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LSU's Brian Kelly on ND Departure: Legacies Aren't 'What I Spend Time Thinking About'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 1, 2021

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The idea of retiring as a coaching legend at Notre Dame apparently didn't appeal to Brian Kelly.

At his introductory press conference as LSU's new head coach, Kelly said that "legacies are not part of what I spend time thinking about."

The 60-year-old shed some light on his priorities.

"You’re looked at in terms of championships here," he said. "I want that. … I want to be on the Broadway stage. That’s what my passion is."

Kelly added he felt the challenge of leading the Tigers "was something I had to take on."

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Beyond the fact there was little indication Kelly planned to leave South Bend, Indiana, his decision was almost without precedent.

Not only did he move on from one of college football's most prominent programs, he also did so while the Fighting Irish still have a path into the College Football Playoff. They sit sixth in the CFP rankings and could plausibly jump into the top four with some combination of Alabama, Cincinnati, Michigan and Oklahoma State losing this weekend.

Kelly's comments could be telling, though.

Notre Dame enjoyed its fifth straight season with double digit wins in 2021 and reached the playoff twice within the previous three years. When facing off with elite opponents, the Fighting Irish seemed to hit their ceiling.

They lost their two semifinal games by a combined score of 61-17. There was also a 44-28 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in 2015 and the 42-14 drubbing at the hands of Alabama in the BCS National Championship in 2012.

LSU, meanwhile, has won national titles under each of its last three head coaches (Nick Saban, Les Miles and Ed Orgeron). The Tigers haven't been as consistent as Notre Dame from year to year, and there's plenty of competition in the SEC. But the right coach can clearly build a championship winner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

One could argue Kelly showed his true feelings about his previous stop by accepting LSU's offer when he did. Even if Notre Dame qualifies for the playoff, he may see the outcome being the same as the team's last two trips.

For a lot of coaches, leading the Fighting Irish represents the ultimate goal and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That's not true for everybody, and Kelly is a prime example.

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