Friday, October 21, 2016

Brian Kelly Gets Backing, Should We Believe It?

     Brian Kelly won a backing from his administration at Notre Dame today, but was it true? Or is it the dreaded kiss of death? We won't likely know until December, but the big money is being placed on Notre Dame making a change. There are both possibilities and negatives towards this happening.
     We can start with why it would happen. Notre Dame was ranked 10th in pre-season polls, and what this means depends on whether you believe in those rankings or not. I do not, however, I did go out on a limb and project a 12-0 record based on returning talent and a schedule that did not look entirely daunting. I went on record, and on air, calling Notre Dame a potential national title contender. That, now, is a pipe dream. Notre Dame has to win 4 of their final 5 even to qualify for the Music City Bowl, a destination that was unthinkable just 2 months ago.
     The off-field issues that Notre Dame experienced right before the season are not isolated incidents. As a matter of fact, off-field incidents at Notre Dame have been on the increase during Kelly's reign as coach. This, too, is unacceptable at a place like Notre Dame, which is supposed to be a pinnacle program in college athletics.
     Those are just a couple of issues regarding why Kelly needs to go, and there are probably more issues to go over, including Jimmy Clausen stating publicly that it is time for a change at Notre Dame, which eliminated any likely relationship that the alum would have with the current coach, and that is a serious tie to sever.
     Here is the likely reason why the Irish may indeed abide by what was said today, that Kelly will lead the team in the opener in 2017. There is one central reason why Kelly may stay. The buyout.
     Kelly may be owed a buyout in the area of $20 million if the Irish decide to part ways with him. $20 million is the baseline amount, but it could be more depending on what would be negotiated.
     Notre Dame can afford the money that would be needed for the buyout. The real question is would it be money well spent? One of his current players was already caught liking tweets regarding changes at head coach. He certainly engaged in back peddling very quickly once cornered on the matter, and is speaking praises about his coach now, but the damage was done.
     The reality, based on how one reads the situation, is that Kelly has lost a tremendous amount of prestige in his position, within the ranks of his players, and likely within the ranks of anyone else who matters in South Bend and elsewhere. If his power is eroding at this point, than paying the man to go away may be the best bet.
     There is one other consideration. Who will be the replacement? Notre Dame is still one of the most powerful jobs in college football. They should be able to be the front runner to land any coach they want to hire. That said, who will that be? Will Notre Dame land Les Miles? Is he the leader if this move transpires? Miles would certainly fit philosophically with what works at Notre Dame. The program has always won playing power football, and maybe a return to that philosophy is exactly what the Irish need.
      They could keep with a wide open approach, and Chip Kelly is widely being rumored to desire a departure from the 49ers, with a return to college football being his preference. Going back to Oregon may not be in the cards, and Notre Dame is certainly closer to his home territory of New England. It is also the kind of program that Chip could land at and plant his flag, and succeed. Remember, Chip Kelly also landed Oregon in a national championship game during the BCS era.
     Whatever Notre Dame does, the Irish need to make a move that will keep their program from falling into the pits of the Gerry Faust era, where the Irish fell hard. That cannot be allowed again. Whatever happens, we will know within the next 5 or 6 weeks. Here's wishing them the luck of the Irish.

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