In what now seems like a surreal moment in time, as my significant other shared with me Sunday night about breaking news of Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for Southern Cal, she asked if Brian Kelly would have left Notre Dame. My instant reaction was no, never to USC. But my mind drifted, remembering LSU had still not named a new head coach, and what I thought was a slim chance Kelly would entertain an offer from them. I could not say it out loud. As if somehow my statement could jinx the Irish faithful and we would lose our head coach. Less than twenty-four hours later, we all were stunned. Irish coaches, players, staff and fans alike.
Our instant human emotional reflex is to fill with anger. How dare he? Don't get me wrong, I still have questions too. But, I also think the one thing we tend to forget, is college football has basically become a professional business. I guess in a lot of ways, it always has been. It has just been magnified in recent years. One of the biggest problems I see is the new early signing period in December. I get the draw to get kids signed to enroll in the spring but, from a coaching and recruiting standpoint, if you are competing in a bowl game, let alone a new year's six or the College Football Playoff, you have to be off recruiting during arguably the most important part of your season. Preparing for the post regular season should not be the best time to go off recruiting or worrying about keeping commits. The time table has shifted and it needs to be fixed. Coaches should not leave or be fired in the middle of a season. I don't think it's good for college football, I don't think it's good for the student athletes and certainly not the fans.
The biggest question I don't know that we will ever truly get an answer to, is why now? I can't think it's completely about the money, he already has a ton. If it's about winning a nation title, Notre Dame just might make it into the CFP this year, with some help of course, and I think they are a more complete team then their two previous playoff appearances. The next two years of recruiting classes, could probably be the best we've had at Notre Dame in over twenty years. Did he have a falling out with Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick or President Fr. Jenkins?
But like the title says, I want to say thank you to Brian Kelly. He took a program that had about a 57% winning percentage under Bob Davie, Ty Willingham, and Charlie Weis and brought it up to over a 72% average with seven double digit win seasons, including the last five in a row. It has made watching Notre Dame football fun again. Yes, just like everyone, I would get angry and upset with decisions from time to time. But I think we need to appreciate where the program is right now. We are in a much better position than twelve years ago. I also credit the hard work of the staff he brought in, and the work the players put in, without them the program would be nothing. Brian Kelly has made Notre Dame relevant again. Whether you love ND (or BK) or hate them (or him), it's good for college football when the Irish are relevant.