Brian Kelly's Comments to Notre Dame Players After Leaving for LSU Revealed in Report

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 1, 2021

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 23: Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly looks on during a game between the USC Trojans and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on October 23, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the team's players for three minutes and 42 seconds Tuesday morning in his final meeting before leaving for LSU.

Matt Fortuna and Pete Sampson of The Athletic obtained an audio recording of the goodbye message, which centered on what Kelly described as a "magical" time building the Fighting Irish program since 2010:

"Good morning guys. Thanks for getting up here in short order, short notice. As you know, I sent out a text last night trying to give you as much notice as possible given the circumstances that we all know that happened relative to social media and information getting out. And look, I know we've been through this together—I recruited virtually everybody in this room—and I want to be able to tell you, face to face, why we're at where we're at. And that is, very simply, that the past 12 years have been the most incredible 12 years of my life, for me and my family, being here at Notre Dame. Magical in what we've been able to build with the most incredible student-athletes, the ones that I'm looking at right now."

Kelly sent a group message to Notre Dame players Monday night after rumors began to circulate that he'd agreed to become the new head coach at LSU, replacing Ed Orgeron.

Pete Sampson @PeteSampson_

Just now Brian Kelly messaged Notre Dame’s roster in Team Works that “I will be leaving Notre Dame.”<br><br>The plan is for Kelly to meet with the team tomorrow at 7 a.m. <br><br>Here is the full message <a href="https://t.co/sqAl2txZIy">pic.twitter.com/sqAl2txZIy</a>

On Tuesday morning, shortly after Kelly's meeting with the Fighting Irish, the Tigers formally announced his hiring on a 10-year, $95 million contract.

The timing was a bit odd since Notre Dame (11-1) is sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings. Depending on the results elsewhere around the country during conference championship week (the Irish's regular season is over), it's possible the team will get a chance to play for the national title.

CFP chairman Gary Barta confirmed the coaching change could become part of the discussion if Notre Dame is involved in the final conversation about the Top Four:

Yahoo Sports College Football @YahooSportsCFB

Fuller quote of what Gary Barta said about how the committee can view Notre Dame next week: <a href="https://t.co/nq2kjPT5c8">pic.twitter.com/nq2kjPT5c8</a>

Kelly, who won't be involved in the Irish's postseason coaching staff, said athletic director Jack Swarbrick will make sure the team is in good hands, according to The Athletic.

"I think you're one of the four best teams in the country," he said. "Jack is going to get somebody that will continue to lead this program in incredible fashion. I don't know what it holds for us moving forward, but I hope to heck it means that you're playing for the national championship, because you absolutely deserve it."

Kelly didn't meet with any assistant coaches who were present for the meeting and didn't take questions from anybody in attendance. He said he "saw that opportunity in a very short window" to take the LSU job and felt it was best for his family.

He closed the meeting by saying:

"So from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every one of you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you directly, because you don't get that chance very often, and to thank you for allowing me to pursue what I love to do, and that is develop 18- to 21-year-olds. And you will continue to achieve at the highest level and have great success no matter what moves forward for you. So again, thank you, I love each and every one of you, and for me, more than anything else, it's a sad day, but one where I know that each one of you are gonna do great things and you've got more to accomplish. So I wish everybody here the very best, and thank you for the opportunity that you've given me and my family. Thank you guys, appreciate it."

Kelly, who previously served as head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, posted a 113-40 record across 12 years leading the Notre Dame program (although 21 wins from the 2012 and '13 seasons were later vacated by the NCAA because of sanctions related to academic misconduct). The Fighting Irish have won at least 10 games in each of the past five seasons.

Swarbrick said Tuesday he was "not surprised" by Kelly's decision to leave for LSU and didn't provide a timetable for naming a replacement. He added it's possible the team finishes the season without a formal interim coach before hiring a new full-time coach in the offseason.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame will await its fate as it could still earn a CFP bid if at least two teams from the group of No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 5 Oklahoma State lose in their conference title games Saturday.