A lot of people don't like Notre Dame. If you have spent any time in this country since 1918, you have probably noticed this. And it's a shame, because in so many ways, Notre Dame represents the best of college sports.
The vast, vast majority of Fighting Irish players graduate. The administrators don't just talk about balancing academics, behavior and football -- they mean it. (Remember: The beginning of the end for
Notre Dame is not perfect, of course. But it is inconceivable that the school would send pretty recruiting "hostesses" to faraway high schools to woo recruits, as Tennessee is accused of doing (according to
And as college sports have gradually descended into a cesspool over the past half-century, Notre Dame has tried to stay clean. If anything, Notre Dame cares
This, I suspect, is why so many people hate Notre Dame. Notre Dame is different, and people don't like different. Notre Dame has high standards, and that makes people uncomfortable. And, of course, for most of its history, Notre Dame has won big anyway, which is what
And this brings us to the essential question of the Fighting Irish coaching search, especially as it relates to the hot candidate, Cincinnati's
What matters most to Notre Dame right now: being Notre Dame, or winning?
This is the second-winningest program in NCAA history, behind Michigan. Yet the last four times the Fighting Irish hired a head coach, they did not hire the consensus best available coach or the hot candidate. They hired a coach that seemed to fit Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly is just another great football coach.
That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Kelly has won big at Cincinnati, just as he won big at Central Michigan and Grand Valley State before that.
I first met Kelly when he was at Grand Valley, on the western side of Michigan, putting up absolutely ridiculous numbers. It was October 2001. At the time we talked, Kelly's quarterback,
And he told me: "I found a diamond in the rough. I have what I consider the finest job in college football. I have the opportunity to compete for national championships and not have the trappings of the Division I arena, the incredible pressure to win at all costs.
"I have absolutely found the job I want."
Kelly left for Central Michigan three years later. He had two goals there: win as quickly as possible ("We were on a five-minute plan," he said later) and get a better job.
He won very quickly. He almost got the Michigan State job, but he didn't. He thought he had the Iowa State job, but he didn't. Finally he was on the verge of signing a contract extension with Central Michigan -- and he left for Cincinnati. He hadn't even told his athletic director at Central Michigan that he had interviewed with Cincinnati.
As Central Muchigan linebacker
So I had to laugh when I saw the quotes from Cincinnati players recently that Kelly promised them he would stay in Cincinnati. I don't know exactly what he said -- people tend to hear what they want to hear in these situations. Maybe he said he
But Brian Kelly is a climber, as much as he is a winner. He is confident bordering on cocky, and cutthroat when he feels he needs to be. I don't think that makes him different from most great football coaches. And Kelly