, in November and December.
    I’m hopeful and even prayerful that the Irish are going to be a great team under Coach Kelly. He of course has my support, but I’m not proclaiming him as savior of the program till he “shows me” and the rest of the Notre Dame nation.

  12. Jmcewent - Apr 14, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    I don’t know where all of these views of puritan drinking standards @ ND come from. I graduated from ND in 05, and ND has as much drinking culture as any other college. The party scene is different definitely (not a lot of night club, and frat parties), but there still a traditional college drinking scene on campus. We even are allowed to have beer and wine in the dorm rooms no matter the age of the resident. True you have to sneak it on campus, but once the beer is in your private room the University does nothing to stop it. Actually that is one of the big draws of an ND social life. On any given weekend there can be 10 or 20 raging dorm parties. So it’s different but the University is far from a dry campus. That said I think the largest non draw for the University is the academic standards, but I agree with all of the Stanford and Duke analogies. We can win with high standards, and it will mean a lot more when we do.

  13. jcelia - Apr 14, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    In response to everyone’s comments, everyone wants to see ND return to the days of Ara and Lou and I believe Kelly has the ability to get them there. Do I think it will happen right away, absolutely not! There are so many fair weather fans in SB and it makes me sick, when the Irish are winning everyone is happy and onboard and when they are losing everyone turns their back on the Irish and starts pointing fingers. Either support the team and the coach or don’t be a fan. I have been a ND fan since my father took me to my first football game in 1977 against the heavy favored Trojans and we ended up crushing them. I love ND and will always be a fan weather they win the national championship or they are dead last in the country, that my friend is a true loyal ND fan. I think the arrow is pointing up for the Irish in the future but it’s going to take some time, patience is needed here from everyone. I want to see the Irish back in the National Championship just as bad as the next person, but lets face it things have definitely changed in college football. I think Kelly can get them there, he has the discipline and passion to win football games.

  14. Irish Pride 81 - Apr 14, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Have you ever been to Notre Dame? The Linebacker? Corbys? The Block Party? Brady Quinn crashed his Tahoe drunk three or four times. Darius Walker was in Steak’n Shake wasted all the time. I think Notre Dame wants to look like a puritan, but it is anything but. I do see your point however, and it is valid. If I had my choice, I would prolly want to live in Cali…

  15. TLNDMA - Apr 14, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    You don’t see too many ND games in northern Indiana in late November and never in December.

  16. coltacp - Apr 14, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    I was there during the transition from Hugh Devore to Ara. I’m seeing the same change now. When Hugh ran practices, there was constant arguing amoung the assistants while the players just stood around during the 3 hour practices. Under Ara, practices were constant motion with a definite goal and lasted less that 2 hours.

  17. rehab 90731 - Apr 14, 2010 at 9:25 PM

    I respect alums cuz they know the campus, especially the 2005 chap…however, since I am from SB and have been on campus, to church, (TOO OFTEN AS A KID) there ,etc ,than any 4 yr alum I feel I have merit too….I know ND has parties quite often, and I am aware of the process of getting booze on campus, but ND has a way of doing things, as Will Yeatman said before….and that way is under a controlled situation…in a dorm is safer for the students espically the virgin girls, plus if a party got out of hand, hey then you can always say “stop this illegal party dude”….I never knew Brady Quinn was a drunk driver, wow…good info…and Darius Walker too, I believe it, but am disappointed…ND life is not that stressful to require such massive drinking so often…go to Iraq or Vietnam or WW2 those guys deserve booze and stuff…anyway ND aint Puritan, but it seems that way when a player gets expelled or suspended…finally, I want to say I now know why our OL stinks excpet for Robinson, that is because fat Chris Stewart is in Grad Schrool (LAW) now wonder he stunk up the place, he is smart, fat from studying…USC will feast on his on his intelligent arse…then Stewart can maybe prosecute USC someday for whatever he can dig up. GO IRISH

  18. TLNDMA - Apr 14, 2010 at 10:30 PM

    Hey Irish Pride, how would you like me to start a rumor about you? I could think of a good one, remember the night you….

  19. Irish11 - Apr 14, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    Rehab, I go to ND right now (graduate next year) and I can tell you that being a SB townie does not give you good insight into the ND party scene. The party culture at ND is alive and well, and while it’s different from other colleges, there is definitely no lack of partying. It’s true that the administration is pretty harsh for some stupid stuff (trust me, I’ve been on the receiving end) and that’s what Will Yeatman was referring to.
    Weis proved that even with our academic standards, shitty weather, and enforcement of rules, we can recruit the best athletes in the country. Check the rankings of our recruiting classes for the past few years. 21st in ’09, 2nd in ’08, 8th in ’07, 8th in ’06.
    The talent is there. The facilities are there. The only thing lacking was a coach, and hopefully we’ve found our guy in Kelly.

  20. shazamrock - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:34 AM

    I’ve been a ND fan since the late 60’s. The one thing that I have learned is to never sell the Irish short. I wanted to see Charlie Weis succeed, but he reached the line in the sand that said the reality was, that he couldn’t get the team to the next level and there was too much talent that was going to be wasted.
    The current players on the team comprise some of the top recruiting classes in the land. Do I think that they will win right away?
    With proven coaches, a return to team play, teaching the basics, and attention to details. Throw in a favorable schedule and anything can happen. I’ve seen 1yr. turn arounds by other programs.
    If they can do it, so can we. And we will!
    Kelly stated that this isn’t a 5 year plan. He’s not asking for patience, just our loyal support!

  21. rehab 90731 - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:23 AM

    I have been to Corby’s, my big brother graduated in ’74 dude…I smelt dope in the dorm back then too but did not know what it was, I was 9…look man, allow me to simplify fer u, ND is typical on the college booze scene, I’ll give you that, but ND has Puritan punishments when one really goes stray…how’s that ? ND refuses to recruit the inner city athlete who is black, said P Hornung, who I believe more than anyone here !!! ND is ASCARED of high testoserone, that’s what it is ! secondly ND prefers drunks like QUinn who jeopardize their $15M future, how is that smart ? I have learned somethin here, all the ex Irish in the NFL who rad, Quinn and Walker you said; recruit more thugs I equate. Law school OL like Chris Stewart weighing 340+ aint gonna help this team dudes…ND needs more thugs and drinkers like NFLers Quinn/Walker.
    Sorry to be so upfront/rude, but dats what I see. Go Irish

  22. rehab 90731 - Apr 15, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    I have a past Heisman winner on my side, enough said,,,,I have a few minutes more to type this all: Does U$C have an OL in post grad Law School ? N-O spells NO,,,,,ND does, having C Stewart @ 340# who already graduated , or can you not read, or at least read The South Bend Tribune online to get up to date fact-checked opinions like mine !!! THIS IS THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM– we (ND) cannot compete with elite cf schrools with chaps like Stewart, we need
    playas first, brainiacs second…I am 6-4 270 age 46 and even I can get around CS…but that is not important right now,,,
    Finally ND students are no more intelligent than any other student with a full brain, however their CHARACTER is generally more secure, safe, none threatening to others, low testoserone, and non-thuggish. Those last two qualities are what is harming the men’s BB and FB programs…I am correct, if you cannot learn this here and now, then that is too bad…BK may help immensely, but I am sure first rate character will never win a NC. A few well-placed thugs will…gimme 10 thugs, 5 on each side of the line.

  23. Sgt. Moon - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    If I wanted to watch thugs and misfits in college football, I would watch the University of Miami, or Florida State or a lot of different college teams. This notion that you can’t win with smart kids is crazy. This is ND football, not Attica state prison.
    I’m not naive enough to think that ND students don’t drink alcohol and are perfect angels, but you don’t need morons and kids with one foot in a jail cell. There is nothing wrong with going to class and getting your education while playing football also. Plenty of excellent athletes do it.
    I don’t know what the future holds for ND football, but it looks better than it did a year or two ago.

  24. rehab 90731 - Apr 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    your view sounds typical…I realize my view is in the great minority…which is why ND has been so poor lately…who said anything about prisoners ? I axed for 10 playas who ordinarily could not get past the Admin screen. Enjoy your high and mighty ego and your .500 record….if it will make you feel good, I hereby pronounce, you, and ND, National Champions in Words Only

  25. lah - Apr 16, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    ND is first and foremost a university and all students should be evaluated on the same admission standards regardless if they can play football well. It would deminish the university’s academic reputation to let in some “thugs” just to win football games and still let them graduate with a degree only after barely passing their classes. How fair is that to the other students that were admitted on their own merits to be given the same degree as the football star that can barely read/write??
    I can only hope my son wants to go there one day and maybe play football. At least I know he’ll receive a top-notch education while he’s there and will be a productive member of society afterwards.
    Maybe you should stop trolling on this site with your bad spelling and grammar. It’s only making you look uneducated. I agree with Sgt Moon that it is possible to have a successful team with smart kids. What they really needed all along was a coach that took the entitlement sticks out of their @$$es. Can’t wait to see what this season brings!

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