Michigan Game Highlights Brian Kelly’s Stamp on Notre Dame

Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly runs out onto the field with his players in action during a game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo - Robin Alam - Icon Sportwire)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly runs out onto the field with his players in action during a game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo – Robin Alam – Icon Sportwire)

Brian Kelly had some signature moments as the head coach at Notre Dame in 2012.  Road wins over Top 10 teams Oklahoma and Michigan State.  The win over USC to cap off an undefeated regular season.  The epic goal line stand against Stanford.  This past weekend’s victory, correction shut out, of Michigan, however is the greatest example of the influence he’s had as the head coach at the University of Notre Dame.

The environment inside Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night was electric and part of the reason for the electricity were changes to the game day atmosphere that have started at Notre Dame under the watch of Brian Kelly.

For starters, the game was played in prime time.  Before Kelly took over the program it had been more than 20 years since Notre Dame had seen a night game.  In the five seasons that Kelly’s been in command of the Fighting Irish, they’ve now played four games under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium.   Night games weren’t only Kelly’s doing but they did happen on his watch.

As the Irish lined up inside the tunnel ready to run out onto the field, a series of smoke machines fired up and created a tunnel of smoke for the Irish to run through as they entered the stadium.  Eyes probably rolled by some but the majority of the crowd and the team loved it.  Too many times in the past we’ve seen Notre Dame teams walk through the tunnel about as fired up as most of us are on the way to work on Mondays.  Some will argue the players shouldn’t need smoke machines to get fired up, but if it helps any and the players – you know the ones playing the games – like it, then why not do it?

When Notre Dame took to the field, they ran onto the brand new FieldTurf at Notre Dame Stadium.  Again, while there were a lot of people who had to sign on for the FieldTurf to replace the natural playing surface that had existed in Notre Dame Stadium since it was built, Kelly made it no secret that he pushed for the switch.  He has not been shy to talk about how happy he is with it since it’s been installed either.

During the game, music blared over the speakers in the stadium too.  Just another addition to the game day environment that has come since Brian Kelly’s arrival at Notre Dame.

Were all of these things the reason Notre Dame stomped Michigan to the tune of 31-0 this past weekend?  Nope.  Did they all help play a role in creating an electric atmosphere that has been largely missing from inside the House that Rockne built for about 25 years or so outside a few epic games?  Definitely.

Like these changes or not – and I’m sure there’s a select group that don’t at all – they all exemplify the influence that Brian Kelly has had on the Notre Dame program.  And these are just the game day changes he’s made.  Let’s not forget that before Kelly arrived, Notre Dame didn’t even have a training table for its athletes.

Brian Kelly has placed his stamp on the Notre Dame program unlike any of his immediate predecessors have.  Charlie Weis had a couple of traditions he’s started – some of which have stuck – but Weis never really did anything to try and change the game day atmosphere.  Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie?  Name me something either did to place their stamp on Notre Dame and I’ll be impressed.

You have to go back to Lou Holtz to find a coach who was able to both embrace everything that makes Notre Dame special while also placing his own stamp on the program.  The Play Like a Champion Today sign has become such a tradition that people tend to forget it was Holtz who had the sign painted and hung up at the bottom of the stairs for the players to touch on their way to the field and that it hasn’t just always been there.

Smoke machines, music during games, and FieldTurf might not quite be at the Play Like A Champion Today level of tradition or significance, but no one can argue that Kelly isn’t leaving a last mark on the program.  His teams are leaving their mark on the field too.  Kelly coached teams are 23-5 over the last 28 games played for Notre Dame.  If they keep winning at that rate, Kelly will continue to be able put his stamp on the program off the field.

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  1. JDH I can’t say you’re wrong but I reflexively revert to Hanson’s razor:

    “Never ascribe to design or conspiracy what’s explicable by incompetence and stupidity”

    And Hanson’s razor has worked much, much more often than not.

    What’s revealing about the fans’ priorities is that the admin process for these type of things was never an issue until some football players were involved.

    and a shout out to Woody O’Hardy on adaptive organisms! More Woody!

  2. I love all these changes because they are what Rockne, the ultimate showman, would have done if they existed back in the teens and 20s. That’s what people who always drone on about tradition forget. If Jumbotrons had existed back then, Rockne would have made sure ND had the biggest, loudest one in the Midwest.

  3. With Kelly coaching and three good quarterbacks, I am surprised that Notre Dame does not have a five star lined up to play for the Irish. The way Kelly recruits, he does not need to have any five star players coming in, but it would be nice to have one or two. With good coaches, they get the best of what they have on the team. So far they have played great and I think they will continue to do so. I think they will beat almost everyone on their schedule. At least that is what I think.


    1. Hank you always need elite talent injected into your program. Notre Dame can recruit with the likes of Florida State and Alabamas but they have to start stringing double digit winning seasons together. No more of this 8-4 garbage. Look at the season we went 12-1. We lost two 5 star prospects late in the process in Anzalone and Vanderdoes and still ended up with a top 2-3 recruiting class. It can be done with Kelly leading us.

  4. Without doubt BK has been the best Irish Head Coach since Holtz. The game is changing and BK knows it. I hope that there will be a jumbotron installed a Notre Dame stadium very soon. All the things Kelly that Kelly is pushing for is all about recruiting. The elite recruits dont care about what Notre Dame did 50 years ago, they want to play for a winner plain and simple. So many were upset about putting in the new field turf but it needed to be done among other things that will put Notre Dame on a even playing field with the elite teams down south.

    Brian Kelly is a winner and he knows how to build a program. In my opinion he needs more control over the football program. This suspension mess that has 3 starters out for damn near 3 months us a complete joke.

    1. Like the article said, It may not have helped win games, but it does help bring in the recruits to win games. I am a traditionalist but I do love the changes made under his watch.

    2. Amen, Kenny. This suspension farce is the stuff that could give BK the incentive to get the heck out of South Bend.

      Suspend the kids for a few games and don’t ruin their lives.


    3. 1 month. But I agree the time it’s taking for the “investigation” is infuriating. My gut feeling is the the administration has not found anything conclusive either way and has worked themselves into a corner. Now they don’t know what to do.

    4. Kenny – I agree completely re:ND landing the “Right Kinda Coach” (to sort of use BK-lingo) for the transition ND is going-through right now. I’m a BayStater as well. BK has worked on political campaigns of state pols in the past. We BayStatAs are Liberals. We change. We adapt. We modify. BK has that bred into him as well as being a tough personality. THAT is what ND news at this time

      1. Hurls,

        Why do you bring politics into this? You are a liberal….who give a $hit?

        You are an arrogant MF.

        Stick to FB please.


      2. I acknowledge you recommendation. It is hard for me to be Apolitical since policy effects me so directly. So I’ll iron-your-panties (had been in a bunch, as they say) and stick to football. NO! – stick to NOTADAME CHAMPION football.

  5. Henighan, indeed, that is the big question. He almost bolted 2 years ago. He is young. He could set all-time records at ND if he stays.

    1. I don’t think he was close to leaving at all when he took that interview with Detroit I believe. Brian Kelly is very smart and him taking that interview right after the title game was about his new contract with Notre Dame.

      I do believe that NFL teams will start to get aggressive trying to get BK to leave South Bend especially with the success that Chip Kelly is having in Philly.

    1. Why not get NBC to wire the stadium with a WIFI channel that broadcasts the NBC coverage of the game? The fans, could watch on their smart phones or tablets [without using minutes], and listen with plug-in earphones if they wanted coverage of replays, etc.

  6. ND had nearly 20 years of mediocrity and Brian Kelly turned it around in 3 years when he took us to a title game. And (correct me if I’m wrong) I think BK is the only ND coach to win at least 8 games in his first 4 seasons as a coach. Everyone wants to compare him to Lou and say until he wins a title he’ll never be as good….well, that may be but what BK has done has been even more impressive in my eyes. He’s taken an ND team that not every player in the country wants to go to anymore ,like when Lou had his pickings of who he wanted, and led us to some huge wins and a memorable 3rd season. I love the direction of this team. The only question mark that lingers on this program is how long will BK stay?

  7. In my science courses at ND, I learned that organisms either adapt or they go extinct. Our program is adapting and we are very competitive!

    Hat tip to BK, Jack and ND!


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