No, you didn’t read that wrong. The Brian Kelly debate has been on full tilt since the playoff loss and for good reason. This was another big game that had Notre Dame fall short of expectations and leave Dallas disappointed. While most want to blame Kelly, what about looking at the other side of it.
The Notre Dame Effect
Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious schools in the entire country. They also have one of the most historic football programs today. That makes Notre Dame a place that comes with a lot of criticism and pressure if expectations are not met. While the pressure is deserved, it can also be a bit extreme.
I talked last week about this being the ceiling for Notre Dame because they typically can’t compete with the elite teams around the country. They went to the wire with Georgia last year and typically played Clemson tough, but the big spots always seem to be their breaking point. Really it comes down to the five star players and big name recruits Notre Dame can’t seem to land. The academic and standards that Notre Dame sets for itself definitely hurt, but some would point to the recruiters. The way I see it, this isn’t 1988 anymore and expecting dominance like back in the day is unfair.
Kelly doesn’t get the power and free reign like a Saban or a Swinney. The Players have to not only be talented, but they also can’t take four years of ball room dance. Getting a degree from Notre Dame still has to be earned and getting accepted isn’t easy. So those five stars with NFL dreams are not going to pick Notre Dame when they can go somewhere else and just focus on football. Not saying that is the right choice for every five star player but I also don’t have the talent to get put into that situation. I’m also not saying it is impossible to recruit at Notre Dame. Charlie Weis pulled in a number three recruiting class, Brian Kelly is consistently in the top 15, it can be done. But you also don’t have to look far to wonder why Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State can land the top end talent and Notre Dame struggles to.
Would Brian Kelly Succeed Elsewhere?
So this is the real question to pose to you. If Brian Kelly was at a school like Florida or Tennessee, would he win a title?
Kelly has proven he is a good coach and has what it takes to win. It took him a while to consistently put good seasons together but he seems to be finding his way. So following the same pattern he had at Notre Dame, could he build a National Champion out of an SEC school?
Kelly would be in the hot bed of college football and close to all of the top talent. He would have far less restrictions then he does now and winning signing day goes quite the distance with college football. If Kelly can pull in top 15 classes at Notre Dame, what would stop him from doing that in the SEC.
I’m also not saying that Kelly would be Saban’s equivalent. But if Gus Malzahn and Gene Chizik can have title game appearances, I would imagine Kelly could too. Kelly is a very good coach, not elite, but he has shown he can recruit and putting winning seasons together. So to bring it back around, is Notre Dame holding Kelly back?
If Kelly was given free run of a big time program like so many other coaches, would he achieve what has escaped him at Notre Dame? Notre Dame is one of the best programs in the country but also comes with incredible challenges for any coach. If Kelly were to move on, maybe winning the big one wouldn’t be as challenging.
Would Kelly be what he has been at Notre Dame or would a school with less restrictions bring him more success? Let us know below.
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.