It’s never an easy thing when a successful coach leaves. There are always some hard feelings, not all of them justified. When Bobby Petrino left the University of Louisville, I criticized him for making Tom Jurich do all the work of cobbling together a 10-year deal the summer before, but you can’t blame a guy for taking a much better job.
Going to the NFL? Taking a job like Notre Dame? How can you begrudge a coach that? People have asked me, “Would you turn down Sports Illustrated?” Everybody has a similar job in their field. We get it.
But news of Brian Kelly’s departure broke on the day of his undefeated Cincinnati team’s football banquet. Players found out from ESPN. According to The Cincinnati Enqurier, Kelly told his players they would be the first to know. They were among the last. Read that story here.
Here’s where it gets tough. Kelly has done great things for Cincinnati. He poured his heart into the job and took it to unprecedented heights.
So here’s my question. Why do all that, why put all that sweat into something, why work to build a championship caliber team, then treat it like trash on the way out?
And that’s what Kelly has done. The news couldn’t wait a day? The move couldn’t hold? Touchdown Jesus couldn’t exercise a little patience? Heaven can’t wait, apparently.
Get this straight — it’s no ordinary team that Kelly is leaving. It’s an undefeated team. Is that not one of the most special situations in sports? How many times is Kelly going to have that opportunity in his life?
And he’s letting that team find out in this manner? He’s bolting like you would from Best Buy?
I’m not saying that coaches should differ from any of the rest of us where bigger jobs and more money are concerned. I am saying that they should try to show some kind of decency to the players and programs they leave behind.
Listen to the Cincinnati players, as quoted in The Enquirier:
“We don’t really care what he has to say anymore,” tight end Ben Guidugli said after a post-banquet team meeting. “He can go talk to his Notre Dame team. We’re ready to move forward with whoever wants to move forward with us. He’s not on the boat anymore, so we’ve got to continue on.”
Standout receiver Mardy Gilyard: “I didn’t want to hear it,” he said. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation — him letting it last this long. … Everybody and their mamma knew what was going on. I feel like he did our team an injustice. Hopefully he’ll pack his things up and get to South Bend in a hurry.”
I think Kelly was the right man for the Notre Dame job. Nobody’s arguing that, or that it’s not pretty much an open-and-shut decision to take that opportunity.
But he didn’t leave Cincinnati in the right way.
He rolled into the Bearcats’ locker room after they finished an undeafeated season by beating Pittsburgh and declared, “Mission Accomplished.”
I guess it was. He got the Notre Dame job. But he aborted the final stage of his UC mission.