Of the two generalized groups of people calling for Coach Brian Kelly’s dismissal at Notre Dame, I think one group has a valid case, while the other does not.
Negligence within the coaching staff chain of command precipitated the tragic death of Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan. He was needlessly put in a recklessly grave situation, and heads will roll because of it.
If you think Kelly should be held accountable for this situation, I see your point. There will be an emotional tribute to Sullivan on Saturday, but soon afterward the buck could inevitably stop with Kelly and ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick will eventually have to fire someone over this.
However, if you’re an Irish fan and you think Kelly should get canned because the team is 4-4, and looks unlikely to finish with a winning season, well then I must respectfully disagree.
By Paul M. Banks
We’ll come back to the Sullivan death investigation, but first, let’s look at the football issue.
With their remaining schedule, Notre Dame is likely to finish 6-6 (just like last year) or 5-7. Yes, the run defense is atrocious, losing to Navy three out of four is unacceptable, and this IS Notre Dame, where 9-3 or worse is a “down year.” Expectations in South Bend reach higher than the outstretched arms of Touchdown Jesus. ND didn’t join the Big Ten because they have their own exclusive television deal and they don’t need to.
Although they haven’t been nationally relevant for awhile now, the Irish simply don’t bother with the idea of worrying about conference championships- only national championships.
And Kelly has a long way to go to before we can even think about putting them in the national conversation. However, please give him his time. With his own players, not Charlie Weiss’ personnel. Right now, you can’t evaluate Kelly’s job performance as ND coach, it’s WAY too early. It’s only the middle of his first season.
After 3-4 years, if the Kelly regime still has ND mired in mediocrity, then you can consider letting him go.
Now we can move on to the tragedy that unfolded Wednesday. Fox Sports Jason Whitlock writes in his column “Notre Dame’s Kelly Must Go:
The head football coach has final say over everything that transpires on the practice field. Everything. That’s why Ohio State’s Jim Tressel moved the Buckeyes’ practice inside on Tuesday when wind gusts made conditions unsafe.
“I don’t know if we’ll be inside or out,” Tressel told Ohio reporters 24 hours before the Notre Dame tragedy. “It looks a little nasty. I worry about our cameramen, their well-being up there 50 feet in the air.”
That’s the proper mindset of a head football coach. He’s paranoid about everything.
It’s more likely ND’s video coordinator or someone else on Kelly’s staff will get cut, not him. But make no mistake, someone seriously dropped the ball, and in this case, it literally was a matter of life and death. You’ve read the haunting messages Sullivan tweeted on his way to practice, and while on the lift just minutes before meeting his end. It was like something out of the horror film series “Final Destination.”
The horribly tragic story of a young man’s easily avoidable death will get always a ton of publicity. Now add in: it occurred at Notre Dame, the most visible program in college football, the Tweets and Facebook updates that redefine the word macabre, and the fact it occurred just days before Halloween. It all adds up to a lot of unwanted, negative publicity for the program.
Is that enough to cost Kelly his job? That’s really up to the University and will be based on what facts they find in their investigation. And the findings of that investigation should certainly trump the football criteria.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks