Brian Kelly: Notre Dame’s Most Accomplished Leader since Lou Holtz?


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In the storied history of Notre Dame football, with its 11 national championships, 102 winning seasons, and 466 NFL Draft picks, there are two classes of coaches. The first, and elite class includes national championship coaches (Knute Rockne, Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz) that have gates named after them at Notre Dame Stadium. There are also statues erected of these men in Notre Dame, IN.

The second class is simply, everyone else who’s coached in South Bend. And since Holtz left in 1996, the Fighting Irish have had exactly that in Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weiss.  Enter Brian Kelly, who brings the most impressive resume since Lou Holtz to ND.

His era begins now.

When college football season begins Sept. 4th, he’ll take the first step towards joining whichever class he’ll eventually fit be categorized.

By Paul M. Banks

What Brian Kelly brings to the table is a record of winning at every level he’s been a part of. At Division II Grand Valley State he won two national titles, played for a third, and took home two Coach of the Years awards. At the Division I level, Kelly took Central Michigan from laughingstock to MAC Champion; before going to Cincinnati and taking a traditional basketball school’s mediocre football program to two BCS games. He also won three consecutive Big East and a couple national Coach of the Year awards while running the Bearcats show.

The second, and perhaps even more important attribute Kelly brings to the table is his hard-line ambition. He expects greatness out of himself and all his players.

At Tuesday’s Notre Dame Media Day, Kelly talked about how his players have responded to his new regime.

“They knew there had to be a sense of urgency. They were sick and tired of being sick and tired too. It’s just different leadership styles,” he said about the players transitioning to a new coach.

Kelly has won everywhere he has gone, but none of the entries on his coaching resume are Notre Dame, where the spotlight shines the brightest. At a program that is essentially the New York Yankees of college football, expectations and demands are sky high. So Kelly knows his plans must yield results quickly.

“The difference at this position is we’ve got to accelerate that process. We have to operate with a sense of urgency. We don’t have time to let things come as they will. We have to force the issue a little bit,” Kelly said about the difference between his current gig and his previous jobs.

“So there’s a sense of urgency here at Notre Dame that I haven’t had at the other stops, but the plan is the same.”

Perhaps the best example of Kelly’s results-oriented approach (which coincidentally makes him the perfect fit to lead the Fighting Irish, as does his last name, when you think about it) is the way he’s handled highly touted wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd, who pleasantly described Kelly as “demanding” on this day, came to South Bend very highly regarded, but a combination of injuries and perhaps misuse of his skill sets yielded a very disappointing level of production.

At Tuesday’s press conference, I asked Kelly about both Floyd’s potential and expectations from the junior wideout. The response was picked up and written about by pretty much every news service covering ND Media Day. In fact, the exchange led most of the stories about today’s Fighting Irish press event.

“I thought Michael Floyd was overhyped. I thought he was at times average. But in 20 years, I have not had a player who has worked as hard as Michael Floyd has worked. And I mean that.” Kelly responded.

“He has out worked everybody on the offensive side of the ball to the point where he has single handedly set the bar for everybody else needs to bring their play. When we’ve gone in the last couple of days, situational live, he’s been dominant. Believe me, I’m not easily impressed. Again, going back to where I thought he was, watching film last year, wasn’t all that impressed with him.

I’m very impressed with his work. He’s been outstanding. He’s set a bar for the way all of our other players need to compete on a day to day basis.

That’s the Mike Floyd story,” Kelly continued.

Later, Kelly was asked who the star, the leader, the B.M.O.C. is on offense for this season. And he named Floyd.

But what about the Brian Kelly story?

We’ll get to read another page approximately 16 days from now when the season kicks off.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru

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