To say the Spring and early Summer time-frame has been a tumultuous one for Irish fans, is a complete understatement. From the Manti Te’o hoax, the loss of Gunner Kiel, Davonte Neal, Justin Ferguson, and Eddie Vanderdoes, and the exile of 2nd year quarterback, and BCS championship game starter Everett Golson, Irish fans and coaching staff have to be asking what is next – and would have every right in doing so.
As the luck of the Irish continues to seemingly run out, fans are left searching for answers and wanting to know why this is consistently happening to their program and who is to blame? It is easy to believe that this is only happening to the Notre Dame program, and that all 123 other FBS schools are impervious to this type of turmoil, but the actual truth of the matter is, it does happen at every major football program, only every major news outlet doesn’t cover it like they do when it happens at Notre Dame.
When a string of negative events take place like the ones that have shrouded South Bend for the past six months, fans and media start looking for answers as to why, and are willing to listen to anyone who has a perspective. Some will look at the coaching staff and possible loss of program control, and others will chalk it up to the fact that when you recruit a higher caliber athlete, they tend to be coddled and have trouble dealing with the pressures that are placed upon them during the recruiting process. A smaller contingency of Irish fans will flock to their favorite online forums and message boards and claim the program is cursed, as if a 2012 undefeated season and a trip to the national championship game never occurred.
As a life-long fan of the Notre Dame program, I am here to reassure you that the program is not cursed and that the current coaching staff that man’s the sidelines on Saturday, at least from our point of view, seems to be a great fit. In many conversations that we have had with current and former recruits, the one absolute consistency in their reason for choosing to play football for the Irish has been the coaching staff, and its professionalism and honesty. Mind you, these statements were not casually suggested in the form of a pleasant conversation, but rather strongly emphasized as the deciding factor in most choices.
Brian Kelly has been no stranger to controversy
Since the arrival of Brian Kelly in 2010, the Irish have had their fair share of controversy on and off the field, and most Notre Dame fans would even admit so, but with that said, coach Kelly has made personal and professional changes for the better. If we are being honest, coaching at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati is quite different in regards to pressure, prestige, and of course scrutiny, than walking the sidelines in South Bend. Kelly had been heavily criticized for his tantrums and outbreaks towards his players, and his high expectations, but realizing the error of his ways, he turned a quite volatile situation into an opportunity to teach and help the maturation process of the young men under his tutelage. He also realized that he needed a more hands on approach, and changed his coaching style to include more one on one time with certain players, instead of solely relying on his position coaches. Kelly understands that when you are the head coach of Notre Dame, you are not only representing yourself, but you are also representing the university, the players, and the tradition, and not just on Saturday afternoons.
While we are not ready to anoint Kelly as the next Knute Rockne or Ara Parseghian, we are able to recognize a man, even with his current and past successes, who has the ability and desire to change for the better. He doesn’t cast-off criticism, but instead betters himself from it, all while staying true to himself. Most of us are not privy to what truly goes on in these situations, and heavily rely on the media and rumors for our news, and that can be a dangerous path of education. We do know that Brian Kelly has modified his approach, and his players recognize the fact and speak of it often. We also know that when you recruit on a truly national level, there are going to be circumstances that just are out of the coach’s control, and we feel like most, if not all of these situations could not have been salvaged, no matter what Brian Kelly’s approach was.
Whatever faults Kelly and his staff have publicly displayed in the past, they have worked on correcting, both superficially and internally and recruits have taken notice. The winning tradition is seemingly back in South Bend, and with recent verbal’s from Elijah Hood(ATH) and now 4-star quarterback DeShone Kizer, it appears it will continue. With the losses of Kiel and now Golson, it was imperative that the Irish coaching staff add depth and talent behind the center, and that’s what makes the verbal from Kizer so important. With Kizer on board, The Irish now have what most would consider a lethal 1-2 punch for the next few years with himself and early enrollee Malik Zaire. Just further proof that instead of dwelling on the negative, Kelly and his staff look at the positive side and continue to move forward and Irish fans should do the same.
A coach and his staff cannot control every move and decision a recruit makes, and fans and media need to stop pretending they can monitor every situation, every day. It is time to start placing blame on where it belongs, and that is back on the recruits, the opposing coaches who break the rules and keep recruiting, and the parents of these sometimes coddled Prima Donnas. It is also time to start putting faith in a man who understands he is not perfect, who understands everyone one of his decisions are not correct, but still stands up and takes responsibility for the negative, as well and claiming credit for the positive – which actually coach Kelly always gives the credit to his players and assistant coaches.