Brian Kelly Proves Chivalry Is Dead in College Football

Jerry Burnes@@JerryBurnesAnalyst IDecember 11, 2009

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 05: Tony Pike #15 is congratulated by head coach Brian Kelly of the Cincinnati Bearcats following their win against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers on December 5, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

I've lost a lot of faith recently.

It's been a recurring theme with my sports preferences, from Tiger Woods, to Roger Clemens, to my beloved Chicago Cubs.

But faith has eluded me the most when it comes to college football; and it happens damn near every season.

No season more than this year.

In a year where Urban Meyer loses control (see: Spikes, Brandon and Dunlap, Carlos) and Lane Kiffin reportedly pushed the boundaries of recruiting; nothing has sickened me more than Brian Kelly.

The move, don't me wrong, is the best for Notre Dame and for Kelly. The move opens up a Big Six spot in Cincinnati for Butch Jones, who followed Kelly at Central Michigan.

Who doesn't win, however, is the Bearcats. No team was more deserving to play for the national title than Cincinnati for one good reason: Alabama, Texas, Florida and TCU didn't have to guess for the better part of two months if their coach was going to jump ship.

Earlier this week Kelly tweeted he would listen to what the Irish had to say and informed the team. Then reports came from ESPN that he had met with Notre Dame a week earlier. Finally, after two months, a 12-0 record and a Sugar Bowl berth against the defending champs Florida; Brian Kelly jumped ship and followed the money trail.

His act, while the right one, was selfish.

As Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard enter what will be the biggest game of their college careers, Kelly will be off recruiting for the Golden Domers. While the Bearcats prepare for Tim Tebow, Kelly will settling into a lush new office.

Time and time again college football has proved that there is a price for loyalty.

Kelly's decision, which Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel confirmed via Twitter, that he will not coach the Bearcats against Florida is a fitting end to a tumultuous two months for loyalty.

"He went for the money," said Gilyard to the Associated Press. "I'm fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long."

I'd go with stomach churning instead.

The right thing for Kelly to do, would have been to put off any contact with the Irish until the Sugar Bowl wrapped up. Express your interest but tell them you have a job to finish in Cincinnati. A possible 13-0 season to finish.

Kelly's counterpart in the bowl, could have given him the same advice. When Meyer led the 2004 Utah Utes to the Fiesta Bowl as 12-0 non-AQ team, he was pursued by the Irish and the Gators. Both teams had ended terms with coaches Tyrone Willingham and Ron Zook respectively.

Meyer did accept the Florida job around this time but coached the Utes, defeated Pittsburgh and then moved on to The Swamp.

Kelly could learn something from this. His former Bearcats will move on, they'll forgive, but they won't forget. They won't forget the two months of wondering. The two months of anxiety, all but knowing their coach was on his way out.

They won't forget the media circus, that was focused more on another team than the 13-0 title contenders on the practice field.

The Bearcats, in essence, have been screwed all season long.

The media dubbed the usual suspects as contenders and pondered where non-AQ TCU and Boise State would end up. Few gave second thought to the fact that Cincinnati, not TCU, would have been the BCS No. 2 if Texas fell.

And Kelly?

He didn't give second thought to staying in Ohio once Charlie Weis was let go. He knew it was a matter of time before the Golden Dome came calling. He knew what his answer would be when they did. He knew, that the talk of the sports pundits would be Notre Dame when they showed up in Cincy, not the Bearcats.

He didn't even have the guts to tell his team.

On the verge of a 13-0 season. A special season. The Cincinnati Bearcats haven't even had the chance to enjoy it. Nor will they. It will always be marred by Brian Kelly.

It will only be fitting for the Bearcats to walk all over Florida in the Sugar Bowl and complete a perfect season. 

Because all the media will ask is, "Wonder what Brian Kelly thinks of this?"

I'll tell you what he'll be thinking. He'll be thinking of his new beginnings in South Bend,  and not if he regrets holding off on what he knew was the inevitable. He could have left Cincinnati with respect. He could have remained loyal to his recruits who helped him land this once-in-a-lifetime job. But he didn't.

Now Kelly will don the blue and gold and walk into the living rooms of other aspiring college football players. He'll tell his line and he'll get them to commit with talks of national titles and BCS bowls.

Not one recruit will question Kelly's loyalty or ask what happens when a better job comes up.

No, Kelly has built an image that he is a loyal, faithful coach. The same loyal, faithful image Tiger Woods once built around himself. 

Brian Kelly has committed transgressions against his Bearcats, the Cincinnati fans and the sanctity that is loyalty in college football.

For that, for leaving a team high and dry in its finest moment, Brian Kelly has killed my faith in college football.


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