When Brian Kelly met with the media on Friday to kick off Notre Dame’s 2013 fall camp, his contract was a hot topic following his NFL flirtation this off-season. According to Kelly, he has agreed in principle with Notre Dame on a new deal and expects that an official agreement is imminent.
“Absolutely,” Kelly said on Friday when asked if he agreed in principle with Notre Dame on a new deal. ”That is exactly what happened back in December. We had an agreement. There’s just legal language. Nothing that has put me in a position, or the university, that we don’t have an agreement moving forward for a number of years,” he added.
Much has been made of Kelly’s contract situation after Notre Dame’s most successful head coach since Lou Holtz flirted with the NFL by interviewing with the Philadelphia Eagles in the days immediately following Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship. After days of rampant speculation that ended up costing Notre Dame early enrollee Alex Anzalone, Notre Dame and Kelly announced his intentions to return to Notre Dame.
Since those days of limbo, it has been assumed that a new contract for Kelly and his assistants was just around the corner. Here we are eight months later , however, and no new deal has been announced. Speculation has been that there were other factors outside of just dollars and cents holding up the negotiations. Kelly put that speculation to rest on Friday.
“This has never been one that I’ve used a contract to leverage the university to do something. If I had to do that, I would not be here,” Kelly said bluntly to the media. “Our university knows exactly what it takes. We have no issues relative to contract. I have no issues. So that’s not a story from my standpoint,” he added.
Kelly also made it clear on Friday that the negotiations haven’t moved at the pace he would have liked. “We have people that are paid money to look at these contracts. They look at them very closely. They don’t operate as quickly as I would like to. But there are no issues contractually. There is no leverage play here.”
Kelly knows that opposing coaches are using his tryst with the Eagles on the recruiting trail against him and Notre Dame and knows that the closer they get to Signing Day without a formal announcement on a contract, the more ammunition opposing coaches will have. After the weekend of commitments of Richard Yeargin III and defensive lineman Matt Dickerson gave Notre Dame 17 commitments for the class of 2014 though, it doesn’t appear as though his contract and long term status has effected he and his staff’s recruiting efforts just yet.
Despite the delays, it looks as though something formal should be announcement in the near future. ”I think it’s imminent,” Kelly said when asked if his contract would linger into the season. ”It’s up to Jack. Jack will make that decision. Whether he wants to make an announcement or not, I don’t need an announcement. I have a signed contract. I’m getting paid every day. I’m fortunate to be the head coach at Notre Dame. I’m not really worried about that stuff.
From the University’s standpoint, it is very easy to understand why the pace of negotiations and finalizing a new agreement has been done with caution. Notre Dame has spent millions of dollars paying for the mistakes of Kevin White after the last two failed head coaching regimes were shown the door with time and money left on their contracts. White was overzealous with his desire to lock up Charlie Weis just six games into his head coaching career and because of it, the University is still paying Charlie Weis quite handsomely to NOT coach for them this fall.
After Kelly’s brief look at the NFL, Notre Dame will also want to ensure that any new contract will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible for Kelly to entertain the notion of looking anywhere but South Bend. After three seasons and a career of building winning programs, it is abundantly clear that Notre Dame does not have to worry that Kelly will suffer a similar fate to that of Weis or Tyrone Willingham or Bob Davie. They just need to make sure they lock up Kelly now that they’ve finally found a coach capable of building and sustaining success at Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly has Notre Dame on the verge of being a perennial powerhouse in college football once again. There are still a few areas that need to be fortified as Kelly was quick to point out on Friday, but the foundation has been laid. For Notre Dame and Kelly the next phase will be to maintain that success. A new long term contract fortifying Kelly’s position on the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium for years to come will be the first step in that process.