September 05, 2011
Between five turnovers, boos from the home crowd and a sound defeat at the hands of a double-digit underdog that's only been playing football for a little over a decade, Saturday's 23-20 loss to South Florida was embarrassing enough for Notre Dame on the field. But the Fighting Irish also had a head coach who looked like this on national television:
On at least three separate occasions — following a first quarter interception into the end zone by quarterback Dayne Crist, a third quarter interception that bounced off the helmet of receiver T.J. Jones (above) and a botched formation that forced a timeout before a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter — NBC's cameras caught coach Brian Kelly getting up close and purple with his players, picking up more than a few words than a few words in the process that would make the pope's lip-reader blush. Hint: He wasn't speaking Latin.
Of course, Kelly is a football coach, not a monk, and football coaches tend to get a little carried away. (It's not like he threw a bench onto the field or anything.) When you're the coach for Notre Dame, though, you're playing to a slightly different crowd — such as the National Catholic Register, for instance, which didn't like what it saw Saturday one bit:
While what happened on the field was disappointing, I think what occurred on the sidelines was worse. A purple faced Brian Kelly cursed and screamed at not only at his players (who are 18-23 years old) but he did it on national television for people of all ages to see. And let me tell you something, you didn't need to be a lip reader to figure out what he was saying. By the look on my eleven year old's face, she figured it out pretty quick.
I've seen Brian Kelly in interviews and he seems like a decent guy but isn't this type of behavior unfit for any grown-up, never mind the most recognizable face of the country's most well known Catholic university?
I understand football coaches aren't kindergarten teachers. But given the reality of the game and knowing that families are watching, couldn't we curb the f-bombs? You'd think Notre Dame football games are something I could sit down and watch with my kids.
That qualifies as the cautious, I'm-just-a-little-concerned-is-all response from a concerned church-goer watching from home. On the political side of the coin, on the other hand, the National Review's Greg Pollowitz is calling for the guillotine:
I'm no fan of Notre Dame's head coach Brian Kelly. I thought he should have been fired last year over the death of the team's videographer, and after last night's loss against the unranked University of South Florida, I think the trustees of the university should fire him this morning. Not because of the loss, but because of the way he treated his players. This is really uncalled for.
The interesting thing about Kelly's outbursts is that he generally does seem like a decent guy, at least for the cameras. Based on his interviews and his personable presence on social media, I generally count him as the most media-savvy coach in the country — far more so than his predecessor, Charlie Weis, who reportedly swore like a sailor on the job and came across as chilly and arrogant in front of the microphones. But for all his faults, Weis always seemed composed. Saturday, Kelly seemed to lose all sense of place and perspective in a series of blind rages that only Bob Knight could love.
Which, even at Notre Dame, would be instantly forgiven as long as the team is winning. This is the same program, after all, that tolerated a decade of in-your-face invective and at least one headlock on an official from coach Lou Holtz in exchange for a national championship and regular finishes among the national elite. Those are the golden years, in fact, a far cry from the 8-6 record under Kelly, who's already endured losses to Navy, Tulsa and now USF. When the anger is accompanied by wins, it looks like passion and intensity and toughness and motivation. When it's accompanied by losses to teams have the stadium has never heard of, it just looks like an out-of-control hothead who needs to get a grip.