A Wild Week for Notre Dame

NCAA Football: Notre Dame Practice
Aug. 4, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; The Notre Dame Fighting Irish huddle during practice at the LaBar Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Well it has been a strange week for Irish fans to say the least. First they have to deal with their team’s extremely poor showing in Miami, and then the very real possibility of losing their head coach, who has brought the Irish football program back to the edge of college football dominance. Neither event was fun to deal with, but Irish fans need to put the past behind them and look forward from this point on. When you are a fan of one of the most storied programs in the history of college football, you have to accept the good with the bad. The Irish and their fans certainly have had much to celebrate in their history, but have also had to endure their share of heartbreak and disappointment. This season was no different as it covered the whole spectrum in regards to absolute excitement and joy, to enduring some very tough emotions both on and off the field.

Irish coach Brian Kelly made headlines everywhere this last week and pushed the world of social media to the point of collapse, when it was discovered he interviewed with Philadelphia Eagles for their vacant head coach position. While this was very alarming news already for Irish fans, what was even more disturbing was a strange aura of silence surrounding the whole ordeal. Some reports had Coach Kelly out of the country, while others had him in either South Bend, or Philadelphia for a second interview with the Eagles front office. There was heavy speculation that Kelly was simply using the situation to either warrant a raise and an extension for himself, or his assistants. Other members of the media expressed that there was true interest from both Kelly and Eagles Management, and that Kelly had become the Eagles top choice to be the successor of the position formerly held by Andy Reid.

Rumors were rampant, the silence was disturbing, and the thought of no longer having Brian Kelly as their coach, had many Irish fans in an uproar. Many posters online were claiming they even if Kelly decided he did not want the NFL job, he should not be welcomed back to South Bend. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, added nothing to the situation that would calm Irish fans down either, except the fact that he was willing to extend his current head coach’s contract, and include a raise. The whole scenario was an extremely polarizing event as many Notre Dame fans and media alike, chose sides. It was simply a bad situation, and one that no Irish fan wants to endure again anytime soon.

Throughout all of this though, the Irish only lost one incoming 2013 recruit, Alex Anzalone.  A linebacker out of Wyomissing,PA. If you follow college football recruiting closely, you surely understand that Mr. Anzalone, while he absolutely has every right to switch schools, may have been a bit over-rated and extremely indecisive about his future destination anyways. The majority of other Irish commits for 2013 took to Twitter and Facebook to express their love for Notre Dame, and were coming with or without Coach Kelly at the helm. That tells you that other than Alex Anzalone, the rest of the Notre Dame class of 2013 were sold on the football program, the academic opportunity, and the school as a whole, not just a coach. These are the type of players that Irish fans should want running out of the tunnel on any given Saturday Fall afternoon. Brian Kelly has often referenced recruiting the “right kind of guy” and I have a feeling that this upcoming class is full of them.

Other than admitting that the whole situation was tough to deal with, I’ve refused to pick sides. No one other than the Coach Kelly and his family, the Eagles front office, and maybe a handful of others, know the exact details of what went down over the last 9 days. So instead of becoming overly emotional on a subject in which I had very few facts about, I decided to just wait this one out. My gut told me that Kelly would be back, and in the end I was correct. Even if he had decided that accepting the Eagles job would be the most beneficial thing he could do for him and his family, I still would not have been mad at him. Yes, Kelly just claimed a week earlier that he had the best job in the world, and had no intentions on leaving it, but every fan hopefully understands coach-speak. Every coach of a major college football program has to speak it, and it’s funny how fans eat it up when it’s a positive thing for their team, but grossly over-react when it negatively effects their team.

Sometimes Irish fans need to learn how to look at things in perspective, and occasionally need to take a step back from the ledge. They need to embrace the fact that their coach has done something so intriguingly positive in South Bend, that it has caused NFL teams to take notice. So relax Irish fans, and please try to fully comprehend that Notre Dame’s fortune has turned dramatically to the positive, and it’s obvious enough, that the rest of the nation has become aware of it – you should also.

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  1. “Alex” Who? What – some 4-star White guy who seems to get his thrills out of playing an ascending powerhouse? WHO THE H NEEDS THAT? Not me. Not you. And not ND. GO IRISH!

  2. Bob, I agree with your article 100%. Knee-jerk reactions dictate we freak out and imagine the fall from 12-1 to 3-9 again, coaching staff falling apart and recruits decommitting. The bottom line is, the Eagles are a strong organization and they took notice to what BK did in South Bend. If spun right, I think it can help recruiting.

  3. The sooner everyone realizes coaches have the loyalty of a wet noodle, the easier this will be to handle. Gone are the days of coaches staying in one spot for 20 years – that died when Bobby Bowden retired. So I wouldn’t hold your breath for the days of Tom Osbourne, Joe Paterno, Bowden, etc.

    I’m fine with that – provided the coach we have brings home a national title. College football has evolved to the point it’s no longer as hard to build a winning program. There’s a plethora of talent in the country to go around. Traditional doormats (and by traditional I’m referring to 50+ years of being non-competitive) are now in the top 25. Boise State, Louisville, South Carolina, etc.

    1. Patrick,

      Not sure that Dadgum Bobby Bowden Retired as much as he was pushed out the door.

      He had a winning record… he just didn’t win in the dominating style of years past.

      I guess Chip Kelly did hang around long enough for their early enrollment players to get settled in.

      At least he did “something” for the football program…

      the early enrollment players… not so much!

      Too bad… I really enjoyed watching him and his team whip the tar out of USC every year!

      1. Paterno was pushed out too . . . but my point was that coaches aren’t going to stay in one place for 20+ years any more.

        There’s too much money in it and not enough integrity.

  4. Soooo….chip Kelly just took the Eagles job. Still think BK should apologize for how he handled things? He could have interviewed, said he was staying, then leave.

    1. Funny, isn’t it? I can’t wait for the traditionalists to pop up on your comment. They’ll say, “Well, Oregon isn’t Notre Dame.” Truth is, I’d challenge anyone on this site to turn down 6-8 million per year in order to keep their current job.

      Truth is, nobody would. But it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard and hold to principles, as opposed to being offered the pinnacle of money and prestige.

  5. Today’s high school players flip all the time.
    Sometimes we win one, sometimes we lose one. That’s college recruiting.

    I will say Kelly and his staff have done a great job in bringing in talented kids who are flexible, versatile, and can play multiple positions.
    That really paid off this past year with all the injuries we took to our secondary.

    Now, with the return of Lo Wood and Austin Collinsworth (and possibly Jamorous Slaughter) we will have more depth and experience in our secondary than we have had here in a long time.

    Might just turn out being the strongest part of our defence next year!

  6. The thing that bothers me the most is Anzalone. So many people reached out to that young man and he deceived all those who befriended him. This is much different than last year and Kiel flipping. Anzalone and the rest of the 2013 recruits had built a tight connection. Until wednesday night/thursday morning Anzalone was bleeding blue and gold. Even after the loss on monday night, Anzalone posted texts and pictures showing ND and how he is going to make a difference when he plays at South Bend. What Anzalone did was just wrong. The kid and his family lack integrity!

    1. I agree that it sucks losing Anzalone but if he is the only defection it will be something we can live with. Look at what we lost last year after choking to Florida St. Darby, Greenberry, Shepard. Now that was painful. Those three would be starters in 2013. We are still thin at the cornerback position and it will hurt us next year as well. Losing Darby and Sheppard was a crushing blow that will be felt for a couple more years.

  7. I thought at the time that Kelly’s response when asked about the NFL was pretty equivocal for a relatively new coach of the number 1 rated team going into the national championship game. We now know that Kelly already knew he was gonna be interviewed by the Eagles shortly after the game. I read in one report that Kelly became aware of the Eagles’ interest in “early December.” I don’t know if that’s correct or not, as other reports seem to place it more toward the end of the month. We do know that Kelly and his agent, Trace Armstrong, were contacted first and they told the Eagles to contact Notre Dame, which the Eagles did either on December 30 or 31. I really wonder if his dalliance with the NFL distracted Kelly from preparing the team for the national championship game. I just don’t believe that Alabama’s talent could possibly have been so vastly superior to Notre Dame’s. There are many relatively inferior college teams who would have given Alabama a tougher game. I think the team was inadequately prepared and had bad game plans, both offensively and defensively. The question is “why?”

    1. Ah, yes. Denial. The last defense of the desperate. Face it EJS, Alabama out-matched ND in every facet of the game and no amount of coaching prep could have changed that. But cheer up! It looks like a pretty strong recruiting year for ND, so they have a good shot at becoming a better team over the next few years. … Of course, it also looks like Alabama is going to have a pretty strong recruiting year …

  8. With success brings offers from everywhere. Kelly will eventually leave and let’s hope its because he has had great success at ND. I would have been terribly disappointed if he bolted, but unfortunately money and the brighter lights were calling. he owes it to himself, his players and the school to try and finish the job. Some say an “impossible job” but we are now back in the mix and ready for 2013. Let’s hope he can get the job done!

  9. I always thought the whole Eagles interview thing was an attempt to improve his contract, along with that of his assistants. Kelly has worked with much of his team for years, and I believe part of it was to get them better contracts because he wants them to stick around (particularly guys like Diaco). Kelly is a college coach. I honestly don’t think he’d translate well to the NFL. Head coaches in the NFL have a lot less control then their college counterparts.

    I tend to wonder if Anzalone’s timing was just a coincidence. He had to be at Florida last weekend to early enroll, so it may very well be that it just happened to be at the same time as Kelly’s interview. And he had a history of switching commitments. I’m not going to lose a lot of sleep over it. He had some good stats for his position, but I’m confident the coaches will haul in a worthy player to take his place. I think he’ll miss ND more than ND will miss him. I believe ND is on the upswing now and it will be an exciting time to be a ND player. There’s a very good chance with the talent coming in ND could win an NC soon. Imagine being a player on ND to win the first NC in almost 20 years.

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