Tom Lemming Says Brian Kelly Liked Golfing More than Recruiting at Notre Dame

Longtime recruiting analyst claims Kelly never visited powerhouse programs like other coaches from big-time programs did.

Whenever there is a coaching change, stories come out that never did while the coach was there. With Brian Kelly now out at Notre Dame after bolting for LSU, those stories are starting to come out about Kelly at Notre Dame. One doozy came out last night on Chris Zorich’s podcast where longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming claimed that Kelly was never interested in recruiting at Notre Dame, and it cost them big-time talent in the process.

After Zorich said it sounded like Kelly wasn’t a good recruiter, Lemming quipped, “He’s good in the house, but he likes to golf more than he likes to go out and recruit.” He would add, “Show me a coach who is a prolific golfer and I’ll show you a lousy recruiter.”

Yikes. For years we had heard that Brian Kelly wasn’t the most aggressive recruiter compared to his counterparts like Dabo Swinney, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, etc, but that was the most damning statement to date on Kelly’s level of involvement in recruiting for Notre Dame.

There had been talk among recruiting analysts that Kelly had picked things up over the last couple of years, but Tom Lemming kept some receipts, and he laid them out last night.

Lemming mentioned a 5-star quarterback who was previously committed to Oklahoma but followed Lincoln Riley to USC without mentioning his name, but he was clearly talking about Malachai Nelson. Lemming claimed that there was interest in Notre Dame from the family early on, but Notre Dame wasn’t aggressive early while Riley was. So it’s no surprise that Nelson then followed Riley to USC.

At the crux of Lemming’s criticism of Kelly’s recruiting at Notre Dame was his reluctance to visit powerhouse programs around the country regularly – specifically the Catholic schools. “If Brian Kelly would go visit the top 12 Catholic schools in the country – and they’re bunched together. The quarterback at Alabama, Bryce Young, came from a Catholic School – Mater Dei and Notre Dame didn’t recruit him,” Kelly said.

Lemming also mentioned DeMatha high school outside of Washington DC. “Bill McGregor and I have been friends for 40 years, he’s the head coach at DeMatha, and I asked him, ‘how come Notre Dame didn’t get Chase Young?’ And he said, well Kelly’s never visited the school – DeMatha Catholic School,” Lemming said. “Kelly never went there so Mike Elston and whoever preceded him was there, but Nick Saban comes every year, and all those schools tell me Saban comes every year.”

According to Lemming, Kelly is one of the few big-name coaches at big-time programs that didn’t do this. “Saban did it, Urban (Meyer) did it, Pete Carroll did it constantly. All the great ones always do. (James) Franklin is a great recruiter, and he does that at Penn State. That’s why a lot of times he’ll beat Notre Dame head to head because he calls the kids while the assistant coach at Notre Dame’s been calling them.”

Reminder, Notre Dame lost out on top-100 running back Nicolas Singleton this year to Penn State after it looked like the Irish had led for Singleton’s services over the summer.

There will undoubtedly be more stories like this that come out about Brian Kelly regarding his time at Notre Dame. Stories like this always do. There were a bunch of negative stories about Charlie Weis after he left, too, that no one ever mentioned before his departure. So, take it with a bit of a grain of salt.

Still, the fact that there were whispers for years that Kelly didn’t put in the effort on the recruiting trail that other top coaches did, combined with Lemming’s specific examples, does paint a bit of a clearer picture of a head coach who maybe didn’t need more resources as some have claimed. Perhaps all he had to do was work as hard as other head coaches who have won national championships for him to get Notre Dame over the hump.

We also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Kelly also did a lot of good for Notre Dame football. Remember, before he came to South Bend, 10-win seasons were few and far between. Now they are commonplace with five straight as the program is on much better standing than 12 years ago when he arrived. That said, perhaps what the Irish need at head coach to get them to take the final leap that has been alluding the program for more than 30 years is a head coach who will be a tireless recruiter. A coach like Marcus Freeman.

Oh, and if what Lemming said is accurate and that carries over with Brian Kelly at LSU, where he’ll be playing Alabama and Texas A&M every year, well, then good luck Brian. You will probably need it.

You may also like


  1. No being able to wait for the Cincinnati situation to clear, Htis an outstanding decision by SwabCK. tHE PLAYERS WANTED IT AND THIS MEANS MORE TO A TEAM SPIRIT, IF THEY LIK (LOVE) their new coach, who’s dynamic style made the defense really good by the end of the regular season. Now, if they can add an experienced Offensive Co-ordinator to help get aclimated to that part of is resume, Notre Dame will be just fine, better in recruitng, better with fire in their eyes and the overall look of a Lou Holtz team.

    Great job Swabuck, you got it right this time.


  2. I think Notre Dame will be much better off now, especially if they win in the post season, which will help recruiting immensely. Kelly was a good coach but not a great coach (imho). Kelly may struggle in the SEC but he will be well paid. I doubt he will make it for the full 10 years of his contract, as the SEC can eat up coaches.

    It would be interesting to see what happens if ND somehow gets into the playoffs-hmmm.

  3. Well, if the story carries any truth, it certainly explains why Kelly never got that “game changing” QB, because he personally probably never recruited it. To not visit the strong Catholic programs ( to not even attempt to recruit Bryce Young, WTF) across the country when his counter parts were, is just plain irresponsible as a college head coach. I have a feeling that will change with Coach Freeman. Good riddance to Bozo the 🤡

  4. Of course I want ND to win their games but wouldn’t it be great if they somehow get into the playoffs, and win? Maybe not the most likely outcome, but the way these guys are playing now it could happen. What a great answer to BK leaving. Of course he would take the credit for it.

    1. Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if ND won a major bowl game or playoff game….AFTER BK left. Would BK take credit for it? Maybe. But everyone would know the real truth.

      Might be a tall order so soon after a coaching change. But you know the players will be VERY motivated after the way BK left. They would just love to add that big giant FU to BK by winning a major bowl without him.

      I always root for the Irish of course, but we know they will at least get a NY Day 6 bowl game and I’ll be rooting for them even more so this year.

  5. I just hope Jack crew up this hire. Hopefully Freeman pr Fickle will be in place bu the end of the week. If you ask me I’m pulling for Freeman to be Notredames new coach. I love the fact that he is a great recruiter and is recruiting pedal to the metal 365 a year. Recruiting is so critical and your head coach sets the tone. Examples what did Lane Kiffin say about Nick Saban I quote he is the best recruiter I ever seen in college football. Also I want to share something with all of you. I live in Ohio and when Urban Meyer stepped down from Ohio State early December 2018 they televised his press conference. During the press conference Ryan Day was sitting next to Meyer. After Meyer praised him a reporter asked him about recruiting. Meyer said right now is a dead period and recruiting starts next week and then he turned to Ryan Day and said in a fierce tone of voice and you better be on it. Day shook his head like a little kid being scolded like his dad. Could any of you ever see Kelly demand that from his assistants. I heard Meyer say if he hires an assistant and the guy is a lazy recruiter he will be gone tomorrow.

  6. There was a point where Kelly was asked how many back and forths there were in the negotiations….and Kelly basically admitted that it was done quickly. LIke, immediately.

    I can just see it:
    Fancy restaurant.
    LSU AD writes a figure on a piece of paper, and pushes it acrooss the table.
    Kelly looks at it, pushes it back across trembling, and says:
    “If you’d please sign that, we’re done. Now, what’s the number for 911?”

  7. I don’t think Kelly will survive there. He was good at some things but too many times, his actions/game plans made no sense, especially when he refused to try something different. His assistant coaches are what made him good. I hope we keep Freeman and Rees. Freeman is finding his groove. Rees, I think, seems to have a good connection with his players. And he is improving.

  8. Kelly’s intro speech was perfect.
    Those poor folks (quite literally, now that they’re out $95 mill..) are in for SUCH an experience…….relative to Brian Kelly….on a day to day basis…with respect to winning… based upon all the various consderations and opportunities.

    AD: “(Kelly) is not here to maintain our culture, he’s here to transform it!”
    BK: “We’re not here to change anything….we’re here to be changed by it!”
    Soild, clear meassaging. Textbook stuff.
    Such pros.

  9. What !
    Who’d uh thunk it ? Not Coach Kelly!
    It wasn’t as much the ‘facilities’ or the ‘academic standards’ that have been echoed excuses recurrently by BK fanboys and posters and sports’ media as to why ND will never be among the elite . . . Maybe it’s more these last dozen years or so that::
    Sometimes you have to put in the work to get elite results, and some just don’t.
    Players and coaches . . . assistants and head coaches.
    Another legacy by which BK can be also remembered.

    NDs players and current recruits ( projected among top 5 in recruiting for ’22 and ’23) seem to connect with Freeman, and what he and ND have to offer. He’s already in-house. If it doesn’t work out as HC, he won’t leave the cupboard bare. You see his charisma. This could become NDs risk turned into opportunity. And he doesn’t come across as smug and arrogant; that also will be a change we can appreciate. Time to beat the elite by becoming and being elite.
    My welcome to Marcus and farewell BK
    haiku :

    BK won a lot
    From the ashes to almost
    Next in, be elite

    1. Not a BK fanboy, I never liked his personality and he always came off as fake.
      This lack of recruiting effort doesn’t really surprise me as ND coaches have publicly stated that BK would come in to the process to be used as a closer. But I agree completely, can’t wait for Marcus Freeman and hopefully Tommy Rees to tackle this with some relatable, youthful vigor.
      But… they’ll still have to compensate for some obstacles that soooo many ppl won’t acknowledge.

  10. Some recent recruits ND lost also had similar comments-so giving BK more money is not going to make him recruit harder. Jimbo is recruiting at a high level and still has multiple 4 loss seasons-with a top 5 defense.

    1. Giving Kelly more money is going to make him more rich.
      Kelly himself hasn’t even thought much further than that.

  11. People…especially those in the media with access to Kwlly first hand…..has 12 years to report this stuff.
    And they didn’t. Not a peep.
    So now they should just shut their pie holes…maybe ask themselves why they were so willing to be complicit in the Kelly Fraud.

    He was a two-bit shanty, whose agent extorted ND in 2013.
    And he left ND in remarkably similar, shabby circumstances to how he left Cincinnati.
    But Cincy players at least got some food at the 3 hour team banquet where they were finally told…..Kelly made ND players get up at 7am for a 2 minute ‘so long, suckers”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button