Reports: Brian Kelly to leave Notre Dame for LSU, announcement possible Tuesday

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Multiple reports indicate Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will be the next head coach at LSU with an official announcement possible as soon as Tuesday morning. This move from Kelly is unexpected and has developed exceedingly quickly, the first rumors of the seismic change coming only late Monday afternoon.

Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel provided the first confirmation of those rumors.

Kelly just finished his 12th season at Notre Dame, winning a program-record 113 games. Kelly reached the postseason three times — 2012, 2018 and 2020 — with a fourth still somewhat possible yet this season with the Irish currently at No. 6 in the polls and needing only a few games to go their way on Saturday to reach their third Playoff in four years.

It looks unlikely Kelly will be their coach if such unfolds.

Only a week ago, to the day of these rumors and apparent confirmations, Kelly shot down speculation he may be interested in heading to USC. With hindsight, his phrasing stands out.

“Where your name is brought up is where they probably want you to look, so you’re not looking where you should be looking,” Kelly said. “It’s a smokescreen. This time of the year, throw names out there so people don’t look where they’re supposed to look.”

LSU was still in pursuit of a few other coaches, namely Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley (now at USC), so Kelly was not feinting away from a trip to Baton Rouge. Logic says that much is a result of nothing more than circumstances, but his next line makes it clear what LSU, or anyone else, had to do to get him out of South Bend.

“Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first,” Kelly said.

Kelly arrived at Notre Dame from Cincinnati after the 2009 season, then coming off its best season and falling just short of the BCS title game. He began his tenure with a pair of 8-5 seasons before a 12-0 regular season gave him his first national championship chance in 2012. Two so-so years followed before the Irish came a pair of field goals away from another unbeaten run in 2015.

A 4-8 debacle in 2016 followed, after which Kelly shook up his coaching staff in unprecedented fashion. The success of that pseudo-reboot has inspired similar moves across the country, though none with the same results Notre Dame enjoyed. The Irish have gone 54-9 since then, reaching the Playoff twice … so far.

LSU fired head coach Ed Orgeron in mid-October, less than two years after the Tigers won a national championship with one of the most prolific offenses in college football history. Orgeron’s quick fall was shocking, but a few avoidable missteps in 2020 expedited his departure.

With the headstart on the coaching carousel, it was widely assumed LSU athletic director Scott Woodward would chase the biggest of names. Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher headed that list, having been hired at A&M by Woodward in 2018. Fisher instead received a raise in College Station.

James Franklin at Penn State and Mel Tucker at Michigan State also received raises as their names were attached to the Tigers’ vacancy. Riley chose USC over LSU this weekend, leaving Woodward running out of big names to ponder.

Now Notre Dame needs to ponder names, something unfathomable only 24 hours ago. That list can be discussed in the morning, though with the speed of this coaching cycle, it could also be outdated by then. The first three names on it — whether that be an agent-populated list in media circles or a legitimate list on the desk of director of athletics Jack Swarbrick — will be Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell and Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, in no particular order.

Fickell, of course, has a conference championship game this weekend and a Playoff to worry about if he wins on Saturday. Campbell’s fervor was higher a couple years ago. Freeman has never been a head coach and has been at Notre Dame for less than 12 months.