Stability prevails as Kelly signs two-year extension


Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have struck a deal that extends the head coach’s contract through the 2016 season, the university announced today. The school officially exercised an option to extend his original contract two years.

“While Coach Kelly and I are focused on the additional work that must be done to reach our goals, I am very pleased with the progress we have made during the past two years.” athletics director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “Our football team’s performance on the field, in the classroom, and in the community reflect Coach Kelly’s commitment to building a program that will be able to sustain success in the long run, and to doing so in a manner consistent with Notre Dame’s values and tradition.”

While it’ll never top the extension that Kevin White doled out to Charlie Weis early in his tenure at Notre Dame, Kelly had nothing but pleasant things to say about the additional years.

“I want to thank Father Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick for their unwavering support of me the last two years,” Kelly said in the same statement. “My family and I are truly blessed to be at Notre Dame and we are excited about what the future holds for the Fighting Irish football team. I also want to thank Father John and Jack for the commitment they made to the football program last week by renewing the contracts of our assistant coaches. I think we have one of the finest coaching staffs in the country at Notre Dame, and the confidence our administration has shown in us is truly appreciated.”

Kelly’s comment about renewing the contracts of the assistant coaching staff is the one area where you can start digging if you’re wondering about the timing of the announcement, which should give a boost to the Irish staff as they head down the home stretch of recruiting.

Swarbrick echoed the same sentiment in his comments as well, lending more credence to the fact that this was a measured response to Urban Meyer’s staff poaching and Charley Molnar’s departure.

“The quality of the assistant coaches that Coach Kelly has brought to Notre Dame is evident both in their performance and the interest that other schools have shown in them since the end of the regular season,” Swarbrick said. “Building on the foundation we have now created and maintaining continuity is critical to the future success of our football program, and that is why we have secured the continued service of our football staff.”

Some fans critical of Kelly’s performance these first two years are likely grinding their teeth at the university extending the contract of a coach with back-to-back eight win seasons, hardly “wake up the echoes” material. That said, this is business as usual in the college football world, where contract extensions are largely a show pony for program stability and recruiting.

You can’t blame some Irish fans for ducking for cover when any extension is announced, but most reactions are a product of that horrific extension given to Charlie Weis, a ten-year deal that certainly backfired, but was the source of some ridiculously inaccurate reporting.

We’ll likely find out the exact buy-out Weis had as Notre Dame rolls out their annual tax documents for public consumption, but you can be assured that it was nowhere in the $30-$45 million dollar range some media outlets were irresponsibly reporting. Likewise, with Jack Swarbrick in charge of the athletic department, a man who comes armed with a high-powered legal background, you can bet that any contract Kelly signed doesn’t guarantee the full value, and has plenty of protection for Notre Dame. That’s business as usual (or at least business as it should be).

Looking beyond the contractual minutia, from a program stability perspective, this is exactly the right time for this contract. Walking into a difficult 2012 schedule, the last thing Swarbrick wants to do is deal with questions about his head coach’s contract, which will be the first thing opposing schools point out when recruiting against the Irish. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this negotiation included some budgetary moves for the assistant coaching pool, with nobody at Notre Dame likely pleased that two coaches on staff were willing to make what appeared to be lateral moves to Ohio State.