Brian Kelly Looks to Set the Bar Early in South Bend, But What About Cincy?

Robert BrooksCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 11: Brian Kelly attends a press conference where he was named new football head coach at Notre Dame University on December 11, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana.  Kelly most recently led the University of Cincinnati to two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances including a perfect 12-0 record this past season. (Photo by Frank Polich/Getty Images)
Frank Polich/Getty Images

On the outside, he's ecstatic. He knows he just snagged the highest profile college coaching job on the market. On the outside, he appears fierce and ready to start his latest endeavor at Notre Dame, eager to return the school to it's place of old.

Inside though, Brian Kelly can't be as happy as he seems. Don't get me wrong, no one in their right mind wouldn't leave Cincinnati for the Notre Dame gig, but there's a way you go about things in doing so.

Brian Kelly went about in the wrong way. If that wasn't evident when the Cincy football banquet ended, or prior to the banquet when media was not allowed into the event, it became evident after the fact.

Just ask Marty Gilyard. Or Tony Pike. Or legions of other Bearcat players.

College football is a business, and it has been for sometime. There's a loyalty and passion that can be unbreakable for so long, but when the next best thing opens up, many coaches bolt quicker than George O'Leary's stay at Notre Dame.

Brian Kelly is a great football coach, don't get me wrong. It's a great hire, considering Urban Meyer and Nick Saban aren't leaving the best conference in football anytime soon.

The Irish have received nearly nothing from the last three saviors they brought in to bring the program back to national prominence.

Is Kelly the answer? Maybe. The verdict is still out on that.

But sit back and consider Cincinnati. I'm fairly certain the Gilyard family won't be sending Brian Kelly a Christmas card this year.

Mardy Gilyard, the senior phenom wideout for the Bearcats went as far as saying he was "disgusted" and Kelly "went for the money."

Ding, Ding! We have a winner, Mr. Gilyard. Yes, Brian Kelly went to Notre Dame for the money, but he also went to a program that will give him the best chance at leaving a lasting mark in his profession.

However, if Kelly fares like former Irish coaches, he could end up being the one "disgusted."

We've seen coaches take jobs before they coach in crucial bowl games, but the way Brian Kelly dropped the Bearcats flat on their face before they battle possibly their toughest opponent in the Florida Gators on the biggest stage in the program's history was wrong.

Tim Tebow surely built up a sizable amount of aggression in the SEC Championship loss that he's ready to unleash on the underdog Bearcats.

Let's hope Cincy offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn can work the magic Kelly did all season, at least one more time.

It's no secret that Kelly brought Cincinnati to where they are, at 12-0 with back to back Big East titles and BCS berths.

It's also no secret that your players would like for you to see that through, and finish what you started.

"Well, you know, you would always want it to end with the best story, and the best story would be I get to coach in the Sugar Bowl," Brian Kelly said.

"But I'm here at Notre Dame now, and this is where I want to be. This is where I need to get to work immediately. So yeah, the story would be the coach stays with the team and finishes what he started. But in the calendar that we are in in college football, it just can't happen," said Kelly after his Irish hiring.

For a Bearcat player, no words will ease the pain.

For Kelly, it's all said and done. It's "Touchdown Jesus" for him and his family, for as long as the Irish will have them.

At Kelly's introductory press conference for the Irish, he said, "These young men want to win, and that's why I'm here at Notre Dame."

He's at Notre Dame, not at Cincinnati.

It's going to sting Bearcat fans, and yes, it may not be right.

You may sit and curse Brian Kelly, think he's a backstabber, and left your program in the dust.

I'm there with you on the basis of thinking he handled it the the wrong way.

But put yourself in his shoes. Think about the jump he made, and the work he put in along the way.

The future is bright for the Bearcats with the foundations that was laid. But if Kelly taught you anything in these last few days, and somethings he's known since the Kelly-to-Notre Dame talks began, it's that Notre Dame has and will always overshadow Cincinnati, even when they go 6-6.

Kelly's decision was a near no-brainer. He would have been crazy to stay at Cincinnati.

Despite all of this, if things remain the same for the Irish, Bearcat fans may just get the last laugh.


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