Yesterday, a man named Brian Kelly accepted the head coaching position at Notre Dame. I had never heard of Brian Kelly before a few weeks ago, when I watched his former team, the Cincinnati Bearcats, beat Pitt in a miracle comeback, 45-44, to finish their regular season undefeated and win the Big East championship.
Brian Kelly seems to be a very good coach. He took Cincinnati's football program and built it into a national power in just three years. This year they are ranked third in the nation and will be playing in the Sugar Bowl in front of millions of viewers.
In that game, however, they will not be coached by Brian Kelly. He's already left for South Bend. He grabbed the money and the prestige and headed for the promised land faster than any of his players can run the 40.
This displays a lack of character that I find disheartening and shameful.
It's not his leaving that I find offensive. He's Irish and he's Catholic. Being the head coach at Notre Dame is to Irish Catholics what being being the quarterback of the Steelers is to boys from Pittsburgh. It's how he did it that I cannot fathom.
He accepted the job and agreed to leave his post while his team prepares to play their biggest game ever. He left his assistant coaches and more importantly, a group of young men he invested in and supposedly cared about, right before their greatest challenge. He's like a ship captain abandoning his vessel right before the battle. His actions demonstrated incredible lack of tact, shameless cowardice, and a frightful sense of narcissism.
This is how he did it. He met with his players after their football banquet (what should have been a happy time) and told them he was grateful that they made this possible for him. Then he told them he would not be coaching them in the Sugar Bowl and then snuck out the back door, with a police escort, leaving them to answer questions for the media. On the way out, he had time to change his Twitter and webpage, replacing Bearcats with Fighting Irishmen, red and black for green and gold.
Some of his players cried. Others were angry. All of them had to ask themselves a very legitimate question: Couldn't he have stayed for the Sugar Bowl, and headed off to his new job with a sense of completion? Couldn't he have taken some time to say goodbye to everyone he purported to care so much about? If he had done so, he could have left with honor and good will. He could have left with unburned bridges and relationships intact. He could have taught his team a lesson about commitment. He could have ended well. Instead, he made it all about him, left under the cover of darkness as a coward, and alienated everyone he purported to care about so deeply these past few years. In doing so, he revealed his true character as a selfish glory chaser and not a leader of young men.
Good luck, Notre Dame. I have a feeling you will regret this decision. You hired a good coach, and a lousy person.