December 11, 2009
Not surprisingly given his reputation as an energetic, can-do type, Brian Kelly is moving quickly on his way to Notre Dame: He was in and out of Cincinnati's team banquet in relatively short order Thursday night, arriving by police escort and informing his players he was leaving after the three best seasons in Bearcat history, and he'll be in South Bend for an official introductory press conference this afternoon. He'll start his new job on Monday. Kelly even changed his Twitter page to a Fighting Irish theme sometime Thursday, picking up a few thousand new followers almost overnight. When he moves, he moves with a purpose.
Which is just fine with at least a few of his now former players at Cincinnati, who expected to be the first to know Kelly's fate, and wound up being among the last after the news broke everywhere Thursday afternoon. All-American receiver Mardy Gilyard (right, wearing what appears to be a custom championship belt, courtesy the Cincinnati Enquirer) walked out of Kelly's announcement to the team after a few seconds, telling reporters he was "fairly disgusted" and hoped Kelly would "pack his things up and get to South Bend in a hurry," a wish that will apparently be granted. Tight end Ben Guidugli wasn't going to be part of any congratulatory atmosphere, either:
"We don't really care what he has to say anymore," tight end Ben Guidugli said after a post-banquet team meeting. "He can go talk to his Notre Dame team. We're ready to move forward with whoever wants to move forward with us. He's not on the boat anymore, so we've got to continue on."
A few players -- notably the three "official" team spokesmen the team provided to the media, including quarterback Tony Pike -- were somewhat more gracious, or at least willing to play the "we're worried about beating Florida" card. The local Cincinnati Enquirer, on the other hand, just wants to Kelly to know what he's missing, because he could have owned this town, man:
When coaches with options say they’re staying – when they talk about loyalty as they ink the contract extension – there’s only one move to make, and that’s for your coat.
Now, he’s just like everyone else. Almost no coach in quasi-amateur college sports finishes what he starts. Either he's fired or he leaves.
Loyalty is a fine word, spoken with the same sincerity found in college coaches' contracts. Given a chance to be king here, Kelly opted for the uneasy throne at Notre Dame. The kingdom is bigger there.
That's about it: The kingdom and its potential spoils from South Bend are too great to pass up, especially when you're the type of person with nothing in your professional history to lead you to focus on the potential traps that have entangled the last three coaches there. When you go undefeated at Notre Dame, you're not dispatched to a consolation game against a half-interested national championship reject in the Sugar Bowl. At this point, if Kelly goes undefeated at Notre Dame -- as he has now at two of his three stops as head coach, having also built a consistent, national title-winning power at Division II Grand Valley State -- the boosters will spring for a stained glass window of the guy in the other Notre Dame, on the Seine.
Cincinnati will probably return from whence it came, status wise, and ultimately remember the Kelly years fondly as the best of its gridiron life. These "movin' on up" divorces are always messy. (See Rodriguez, Rich and West Virginia.) The Bearcats should get over it without doing anything they really regret -- just as long as it doesn't snow again in Nippert Stadium anytime soon.