It’s one of the biggest themes of this nascent college football year.
Brian Kellly is now entering Year Three of his tenure in South Bend. So far, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. And because things haven’t exactly gone to plan, and because he’s the head football coach at Notre Dame, the inevitable chatter about his job security has begun.
Yes, in some ways, it seems as though Kelly just got there. But time is always of the essence at Notre Dame, where fans still expect things to be how they were back in old days, even though the old days are very much in the very distant past.
So, yeah, Kelly is most certainly on the hot seat. How hot is that seat? And can he turn things around quick enough to salvage his project in South Bend?
We’ll answer that question here, as we continue our Three Questions series with Three Questions: The Notre Dame Edition.
So, just how hot is Brian Kelly’s seat anyway?
Pretty hot. Even though it really shouldn’t be. Now, believe me, Notre Dame fans, I understand your proud history. I understand where you’ve been, and where you think you should be again. I understand that, for a good long while, you were pretty well spoiled. But here’s the thing: The glory days aren’t coming back. When Kelly took over a couple years back, I was utterly convinced that the Irish had found the absolute perfect guy to lead that program. I predicted big things—like, multiple national titles. And here we are, two years into Kelly’s reign, and progress has been … well, minimal. Notre Dame won't be bad this year, and indeed, they could win nine games. But with that schedule (and that talent), ten wins seems a stretch. I actually see them losing to Navy in Week 1. They are, at best, a fringe Top 20 team. And to be honest, I’m starting to buy into the idea that this is about as good as it gets for Notre Dame these days.
Several reasons. Not the least of which is this: The whole independence thing. Again, I get it, Irish fans. I know you’re proud of your long-standing independence. I know you like to think of yourselves as the fans of a truly “national program.” I know you think that joining a conference would take away from that. But I think such thinking is misguided. First, I’m not sure how much of “national” program you truly are these days; I mean, it has been an awfully long time since you were, you know, gunning for the national title. Which is what national programs do. Meanwhile, ask yourselves this question: Is Alabama a national program? How about LSU? How about USC? How about Oregon? All national powers. All affiliated with a conference. All doing just fine. More than fine, actually.
OK, so where should Notre Dame go then?
The answer is obvious. I have heard ridiculous rumors over the past year about Notre Dame joining the Big 12. I’ve heard equally ridiculous rumors about Notre Dame joining the ACC. And of course, I’ve heard the most utterly ridiculous rumors of all—Notre Dame joining the Big East in all sports, thereby saving the league in a grand gesture of kindness. Not going to happen. None of that is going to happen. Because the simple truth is that Notre Dame joining any conference except for the Big Ten is absolute lunacy. Notre Dame already plays those Big Ten schools. Notre Dame is located smack in the middle of all of those Big Ten schools. And, yes, Notre Dame has an awful lot in common with (some) of those Big Ten schools. Culturally, geographically and, most importantly, financially, it’s a perfect fit. Why they can’t see this is beyond me.