Uncertainty Has Become Certain During Brian Kelly Era

Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports
Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

The off-season at Notre Dame during the tenure of Head Coach Brian Kelly has been consistently problematic, and most would consider that description to be too lenient. The list of issues seemingly grow on a yearly basis, and although other power five programs have been branded with the same moniker, it feels different when it happens University of Notre Dame.

Sadly though, over the last five plus years, it has been happening all too often, and it is no longer shocking or surprising when the latest derogatory headline drops, but rather is expected.

In the latest turn of events, Irish quarterback Everett Golson has decided that it is in his best interest to transfer to Florida State for a chance to be the Seminole starting quarterback. Presumably the same chance that Golson had at Notre Dame. On the surface it is easy to look at the Golson decision and categorize it under normal, since kids transfer all the time. In this case though we have a young man who was given the ultimate leash in 2014 amidst some occasional horrific play behind center.  And lest we forget also that Notre Dame is the same school that gave Golson a second shot at redemption after his “poor academic decision”. Yet he still came to the conclusion that transferring was his best option, and doing so, has us questioning whether it was truly a decision to better himself, or was he not the “right kind of guy” to begin with?

If you have followed Notre Dame football at all with Brian Kelly at the helm(and we are sure you have) than you have a full understanding of the off-the-field issues that have plagued the Irish football program during that time. The list of enigmatic discrepancies is long, with many coming to a disingenuous resolution, and it begs to question where does the problem stem from? Fielding a competitive team in 2015 at a major college football power is no different than assembling a competitive company in the workforce. When you compile a group of talented, fiery, competitive individuals, some individuals will ultimately show patterns of poor decision making, regardless of the time spent subjecting that individual to a psychological scrubbing of their integrity. A head coach and his staff are never going to be perfect in their evaluation of the young men they bring into the program, and most fans understand that, but at what point do we start to question the evaluation process more, and the subject less?

As fans from the stands, we view these young men as adults, as we witness the impacting violence they impose on their opponent on weekly basis. As with many of us though, they still require strong leadership and positive role models to be present– even in their late teens, or early twenties. When you take into consideration the amount of pressure that these athletes deal with not only on the field, but in the classroom, and in public, it can easily blur the lines of what is right, and what is easy. It is incumbent upon each university, and even more so at Notre Dame, to impose the importance of integrity and personal accountability in all phases during their attendance. We as fans like to promote Notre Dame as forty year decision, not a four year one, but is that truly how it is viewed internally by the coaching staff and certain administrators?

It is easy to view the academic indiscretions over the last few years, as simply kids making bad decisions. When you look at the amount of improprieties though that have taken place under the Brian Kelly’s’ umbrella since 2010 it includes multiple transfers, academic indiscretions, player decommittments, legal off-the-field issues, and more. As with any company that shows consistent issues with personnel, at what point do you start to focus on the management group, and their decision making and leadership skills, and whether they are right for your company?

It may be unrealistic to expect a head coach and his staff to be able to control the likes of 80-plus young adults, and their whereabouts and daily routine, but that is exactly what is expected at the University of Notre Dame. Some would describe that expectation as arrogant, but I would define it much differently. Honestly though I think fans are understanding of the occasional issue with a program, but it feels like what the transgressions that have permeated the Irish football program since 2010 under Brian Kelly, has crossed the proverbial line of acceptance.

The university promotes the idea that they are very meticulous about who is admitted into the Notre Dame football program as a student-athlete, but it would seem that the same type of scrutiny and rigidness need be applied to the leaders of these young men. The whole situation is mired in hypocrisy, but oddly it seems that the young men who help fill the stadium on Saturday, and the bank accounts to all who are involved, are held to a higher standard.

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  1. Kenny M:

    What I think BK was saying is that with the demands on their time that football places, all the players are at risk of looking for shortcuts. Not that all players are at risk academically. Conceptually, its the same idea as dealing with class and football. Or, working full time and trying to get a degree.

    I was an A-B student in high school, and tested into 2nd level math and English when I went to college after the military. But, I was also working full time while going to school full time. And my academics suffered as a result, averaging a B- or C+. It is an unfortunate fact that there is only so much time in a day, and that the human body needs to sleep. Otherwise, I would have been a much better student! :-)

    Anyway, just food for thought.

  2. I am a Brian Kelly fan but some of the things he does leave me shaking my head from time to time. Why come out and say ALL his players are at risk because of how hard the academics are at ND. We know that, the players know that so there is no need to say it.

    It just gives more ammo for more negative recruiting that seems to be working this year.

  3. You can’t have it both ways. You get the elite kids, you get the problems. The power programs aren’t appalled when it happens. That’s the only difference. You don’t think kids transfer when they don’t get to start at alabamy or oregon? BK could do a much better job but I’m not sure a better coach wants to deal with the academic headaches of ND.

  4. I’m not ready to jump on the anti-BK bandwagon. I think this year is critical. If we see sloppy play I’d say BK is in trouble. If the running game doesn’t get going, if the defense doesn’t improve and if special teams are still lame, then I’ll start to complain. But until then it GO IRISH!

  5. I agree there have been numerous off-field problems, and certainly BK shares some responsibility. But, I’m not sure these issues would not have occurred no matter who was head coach. Perhaps some responsibility should go to administration too. Some here have noted ND’s academic standards have never been tougher. I think ND has to look at how it handles its student athletes. In football, a lot of time is spent on practice and other football related activities. Perhaps there are things the University can do to help its student athletes more in the classroom. Now, that’s not a cop-out. The players still have to be held responsible for their actions. If you cheat, your gone. I agree with that. But maybe ND can take some pre-emptive measures so the players can succeed in the classroom.

    ND has one of the highest graduation rates of its student athletes. That’s impressive and I’m proud to be a ND fan. School does come first and ND has that right. But that does not mean they can’t do some things better. I think overall, BK has done a great job recruiting and we have an almost all-star cast of assistant coaches this year. I think there’s a very good chance of a successful year (to me that’s at minimum a NY DAY Six Bowl), in fact, I expect that.

    I know there are some fans out there ready to toss BK out with the garbage. Let’s say you get what you want, who comes in next? Think about that for a minute. Urban Meyer, forget it, he’s not coming, ever (I’m not interested in him anyway, fool me once and all that). Sarkisian, Saban, and others like them, not going to happen. Many of those coaches just don’t want to deal with the academic requirements (which in general I support, though I think ND can afford a little flexibility). Frankly, if BK does end up failing and he’s booted out, I think that’s it for ND being an elite football program. We can’t afford another failed coach. IMHO everybody better hope BK succeeds, not for BK, not for Swarbick, but for the program. This year there can be no excuses, the tools are there. EG leaving may actually be good for the program. No QB controversy, and it will force BK to run the ball more (if he wasn’t going to do that already), and they had a lot of success with that against LSU, a team with a better than average defense.

  6. Does nobody seem to put this together? BKs time at ND is encompassing the large boom of social media. Think back 5-6 years ago. There was FB and Twitter starting but nothing like it is now. ND being ND, and bad news being the only news that travels anymore. Yes, we HEAR more stories now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there ARE more now. Things were just more easily kept in house then. Ya’ll are sheep. Baaaaaa. Follow the flock, don’t bother to think for yourselves

  7. I think its a different world these days. A lot of these kids are about espn, the NFL and a payday. I think Everett felt threatened by the competition, or at least felt his road to success would be more difficult if he stayed. It may not be as easy at FSU, but he was clearly going to be fighting for a spot had he stayed at ND. He’s not alone however, there are many like him. i.e. Gunner Kiel. Most of them think they’re better than they are and feel like they are entitled to start just because they show up. Do I think BK and staff make all the right decisions, absolutely not. I do think they are dealing with a different mindset not many of us can relate to. I don’t think they’re bad kids, they just look at things differently than most us older folks.

  8. You people are way too judgemental. Didn’t you see the articles on Kelly and Swarbrick working on the academic divide between “regular” students and student athletes at ND? ACT 33 vs. 23? I graduated from ND in 87 and would not get in now. To me, the school has gone too elite academically. They need to put a protective cocoon around these kids.

  9. Oh this article smells of holier than though. What happens at Notre Dame happens at other universities. The biggest and most important differences are that Notre Dame is a good school that’s not easy to get into and has a great graduation rate. Kelly is doing a good job recruiting and there will be some rotten eggs occasionally. Your article makes it sound like its a crisis.

  10. “I just wonder how players from FSU, Alabama, USC and many other schools do not seem to have this problem”
    Really? LOL

  11. I have expressed my misgivings about BK here several times. I have arrived at that point (misgivings) for many of the reasons pointed out in this string. You do not have to be from an ND background to be an ND man, but you must be an ND man to succeed with athletic performance, academic success, and integrity at this great university.

    Only a coach that sees ND through an ND prism, can succeed with the historical achievements that are ND’s. Kelly IS NOT an ND man, and therefore does not own the perspective required for ND. This is obvious in his coaching/management style, hiring, and, and student athlete performance, on and off the field.

    What makes ND so special is consistent academic excellence, integrity, special love for the school, fair play on and off it, by students that can still kick your ass in the classroom and on the field.

  12. It’s clear to me that Jenkins, swarbrick and Kelly have
    lost their way.

    “My basic principle is that you dont make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them cause they are cheap; you do t make them because they are popular; you make them because their right”

    “You gotta believe.” Lou Holtz

    One former Nd football captain “stressed the importance of teamwork and the sacrifices you had to make to accomplish the mission. And each emphasized individual responsibility and accountability.” Rocky Blier


    The eagles


    Academic probe

    Golson ad nauseum

    Only the team leaders can make it happen

    Teo fought to the death for nd and him teammates fought to the last man with him; that was the 2012 story

    “What though the odds be great or small, old notre dame can win overall.”

    Who will lead us to victory?

  13. sorry people, but brian kelly is one of the most overrated coaches in college football. his record in games against teams on the top 10 is a joke. this isn’t central michigan or cincinnati where you beat up on your weak league teams and pad your record. if notre dame loses to a better team i have no problem with it, but to have brian kelly throw coaches and players under the bus when nd loses is getting very old! say what you want about holtz, davie, willingham, and weis, but when they lost they took the blame, while brian kelly blames everyone else.

  14. “And lest we forget also that Notre Dame is the same school that gave Golson a second shot at redemption after his “poor academic decision”. Yet he still came to the conclusion that transferring was his best option, and doing so, has us questioning whether it was truly a decision to better himself, or was he not the “right kind of guy” to begin with?”

    I will not suggest ‘Notre Dame de loc’ is a stronger FB team due to EG’s departure but I hasten to add:”This quote says it all.”

  15. The writing in this article is so poor, I just skimmed it. Perhaps another writer could proof read these submissions. The writing (such as in the second paragraph when the author makes the same point, three times in the same sentence) is cringe worthy.

    I will leave it at that because we should be talking football, but seriously ……..

  16. Mr. Kollars…. Please pick a definition of “poor academic decision” and stick with it.

    Certainly, cheating at any University is a poor decision but none more so than at Notre Dame.

    On one hand you say his transgressions in the class room was a poor decision, which it was.
    But on the other hand, Golson’s “decision” to stand up, face the errors of his ways, accept his punishment, earn his reinstatement, and then his degree from the University of Notre Name, is entitled to no recognition?

    Those choices seems like a “good academic decision” to me.

    You question whether Golson was ever the “Right Kind of Guy” and as a columnist that is your privilege.

    But I say a guy who admitted his guilt, paid the price, stuck it out, and earned his degree can’t be “ALL” bad.

    On the field he won a lot more than he lost and I’m fairly certain you were right there cheering those victories like the rest of us.

    Perhaps you should take a moment a think about questioning your own evaluation process before first pointing the finger of hypocrisy at others?

  17. Just spent an evening at the Denver ND Club and was honored to have to Jack Swarbrick speak. His and Notre Dame’s primary goal for ALL ND Student-Athlete is exactly that STUDENTS first. He listed off many student-athletes in different programs at ND that are incredible students graduating with honors and national recognitions in academics. This include the Class of 2015 valedictorian. The press only writes about the failures, not the successes. Has anyone written about Corey Robinson being an academic all-american….as a Sophomore? A recognition that rarely given to underclass men/women, let alone a sophomore.

    Although I am not happy with his decision or understand it, people fail to realize that Golson GRADUATE from the UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME. That degree will take him farther than him being a QB at FSU, GUARANTEED!

  18. After Weis, I wished for Paul Johnson. Fans here disagreed. Lustily.

    At his introductory presser, Kelly pronounced the university name two different ways, and it’s been doublespeak ever since.

    I’m looking forward to Sept 19.

  19. I think ND alumni are being hypocritical. You clamor for a higher standard of student-athlete, but then raise hell when they lose a game. Not since Holtz has ND been as successful on the field as they are becoming now. And towards the end of the Holtz era there were problems off the field and sub-par play on it. And the academic prestige and prowess of ND has raised significantly since then. I would argue that NDs academic presitige is higher now than it has ever been. The good ol’ days? Back then graduates of ND would make more money in a career off the field than on it. The landscape has completely changed and you want to follow the same old model. Thats like being an orange farmer in Florida, moving to Indiana, and still planting oranges, because gosh darn it that’s what we do. Brian Kelly has done a wonderful job of trying to mesh the world of high acedemics with the expectations of a football power. Has it been perfect, no. But to expect there not to be bumps in the road is insane. This is uncharted terrain.

  20. I actually think this article is a cheap shot at Brian Kelly and the coaching staff…it is apparent to me that if you want to recruit top athletic talent to be competitive in today’s top tier football environment you are going to have challenges when it comes to the academic side of the discussion…I think the ND coaches and the University have done a masterful job of walking that fine line…ND fans should be grateful for where the program is today. Golson got a great ND education but has been suspect as QB…ND has other options and that is what top programs do…hats off to Coach Kelly and the staff for a job well done to date and hopefully a better one next year!

  21. It sure does seem like the quality of the student-athlete has deteriorated over the last couple of years at ND. The academic problems that some of the players have had seem happening way too often. The question is, “What do they do about it?” Probably nothing except to hope to recruit better student-athletes. I just wonder how players from FSU, Alabama, USC and many other schools do not seem to have this problem. Or do they and just choose to look the other way, or ignore it, or use some creative grading (aka change grades). It is so difficult being both a football power and a very good academic institution. Maybe there is no combining the two but it seemed ND, at one time, was doing it very successfully. Oh, for the good old days! GO IRISH!

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