Saturday’s 45-14 victory over Stanford marked Notre Dame’s 11th win of the season; another rather dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jack Coan passed for over 300 yards for the first time since September and Kevin Austin finally looked like a true number one receiver. The 11th win put the Irish in square contention for the College Football Playoffs or at least a good New Year’s Six bowl game. Unfortunately, the positive momentum that the Irish had heading into bowl season came to a screeching halt late Monday night when Brian Kelly announced his resignation from Notre Dame to take his new position of Head Coach at Louisiana State University.
Am I mad at Kelly for leaving and getting paid? No. Do I like the way that he went about it? Absolutely not. To abandon an 11-1 team that is on the verge of making the playoffs is a wild move, but today’s college football landscape has proven to be nothing short of crazy. Reports started to emerge around 8:00pm on Monday night and it was a matter of hours later when these were confirmed. Kelly’s new contract will pay him upwards of 95 million dollars over the next 10 years while in Baton Rouge. Good for him to chase the money but how do you not let any of your coaches, players, or administration know about this? The announcement seemed to blindside just about everyone involved, one coach saying that he received the news just a few minutes after leaving a recruit’s house. Kelly later sent a mass-text to the team calling for a 7:00am meeting on Tuesday morning to be able to tell them in person. That meeting went just about as good as I expected it to, as videos later surface of Kelly driving away from campus just 12 minutes after the meeting started.
Players took to social media in reaction to this news late Monday and into Tuesday, the majority wishing Kelly well and thanking them for his time at Notre Dame. Yes, Kelly took a “broken program” and made them into a continual 10+ win team, but where does this leave the Irish now? Players, including the likes of Kyle Hamilton, Justin Ademilola, Clarence Lewis, and numerous others have been vocalizing the support for current Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman to be named the next head coach for the Irish and I too back this sentiment. Freeman has proven his value with his coaching style on the field as well as his tenacity on the recruiting trail – something that Kelly definitely could have improved on. The top-tier programs have coaching staffs whose number one priority is recruiting, and Freeman undoubtedly fits that bill.
Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, in his Tuesday morning press conference, noted that they are not in a rush to sign or announce who the next head coach will be. I appreciate his willingness to do a thorough coaching search, but time is of the essence here. Today’s college football landscape is not a place where you can afford to take your time. This is purely speculation at this point, but I feel that if Notre Dame doesn’t make an offer to Freeman soon, he is going to be out the door as well, and that is the last thing that the Irish can afford right now. Rumors have been floated around Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, and even the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Urban Meyer. In my opinion, I hope the Irish stay far away from Campbell after a disappointing 7-5 season with Iowa State, not to mention the Irish’s waxing of the Cyclones in a 33-9 Camping World Bowl victory just two seasons ago. Urban Meyer expressed years ago that Notre Dame was his “dream job”, but with his recent off the field allegations, Meyer’s hire would come with a lot of additional baggage. Meyer has since come out and stated that he does not have any interest in going back to the college coaching realm, but then again Kelly did not say anything about LSU and Lincoln Riley was spewing smoke screens before leaving town for Southern California. In other words, coach’s statements don’t seem to mean a lot anymore. What ever happened to loyalty?
The last 48-72 hours in college football has revealed a nation-wide problem with the sport – greed. Money talks. With that being said, Notre Dame is a university that is not necessarily financially strapped. I’m going way out on a limb here but why not “throw the bag” at the likes of Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, or Ryan Day? Sure, it’s not likely that they leave their programs but at this point, what is there to lose? From the sounds of it, Kelly named his price and LSU agreed to it. Why not do the same for one of these legendary coaches if Swarbrick isn’t going to hand the reigns over to Marcus Freeman? I know it sounds absurd, but we have seen a lot of crazy coaching movement recently. An Irish fan can dream…right?
In a more realistic light, I do hope that Freeman is named the next head coach for the Notre Dame football program. I don’t care that he doesn’t have head coaching experience; his ability to relate to the players, his insane talent on the recruiting front, and the buy in that the former, current, and future Notre Dame players have shown should speak volumes. If a move is not made soon, this program could spiral down to mediocracy in the blink of an eye. I, along with many other Irish fans, are sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the next domino to fall – and let’s hope and pray that it falls in the right direction. Until then, we continue to wait. Oh, and don’t forget, there’s still a major bowl game on the horizon. Just trying to stay positive at this point. Go Irish.