Here I thought Notre Dame, the nation’s most renowned football program, was the most hapless and pitiful program in existence. A few years ago, a bevy of Notre Dame fans felt pity for a team that hit rock bottom under head coach Charlie Weis, searching for answers and looking for other solutions to find a cure.
Anyone who knew football and what Notre Dame football symbolized should have understood that the Weis Clown was the problem. He was unsuccessful in coaching a program with a demand for excellence. Seems his successor, Brian Kelly, is the ambassador and face of Notre Dame, leading his top-flight Fighting Irish into Sun Life Stadium for the school’s first title game in 28 years.
If Kelly wins the title, it moves him into the company of elite coaches in the history of college football and he will upwell into the stratosphere because he’s the coach at Notre Dame, a school known for its tradition, mystique, exposure and triumph.
For many years, long before Kelly was hired to change the culture and turn it around at Notre Dame, where a cloud of bad luck hovered over the land of Touchdown Jesus, the Irish cringed in agony about mediocre football by its own standards. The best-known aspect of the university, no doubt, is football, and with a building guru who is devoted to a program because of its principles and demands, Notre Dame can win its first national title since 1988 under Kelly, a damn-good miracle worker no matter where he coaches. So now, after overcoming a lingering tailspin that ended the misery and shortcomings, Notre Dame climbs the BCS mountaintop, aiming to be crowned champs by Monday night.
Kelly is, all by himself, a registered architect and built two programs from bottom to top completely, bringing in some of the best talent from around the nation to commit and play for Notre Dame, just as he did when he coached in Cincinnati. With a different school, in just his third year, he’s directed his team to a national title game, and because of it, the Irish are now on the brink of winning a championship and leaving Miami Gardens on top of the college game. The championship aspirations, since his arrival, weren’t a broken promise and Kelly absolutely laid the foundation.
And for good reason, he’s been the center of attention, attracting NFL attention and becoming a commodity for the pros. Uh, folks, don’t expect Kelly to leave South Bend anytime soon.
It’s clear to us that Notre Dame’s resurgence happened when Kelly stopped in South Bend, and made himself at home, diligently wooing kids to commit to the school. There’s hardly ever a time Coach Kelly doesn’t put together a solid recruiting class, breeds his own players and runs a system he knows would work at the highest level.
When he took over for Notre Dame, it was a mutual feeling that he would be the guy to restore the luster to a once-proud program that had deflated and faded into the background. The most successful and captivating coach Notre Dame has seen in a very long time is here to stay, and it’s a place where Kelly could establish a lifelong coaching career if he continues to win and install offensive and defensive schemes for winning. It’s a marriage of unifying supremacy – to be certain. What began as a season with no promise — with the notion that Notre Dame would have another poor season — the Irish stunned the world and still feel like they aren’t getting any respect.
After a magical run, beautiful stories — one can tell their grandchildren — after a year of perfection, after the finest season of Kelly’s coaching career, he’s shown all of us that he’s an intelligent, fiery, charismatic Catholic. Under a vintage Kelly, the Irish are 12-0 and ranked No. 1, but they are playing against Alabama, who is a 9-1/2 point favorite in Vegas.
It’s amazing how quickly Kelly settled in and turned it around in his brief tenure at Notre Dame. All season, the Irish have been ignored. All season, Kelly has led his team. They are also led by senior linebacker Manti Te’o and quarterback Everett Golson.
So here they are. If Notre Dame wins, Kelly will have done something remarkable, he will have won a championship. The previous three coaches couldn’t even come close to what Kelly has done this season.