- Brian Kelly is the new head coach at LSU, accepting a 10 year, $95 million USD deal.
- Kelly leaves Notre Dame after 12 very successful seasons.
- There are several stories emerging that depict Kelly’s character in an unflattering light.
Brian Kelly is a good football coach. There’s little ambiguity about that. If you don’t believe me, you can head over and check out the rundown of his accomplishment in the press release announcing his hire at LSU. Here are the highlights:
In 31 years as a head coach, Kelly has amassed a record of 284-97-2, which ranks him first among all active FBS coaches in career victories, ahead of Alabama’s Nick Saban (272 wins) and North Carolina’s Mack Brown (265 wins). Kelly has only had two teams finish below .500 during his 31-year collegiate career.
For the past 12 years, he has served as the head coach at Notre Dame. He leaves South Bend as the Irish’s all-time winningest coach with 113 victories, moving ahead of legendary Knute Rockne for the top spot in 2021. His 12-year mark at Notre Dame stands at 113-40, which includes a 54-9 mark over the past five seasons.
The narrative at Notre Dame is well known. Kelly pulls the iconic program out of the toilet after Charlie Weis runs its into the ground and restores the Irish to a position of national prominence. When you’re the all time winningest coach at Notre Dame you’re doing something right.
Kelly might be as good of a football coach as you’ll find but is he a good person? That isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for the job. No one has ever suggested that Nick Saban is a coach prone to the ‘warm fuzzies’. When I was doing a nightly radio show in Las Vegas, my co-host John Kelly (no relation to Brian and unquestionably a good dude) would recount an unsubstantiated story of Saban’s response at a practice when a player had some sort of seizure. Saban–after ascertaining that it wasn’t a starter at a skill position–stepped over the convulsing third or fourth stringer and carried on with practice.
There are some media types trying to impugn Kelly (Brian, not John) for some components of his deal with LSU. Most are fairly typical of bigtime college football–a lot of zeroes, bonuses for remaining on the job and even more incentives for certain accomplishments (CFP, National Championship, SEC Championship). Kelly also gets $50,000 per based on team academic performance, etc. LSU will pick up any amount of buyout money that Kelly might owe Notre Dame.
Some of the more interesting perks–50 hours of private aircraft time for ‘personal use’ and a $1.2 million USD interest free loan for a residence. Here’s how that works:
Kelly’s term sheet also says that he will receive an interest-free loan, not to exceed $1.2 million, designed to cover 20% of the purchase price of Kelly’s primary residence, which is to be located within 30 miles of LSU’s campus in Baton Rouge. Kelly eventually will have to repay the loan, plus 20% of any increase in value of the home.
That works out to a down payment on a $6 million USD home. That’s a nice piece of real estate anywhere but particularly in Baton Rouge. A quick search on real estate website Zillow shows that there’s not a $6 million USD home currently on the market in Baton Rouge. For the sake of argument, here’s what a paltry $2.95 million will get you:
So think of a crib twice as swanky as the one shown above. That might be a bit much for a college football coach, particularly one in a state ranked 48th in per capita income in the US. Even so, you can’t blame anyone for getting the best deal they can in a negotiation. So Kelly wants to live like a member of Motley Crue….that doesn’t make him a bad dude.
Former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn took to the airwaves to call Kelly ‘classless’ for the move to LSU:
“This was about money. This was about ego, him looking at LSU and saying: ‘I’ve played against them. I know what they can recruit. I know the difference in restrictions that you have, the hurdles you have to jump over at Notre Dame versus LSU to recruit and I want to try and go win a National Championship.’ And he might feel like he has a better chance there.”
“But the irony of it is his team could literally be playing for one this year and really the next two years. They have two Top 5 recruiting classes right now. So he’s leaving all of that. I think the way he did it was more about his ego and how he feels he was treated at times at Notre Dame.”
“At the end of the day, you don’t leave the way he did, literally out on the road recruiting, leaving a recruit’s house after this news breaks and having other coaches out there who are on the road recruiting. You don’t leave in a classless way like that, after becoming the all-time winningest coach, unless there’s more to it and you want to try to spurn, or you want to try and do this in a conniving way.”
“I don’t really know what there is to explain. I mean, you’re leaving these players. And again, with a chance to at least play in a New Year’s 6 game — they may have a chance to play for a National Championship.”
“I know we talk about players opting out of bowl games because they have the chance of an injury risk if they go to the NFL. This is entirely different. This is just a guy walking out. It’s a classless, classless move.”
He won’t be writing any books on how to gracefully leave an employer but the way it sounds Kelly was out on the road doing his current job when he found out he got a new one. That’s happened to any number of people in any number of professions. Come to think of it, it’s happened to me. And when it comes down to it, most job moves are to some degree involving ego and money. Quinn sounds more butthurt that Kelly had the temerity to leave ‘Touchdown Jesus’ and Notre Dame for a better paying job at a school that arguably has a better chance to win a National Championship. If you live and breathe Notre Dame I guess the move can be considered ‘classless’ but you can’t fault Kelly for not considering South Bend the apex of college football and his professional career.
Finally, there’s a story about New York Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh and Green Bay Packers’ head coach Rob LaFleur. Both men were graduate assistants under Kelly at Central Michigan and the story goes that both thought they were invited to a party at the coach’s home. When they showed up, they weren’t on the guest list–so Kelly puts them to work:
“We shoveled the snow and parked all the cars. Then, at the end of the night, we had to go get the cars again. We decided that when we’re in that position, we’re never going to treat people the way we got treated.”
This is definitely a dick move. The context from the original story makes it sound like even more of a dick move:
It reminds me of similar situation:
I’m not sure I’m ready to conclude that Kelly is ‘not a good person’ based on this one incident. He’s probably worth keeping an eye on though. Everyone with a soft spot for Notre Dame is digging for dirt on Kelly as we speak so if there’s anything out there we’ll be hearing it.