Last spring saw Jim Harbaugh pack the Michigan football equipment trucks and head to Bradenton, Florida to run spring football practices over Michigan’s spring break at IMG Academy. Inspired by the idea, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly reportedly contemplated doing the same, but that will no longer be in the works for the Fighting Irish.
Michigan is not taking the football program to any destinations over the school’s spring break this year, but the Wolverines are getting their passports ready for a trip to Rome at the end of the semester. There is no hint that Notre Dame will be heading to Italy or any other European vacation spot either.
Kelly, like Harbuagh, is paid big money to produce a winner in South Bend and looking for new and creative ways to expand the program’s reach can be critical to giving a boost in recruiting and interest in the program. Of course, some ideas can be quite costly, such as Michigan taking its football program to Rome. But if you want to travel with the program during scheduled time off during the semester, this will be the last opportunity to do so as the NCAA will shut down the practice later this year.
As Notre Dame closed the books on a dismal 4-8 season with a loss at USC, rumors started to swirl about the future of Brian Kelly as head coach. The rumblings were not that Notre Dame was preparing to push him out as head coach but instead that Kelly was checking all of his options for potential jobs elsewhere. A day later, perhaps to calm the nerves a little, Kelly has released a statement saying he wants to remain the head coach of the Fighting Irish.
“I felt that I was clear with the media following yesterday’s game at USC when I was asked about my desire to be back as the head football coach at Notre Dame, but in light of media reports that surfaced afterward, let me restate my position,” Kelly said in a statement released via Twitter at 3:37 AM. “I have not been, am not and will not be interested in options outside of Notre Dame. I’m fully committed to leading this program in the future.”
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports was first to report Kelly was reaching out to his representatives to evaluate potential coaching opportunities outside of Notre Dame. This report was then supported by a similar report from Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com. What jobs may have been evaluated is unknown, whether it was strictly college openings or potential vacancies to be filled in the NFL (or, just to get crazy, the Canadian Football League).
This is not the first time Kelly has had to bat away coaching rumors about his future, but the timing of these latest reports was worth noting. In the past week, Notre Dame was hit with a demand from the NCAA to vacate all wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which Kelly was not happy about at all following an investigation into academic fraud within the football program. coming off the first losing season under Kelly and the worst season since going 3-9 under Charlie Weis in 2007, the reports seemed to suggest Kelly could be looking to abandon ship. Yet, it is worth noting that neither report suggested Kelly was looking to leave as a result of the NCAA weighing in on the academic concerns in South Bend.
So, for now at least, Kelly is once again stating he is not looking to go anywhere else to coach.
Navy (6-2) clinched bowl eligibility at the same time Notre Dame (3-6) was put on the brink of bowl elimination in Jacksonville. A Will Worth pass completion on fourth and six to Jamir Tillman allowed the Midshipmen to run out the clock on the final possession of the game. Navy held the football for the final seven minutes and 28 seconds to hang on to a 28-27 victory.
With just over seven and a half minutes to play, Brian Kelly was faced with a decision on fourth and four. Kick a field goal and cut Navy’s lead down to one and hope the defense can get the ball back, or go for a first down and keep a drive alive. Kelly opted for a 31-yard field goal. Notre Dame’s offense never stepped back on the field until the postgame handshakes and alma mater performances. It was a critical coaching decision that appeared to backfire in a big way, although whatever happened on the drive it was pretty clear Notre Dame’s defense would need to make a stop either way. It did not, allowing two fourth-down conversions and committing a costly pass interference penalty on a third down on Navy’s final possession.
Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, but it was all for nothing as the Irish defense was unable to make a stop. Navy scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, not counting the final possession that ran out the clock in the second half.
Kelly has now lost to Navy twice (a dubious feat also accomplished by his predecessor, Charlie Weis), while Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has picked up his third win against the Irish since becoming Navy’s head coach. Navy can now refocus its sights on competing for the American Athletic Conference title, while Notre Dame simply looks to find any reason for optimism.
Navy returns to American Athletic Conference play next week back home in Annapolis against Tulsa. the game will have high stake sin the division on the line. A Navy win will keep the Midshipmen atop the division with two conference games to play. Navy would have a minimum one-game lead in the division with a win against the Golden Hurricane, but Tulsa could take over first place in the division with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker with Navy. Tulsa plays at home against East Carolina later tonight.
Notre Dame has one more service academy to play next week. Notre Dame will face Army in San Antonio next Saturday. The Irish are now on the brink of being ineligible for postseason play, unless 5-7 teams start getting invites to fill vacancies. Even then, Notre Dame may have a difficult road to travel to a bowl game. Notre Dame must win their final three games of the season just to hit the typical win minimum for bowl eligibility (six wins), or two of the final three to jump in the 5-7 mix. With games still to play against Virginia Tech and USC, Notre Dame could very well be staying home this bowl season.
Notre Dame may be going through a disappointing college football season, but quarterback DeShone Kizer says the players have not lost their faith in their head coach, Brian Kelly.
“We have complete confidence in coach Kelly,” Kizer said, according to The Indy Star. “He has experience, he’s a winning coach, he knows how to win and he’s going to figure out whatever it takes to win. And as long as we continue to have the mentality that he is the successful coach that he is and trust in that, we’re going to be fine.:
Notre Dame is just 2-5 this season, with their bowl hopes fading quickly. As Notre Dame has struggled, Kelly has come under some fire for how he has handled the season thus far, which has included throwing others under the bus, a change at defensive coordinator and poor coaching decisions along the way. The preseason expectation of being a potential playoff contender in the eyes of some set the bar high for Kelly and the Irish, and so far Notre Dame has come nowhere close to living up to those standards.
Kelly has already received a vote of confidence from Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. Now he has his starting quarterback behind him.
“We’ve been all over the place in this first half of the season from different motivational speeches to different mindsets each week trying to figure out what’s the best way of getting a win and doing whatever we can,” Kizer said. “But from here on out, it’s just having a good time, taking this opportunity to play for Notre Dame and doing whatever you can to bring home wins.”
Things are not going so smoothly in South Bend, Indiana this fall. Notre Dame dropped to 2-5 following a home loss to Stanford Saturday, putting the Irish on a steep uphill path to a postseason bid. For a team some considered a possible playoff candidate at the beginning of the year, it is fair to suggest the pressure is rising on head coach Brian Kelly to get something positive going for the Irish. Some have even gone so far as to suggest Kelly should be on a hot seat, if not a warm seat. While the idea of a coaching change at Notre Dame may still be a bit of a longshot, it hasn’t stopped some fans from suggesting it is time to make a chance and bring in Les Miles.
It just so happens Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery took notice of some of those ideas on Twitter and started liking them on his account. Tillery’s account showed he liked a small handful of tweets from earlier this month suggesting Notre Dame move on from Kelly and hire the former LSU head coach. These tweets occurred in the two weeks after LSU fired Miles. After those liked tweets were discovered and starting making the rounds on the internet, Tilery responded with a tweet of his own on Sunday morning, suggesting he did not necessarily endorse the comments.
Does Brian Kelly have a locker room problem? He would not be the first coach with a 2-5 record to be in that situation if he does. It is obvious things are not going according to plan in South Bend, but the Irish still have a chance to reach the postseason. It will just be difficult to avoid two more losses the way this team has been playing, especially on offense. Notre Dame must win four of its final five games against Miami, Navy, Army, Virginia Tech and USC in order to reach the six-win minimum to qualify for a postseason bowl game. The Irish have not missed the postseason since Kelly’s arrival from Cincinnati in 2010. One more loss will set a new high for losses in a season for Notre Dame under Kelly.