On the surface, it looks good.
He is coaching at one of the shrines in college football. He has enthusiasm, he has the resources and the support of an administration which recognizes the value of what he is trying to do, he has another team that could contend for the national championship, he has a job that most coaches dream about.
If you ask Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly about the perks of the job in South Bend, he will no doubt have a long list.
And for the kid from Boston, who worked his way up the food chain from Division II to the MAC to the Big East to Notre Dame, it would seem to be dream job in a dream place. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
To be sure, Kelly will not coach anywhere else in college football. If and when he does move on, it will be to the National Football League, but that is not a sure thing.
You see, coaching at Notre Dame wears you out. Coaching tenure is measured in dog years. No football coach at ND since Rockne has lasted more than 11, a total matched by Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, who left 20 years ago, took 3 years to re-charge his worn down batteries and spent another 5 seasons at South Carolina, before moving to television.
Since Holtz left in 1996, no coach has lasted more than 6 years until now, with Kelly beginning his seventh season on Sunday against Texas in Austin.
Since Holtz left, the coaches in South Bend have come and gone. Coaches like Bob Davie and Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis, who was replaced by Kelly in 2009 and was getting paid by the Irish through last December.
Money is not the issue at Notre Dame.
It's not just the X's and O's. That's the easy part, especially if you have strong assistants. It's the aura of being the head coach at Notre Dame, where everything you say and do is analyzed, tweeted and blogged.
It is the spotlight surrounding the Golden Dome, where everything is bigger, both good and bad.
Kelly got a dose of it last week. After a good fall camp, Kelly woke up two Saturdays ago to the headlines that six of his football players had been arrested in a pair of incidents.
By the end of the weekend, two of the players were off the team or suspended indefinitely.
The ramifications of anything that happens at ND go far beyond the football office. The administration, while outwardly supportive, can still be prickly when the school's overall reputation is being examined.
Everything about Notre Dame football is on public display. The fan base has unrealistic expectations. Anything less than 10 wins is regarded as a disappointing season. Anything less than a College Football Playoff bowl is regarded as a failure.
Television cameras are everywhere. The spotlight never is turned off. This week Kelly talked to a South Bend television station and talked about his goals and his future.
When asked by Angelo Di Carlo of NewsCenter 16 about how long the coach at ND can remain before the burnout factor kicked in, Kelly said:
"I think its a collaborative effort and right now we have an incredible collaborative effort with Jack Swarbrick, our Athletic Director and Father Jenkins (ND President) amd John Affeck Graves and Tom Brush, i think this can be a long standing position.''
Kelly told DiCarlo he wanted "Notre Dame to be the last job because the way you write ths and finish the book off is to win a couple of national championships and you go off into retirement onto Lake Michigan.''
Kelly has done a good job in his six seasons in South Bend. A couple of years ago, he brought the Irish to the national championship game against Alabama, before the Tide rolled all over his team in a game which was basically over in the first quarter.
Among active FBS coaches in terms of Ws, Kelly is the runaway leader with 226 victories. Alabama's Nick Saban is second with 193, but Saban has 5 national championships.
Kelly flirted seriously with the NFL after that season. Maybe an offer never came, maybe Kelly thought he would be better off staying in South Bend.
The bottom line, of course, is still winning games. One of the men who has sat in the head coaches office under the Dome is Gerry Faust, who came to South Bend directly from high school--then national power Moeller (Ohio) High School, where he had compiled an impressive 178-23-1 record.
He lasted five years, compiling a 30-26-1 record. A devout Catholic, coaching the Irish was his dream job at his dream school, a feeling Faust expressed to then ND athletic director Gene Corrigan before the 1985 season. "I love this job so so much, Mr. Corrigan,' Faust said, asking for support.
Well, said the always practical Corrigan, "Win some more expletive games.'' The Irish went 5-6, including a 58-7 loss at Miami in Faust's final game before he resigned.
Kelly has not had to deal with such moments and has steadily built the Irish back into a national contender.
But how long he wants to keep doing that before flaming out is a question which has no real answer. At 54, he still should have plenty of energy left, but there is the burn out factor.
Such is life under the Golden Dome for anyone coaching Notre Dame.. [/membership]