The Notre Dame coaches clinic is underway, with hundreds of high school coaches from around the country descending on South Bend to hear Brian Kelly and his staff speak. In addition to the Irish coaches, a star-studded list will also be joining the festivities, with current NFL head coaches Marc Trestman, Marvin Lewis and Bill Belichick all taking the time to share some tips as well. They’re joined by former Bengals coach Sam Wyche and former Nevada coach Chris Ault, who is widely credited for the Pistol offense that’s the rage of pro and college football.
The assembly of coaching talent says a lot about the relationships Brian Kelly has developed over his years as a head coach. It’s funny to think back to the hiring of Kelly, when many wondered if he was too “small-time” with his roots being at Grand Valley, Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
With a cast of coaches befitting an Ocean’s Eleven movie, I think we can put that notion to rest for the thousandth time.
Speaking of Belichick, the notoriously tight-lipped coach actually spent a little more than ten minutes with the local press, doing his best to show his admiration for Kelly and the program he’s built, but also Notre Dame and the players it develops.
Here’s Kelly on his experience with former Notre Dame players.
“They’re all smart, they’re tough, and they’re disciplined,” Belichick said. “To get through four years here with the program that Notre Dame has academically, socially and from a football standpoint takes a lot from a kid. That’s the kind of player you see come out of here. Kids that are smart, well-versed and have more than football in their lives.”
While Belichick had good things to say about former Irish wide receiver David Givens and former cornerback Mike Richardson, he saved his most glowing praise for former Giants great Mark Bavaro.
“Mark Bavaro is right at the top. He’s about as Notre Dame as they come.”
In what’s only news because it’s the middle of April, Arizona State athletic director Steve Patterson created a couple ripples when he took to the airwaves of a local Phoenix radio station to complain about Notre Dame considering whether or not they’ll play in Tempe in late October, 2014.
The Irish have themselves in a bit of a scheduling pickle in 2014, the first season they’ve agreed to play five games against ACC teams.
FoxSports Arizona has more on Patterson’s remarkably candid comments:
“The school didn’t have the courtesy to have the athletic director (Jack Swarbrick) call the athletic director at ASU to discuss it,” Patterson said. “They had their PR guy call (ASU’s media relations office) to give us a message Friday afternoon while everybody was out of town at the Final Four.
“At least in the little Catholic town I grew up in — Beaver Dam, Wis. — the good nuns wouldn’t have thought that was a very appropriate way to honor your word.”
“Our position is ‘Hey, we’ve got a contract,’ and we expect Notre Dame to live up to it,” Patterson said.
ASU and Notre Dame are set to play this season at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Oct. 5 as part of Notre Dame’s “Shamrock Series.” That game is not in question, but the possibility of losing the 2014 game could put ASU in a tough spot with its schedule for next year, which also includes nonconference games with Weber State (home) and New Mexico (road).
“What people don’t understand is you do this 18 months before a game,” Patterson said. “Virtually every other university in the country’s got their teams scheduled until 2014. So who do you get as a replacement even if you wanted to do it?
“If you act in a professional way and you want to talk about three years down the line or four years down the line where somebody’s got a chance to make an adjustment in their schedule, that’s a different thing, but when it’s 18 months out, everybody’s got their season booked.”
While Swarbrick hasn’t made any comment publicly, senior associate athletic director John Heisler told the South Bend Tribune that the schedule for 2014 is still in flux.
“It looks like we’re kind of in the home stretch here,” Heisler said Wednesday, “but the reality is we have more games than we could play.”
We talked about the overloaded schedule earlier in the week, but there’s little doubt that Swarbrick and company won’t fully weigh their options before making a decision. Still, it’s a little crazy to see normally behind-the-scenes discussions like this get blown out in public.
No word if the nuns in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin have a problem with airing dirty laundry in public.
Don’t look know, but Athlon released their annual coaching rankings, and Brian Kelly came in at No. 4 in college football. Here’s the top ten:
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State
3. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
4. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
5. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
6. Chris Petersen, Boise State
7. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
8. Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
9. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
10. Gary Patterson, TCU
Here’s what Athlon had to say about Kelly:
Not many coaches in college football can rival Kelly’s resume in four stops as a head coach. Kelly’s first head coaching gig came in 1991 at Grand Valley State, and he stayed in that capacity until 2003. During 13 years with Grand Valley State, Kelly went 118-35-2 and won two Division II titles. After his success with the Lakers, Kelly went 19-16 with Central Michigan, which included a MAC Championship in 2006. Kelly moved on to Cincinnati at the end of the 2006 season and guided the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009. After back to-back 8-5 seasons with Notre Dame, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the BCS National Championship game at the end of the 2012 season. Despite the blowout loss to Alabama in the title game, Kelly clearly has the program back on track to be an annual top 10-15 team.
Other than Stoops, coaches on the Irish’s upcoming 2013 schedule include Brady Hoke (14), David Shaw (20), Mark Dantonio (26), Todd Graham (29), Bronco Mendenhall (46), Paul Chryst (52), Lane Kiffin (57), Troy Calhoun (58), Darrell Hazell (67), Ken Numatalolo (76), Matt Rhule (109).
When reading Stewart Mandel‘s recent profile on Lane Kiffin and USC at SI.com, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when Charlie Weis was at Notre Dame. Fair or not, it seemed like things that happened early in Weis’ tenure at Notre Dame lingered over Weis’ head long after his introductory press conference.
In Weis’s case, he could never dig out from underneath comments like “decided schematic advantage,” or the brash persona he openly embraced for a profile on 60 Minutes. Kiffin deals with similar pain, unable to shake the portrait he helped paint of himself, after horrible runs with the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Vols, yet continually failing up, something skeptics credit to a family name built by his father.
That’s what makes the thought process behind Kiffin’s below comments so difficult to understand. He’s certainly not going to live down any criticism any time soon. So why keep talking about it?
Kiffin told a story recently about the perils of fashion choices. When the Trojans played at Oregon in November 2011, Kiffin, who openly detests cold weather, wore a white beanie to stay warm. After USC pulled off the upset, there was a run on beanies at the school bookstore. The Dan Patrick Show requested the original.
Now fast forward 13 months to last season’s Sun Bowl. As USC was getting embarrased by 6-7 Georgia Tech, Kiffin was getting blasted on Twitter for donning a hood and dark sunglasses. “He wasn’t focused, he didn’t care, he checked out, because we lost the game” said Kiffin of his perception. “If we won the game, no one would have noticed.
“And if we lose the game at Oregon, [the perception] would be, ‘What kind of head coach wears a beanie?'”
Kiffin even addressing this topic shows a hopeless lack of media savvy. So does the revisionist history the head coach and athletic director Pat Haden exercise by acknowledging last year’s team was overrated.
Here’s Kiffin and Haden on the lofty preseason expectations, something he didn’t shy away from at the time.
“I felt if I was to talk that way to [the media] … I would be giving our players an excuse to lose,” Kiffin said to SI. “That’s why I didn’t temper expectations outside even though I knew where we had some issues and weren’t as good as people thought we were.”
“I had us pegged for two losses myself,” AD Pat Haden told Mandel. “You don’t want to discourage your kids by saying you’re not that good, but we knew.”
It’s interesting comparing these comments to the ones coming from Notre Dame after their embarrassing defeat to Alabama. Certainly, Kelly talked about a lack of depth along the offensive line, but he — and his players — have taken the loss as an objective measure of what they still need to work on.
Lastly, here are a few high school coaches that’ll be speaking at the clinic this weekend.
Michael Johnson, Head Coach
Bishop Dunne H.S. — Dallas, TX
Tony Perry, Defensive Backs Coach
Fresno Central H.S. — Fresno, CA
Tony Sanchez, Head Coach
Bishop Gorman H.S. — Las Vegas, NV
Mike Rumph, Head Coach
American Heritage H.S. — Plantation, FL
Don Fellows, Head Coach
Grand Rapids Christian — Grand Rapids, MI