Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly's agreement to a contract extension with the school is "imminent," according to an Associated Press report. Fighting Irish fans may want to tap the brakes before they start celebrating.
Kelly will still be targeted by NFL teams in search of a new head coach. And he will still listen to them.
Despite Kelly briefly flirting with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles in January, he never "leveraged" the school for a raise or extension, according to CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler:
[Athletics director Jack] Swarbrick suggested Kelly receive a new deal during a post-regular-season meeting in early December. Kelly did not make any financial requests this week, Swarbrick said.
"In every possible way I wasn't being leveraged," Swarbrick said. "I know people think there's a direct connection between the two events, but in our case it felt more routine internally than it did externally."
Swarbrick's comments make sense. Kelly's undefeated regular season and a BCS Championship game berth warranted a contract extension. Kelly has a nice security blanket. But the school still cannot stop the inevitable.
Kelly will go to the NFL. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. His style of coaching fits in with the NFL. He also turned around a dormant program. It's a win-win for an NFL team.
Kelly's current contract with Notre Dame runs through the 2016 season, according to the AP report:
Kelly, who interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles job the day after the BCS game in January, said the basic deal for a contract has been in place since December.
"We have a contract and an agreement. We have people that are paid money to look at these contracts. They look at them very closely. They don't operate as quickly as I would like to. But there are no issues contractually," Kelly said.
If the new extension had been unofficially in place since December, why was Kelly talking with the Eagles in January? One day after the BCS Championship game?
Why, eight months and an NFL flirtation later, has a contract extension not been announced? Maybe the two sides are hung up on the buyout clause of the extension. Maybe they are hung up over what the protocol is if an NFL team expresses interest in Kelly. These things need to be addressed.
Kelly's abrupt departure from Cincinnati cost a cool $1 million, according to the New York Daily News. Three hours after the Bears' annual banquet in December 2009, Kelly told his players he was taking his talents to South Bend, Indiana. Kelly may be fickle, but he does have the right to seek greener pastures. And extend his stay for as long as possible.
Contract extensions give a head coach an overview of what his future will look like in monetary terms, whether he remains employed by the school or not.
The school is still paying off that contract extension. Weis received a $2.1 million payout from the school in 2011, according to tax records requested by USA Today. The report noted that the separation agreement between Weis and the school will continue through 2015.
Notre Dame appeared to have covered Kelly's buyout clause from Cincinnati. More from the Chicago Tribune:
Kelly earned a total of $2,424,301—but a notation referring to $1,762,334 of "other reportable compensation" indicated that all or part of that total was a "one-time payment to Coach Kelly."
Given that Kelly did not begin receiving compensation until the 2010 calendar year and therefore did not appear on the tax form for July 2009 through June 2010, that money may have contributed to any buyout Kelly owed Cincinnati after leaving for the Irish in December 2009.
Penalties for broken contracts can mean little for coaches heading to more elite programs. Notre Dame knows that.
A contract extension is just a piece of paper that sates fans and encourages boosters to keep the coffers full. It implies a strong commitment by both parties.
For a wooing NFL team, it implies that Kelly will probably cost it a little more money.