Officially, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly is not happy that his team is opening the 2012 football season in Ireland on Saturday. In fairness, the early telecast against Navy has all the hallmarks of an early season nightmare matchup: A deceptively tough opponent without ample tape to study, a team in turmoil following the suspension of two offensive stars and suspension of another, controversial comments by a former player, and a long road trip.
Actually, make that a very long road trip. After all, it's not every day that a team has to fly across six time zones to get to its next kickoff.
Still, despite all those negatives, Notre Dame's participation in the Global Ireland Football Tournament could have significant benefits for Kelly and Notre Dame in the years ahead for one powerful reason: As noted by Rivals.com, the event also features 10 high school squads, all of them chock full with top college prospects. Nearly all of those teams are sticking around for Saturday's big Emerald Isle Classic between Notre Dame and Navy after competing in their own games on Friday night.
As Rivals.com recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy noted, the Irish won't officially commit any recruiting violations by chatting briefly to recruits at the event, so long as they "keep it moving" in the words of NCAA legislative department member Emily Magy. How strictly that concept will be enforced is anyone's guess.
Whether or not the Irish play by the rules, they're still essentially guaranteed to have a bumper crop of prep talent sitting as a captive audience for a faceoff with Navy which Notre Dame will try to win without the help of projected starting quarterback Tommy Rees (suspension) or running back Cierre Wood (another suspension).
Officially, Notre Dame officials rave about the event as a way to showcase the school's "global brand" as opposed to its recruiting pull. It goes without saying that Kelly and his staff are much more interested in the latter benefit than the former.
After all, the players in the stands may be impressed and become Notre Dame converts. They may be turned off by a poor performance and head in the other direction. Either way, they will be exposed to a Notre Dame game in an incredible unique setting where the Irish are sure to have the lion's share of support from … the Irish. And Notre Dame won't even lose a home game or an official visit for those recruits in the process.