After nearly 72 hours of radio silence from South Bend, Notre Dame has announced that their head football coach isn’t going anywhere. Brian Kelly will remain at Notre Dame for a fourth season, ending an agonizing wait for Irish fans waiting to hear from either the university or its coach.
Word broke earlier this week that Kelly had discussed the Philadelphia Eagles vacancy with club leadership. From there, the rumor mill took over, with anonymous sources leading the media and thousands following on Twitter in a variety of directions. All while Notre Dame and its head coach stayed remarkably quiet.
“This week, I had an incredible opportunity to speak with one of the premier organizations in sports about becoming their head coach,” Kelly said in a statement released by the university. “Like every kid who has ever put on a pair of football cleats, I have had thoughts about being a part of the NFL. However, after much reflection and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to remain at Notre Dame.”
How that decision came to be remains to be seen. Multiple reports, including one made here, have said representatives of Kelly have been negotiating with the university on a contract extension for the past few days, something athletic director Jack Swarbrick has said was forthcoming. Yet the battle may also have included altruistic motives, with some reporting that Kelly was also pushing for a wage increase for his coaching staff as well.
No financial terms or contract extension were announced. And while some reports have said staff members were staying in touch with their head coach while he was spending a few days with his wife and family before returning for the home stretch of recruiting, two members of Kelly’s staff have told me they found out their bosses plans via Twitter, just like the rest of those waiting for news.
“This decision was motivated purely by my love for Notre Dame and the entire Fighting Irish community, the young men I have the great fortune to coach, and my desire to continue to build the best football program in the country,” Kelly continued in the statement. “We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead.”
Coming off a 12-1 season, there were rumors that Kelly’s name would be on the short list of NFL teams looking to fill their vacancies. And while nothing came out of the Irish athletic department throughout this quiet spell, Swarbrick said he was in communication with his head coach as well as the Eagles, who asked for permission to speak with Kelly.
“I was always confident that Brian would continue to lead our football program, I am very happy to have that confirmed and share Brian’s excitement about what lies ahead for our program,” Swarbrick said.
“I appreciate the Eagles reaching out to request permission to speak with Brian, and I also appreciate Brian keeping me fully informed throughout this process.”
That process was one of pure uncertainty, and a vacuum surrounding the athletic department led to a lot of guessing. As Swarbrick showed during his decision to fire Charlie Weis and the coaching search that led to the hiring of Kelly, the athletic department was leak-proof, a far cry from the group-think efforts of the past.
With Kelly returning to meet with the team on Monday, there’s work to be done for the head coach. First, he’ll have to address a staff that was largely kept in the dark these past five days. While many assumed this was a leverage play from the start, that didn’t keep staffers from worrying about finding new jobs when nearly every vacancy at the college level has been filled. Kelly will also have to get back to work closing out his recruiting class. Whether or not it was directly influenced by Kelly’s discussion with the Eagles, the Irish lost the commitment of touted linebacker Alex Anzalone during this period of uncertainty, a tough blow to the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, but one that gives the Irish another scholarship to work with in these final weeks.
Kelly is currently in Connecticut at the Walter Camp Awards, where he’s receiving the Coach of the Year award. He’ll return to South Bend and welcome five new early enrolling freshman as the semester starts Tuesday.