Kelly not interested in options outside Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IND.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reiterated Sunday that he plans to be back as coach of the Fighting Irish after a 45-27 loss to rival Southern California dropped them to 4-8, their second-worst record in five decades.
“Absolutely. I’ll be back,” Kelly said in Saturday’s postgame news conference. But, hours later, Yahoo Sports reported that Kelly had reached out through representatives to explore coaching options outside Notre Dame.
About 3:40 a.m. Sunday, the school tweeted a statement from Kelly saying he thought he had been clear that he plans to return.
“I have not been, am not, and will not be interested in options outside of Notre Dame. I’m fully committed to leading this program in the future,” Kelly said in a tweet.
Because Kelly said he wouldn’t stay in California recruiting as long as he has in past seasons, some compared that to 2009 when Charlie Weis returned to South Bend after a loss at Stanford and was fired. Kelly didn’t return with the team to South Bend after Saturday’s loss, but acknowledged he’s coming back early.
“I don’t believe I’m coming back early because I’m getting fired,” he said, adding the speculation about his job status didn’t surprise him.
“You can’t be surprised when you go 4-8 that you’re going to get those questions asked as well,” he said.
Kelly plans to conduct exit interviews with players Wednesday through Friday to get an idea on what changes need to be made. He said he has to evaluate a lot of things, including his assistant coaches.
Kelly won at least eight games in each of his first six seasons and started this season ranked No. 10 and finished with eight losses. There have been few seasons when hopes started so high and finished so low. The Irish opened the 1956 season ranked No. 3 and finished 2-8, and were No. 4 to start the 1981 season in Gerry Faust’s first season and finished 5-6.
Kelly’s players backed him after the Irish wrapped up their worst season since Charlie Weis went 3-9 in 2007.
“If anything, Coach Kelly deserves another chance if people are talking about him being fired because this is just one bad season,” defensive tackle Jarron Jones said. “Just because we have one trip-up doesn’t mean he should be fired.”
The season will be remembered for Notre Dame’s inability to come up with big plays in close losses to bad teams: Texas (5-6), Michigan State (3-8), Duke (4-7) and North Carolina State (5-6). It’s just the 14th time in 128 seasons of playing football the Irish have finished with a losing record.