CFP Chairman Gary Barta Says Brian Kelly Leaving ND a 'Nonfactor' in Evaluation

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 4, 2021

FILE - Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Navy in South Bend, Ind., Nov. 6, 2021. LSU is hiring away from Notre Dame, a stunning move of one of the most accomplished coaches in college football jumping from the sport's most storied program to a Southeastern Conference powerhouse. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

Head coach Brian Kelly's departure for LSU will not have an impact on where Notre Dame places in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

ESPN's Heather Dinich reported Saturday that she was told by CFP chair Gary Barta that Kelly leaving will be a "nonfactor" in the committee's evaluation of ND.

Dinich added that Barta said the fact that defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman has been elevated to head coach and is retaining the current coaching staff lends to continuity and makes any concerns regarding turnover "moot."

During a previous appearance on ESPN (h/t AL.com's Mike Rodak), Barta had said the absence of a coach or key player would be taken under consideration by the committee.

Kelly appeared on ESPN's College GameDay (h/t Brody Miller of The Athletic) on Saturday and expressed his belief that his departure should not impact the Irish's CFP chances, saying: "I haven't seen coaches play the game before. Players play the game."

Despite Notre Dame owning an 11-1 record and having a legitimate shot to reach the CFP this season, Kelly left before the 2021 season was over in order to chase a national championship at LSU in the coming years.

That left Notre Dame in a tough spot, but it made the decision to stay in-house by promoting Freeman to head coach after just one season as defensive coordinator.

Freeman enjoyed success as the DC at Cincinnati in the four years prior, however, and entering Saturday's slate of games, he had the Irish ranked 11th in the nation with just 18.2 points allowed per game.

Notre Dame entered Saturday needing some help in the form of two or more of Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State losing in their conference title games.

Oklahoma State fell to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game, moving the Irish closer to a CFP berth with Michigan, Bama and Cincy yet to play.

The Irish are ranked No. 6 in the CFP rankings, and while not having the ability to play in a conference championship game could be a disadvantage, it will be hard to keep them out of the CFP if any of the aforementioned teams lose.

Notre Dame has reached the playoff in two of the past three seasons, and if it doesn't make it three out of four, Kelly's departure won't be the reason, based on Barta's comments.