Publish Date: 10/13/2016
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Brian Kelly, a bold, extroverted personality, has turned around programs at Grand Valley (Mich.) State, Central Michigan and the University of Cincinnati, where he was a two-time Big East Coach of the Year who led the Bearcats to a 34-6 record, two straight Big East titles, two BCS berths and three straight AP rankings. He then became the head coach at the University of Notre Dame and led them to a BCS championship game appearance.
On the surface, you would think this guy is a great coach, and maybe he is … but when you look a little deeper, you find an insecure man who blames others for his team’s faults, yells, screams and belittles coaches and players.
It all started at Cincinnati in 2009 when he led the Bearcats to an undefeated season and the no. 3 ranking nationally. After Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis was fired, it seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion Kelly would end up with the Fighting Irish, which I have no problem with; the problem was how he let his players know.
The reaction in Cincinnati – where Kelly had told some players he wanted to stay – was the complete opposite.
“He went for the money,” Cincy WR Mardy Gilyard told the AP last night. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it go for that long.”
“The Tuesday before we played Pitt, he was telling us how much he loves it here, how he loves this team, how he loves coaching here and how much his family loves it here,” quarterback Tony Pike said.
Kelly attended the team banquet in 2009 but waited until the end to tell the team he was leaving, three hours after the dinner began.
“I don’t like it,” Gilyard said. “I feel like there’s a little lying going on there. I felt he’d known this the whole time. Everybody knows Notre Dame’s got the money. I kind of had a gut feeling he was going to stay because he told me he was going to be here.”
The Death of Declan Sullivan
The Cincinnati incident could be deemed unfortunate, but the death of Notre Dame student manager Declan Sullivan showed Kelly’s true character — or should I say “lack of character”?
Early in 2010 with sustained winds around 40 mph and gusts of 53 mph. Declan Sullivan went up in scissors lift to record a Notre Dame practice.
Beyond the question of whether the practice should have been outdoors at all, the tower should not have been up in the first place: The most common warning on scissor lifts is about using them in high winds. The South Bend Tribune spoke to one manufacturer, who says they shouldn’t be raised if winds exceed 25 mph; on that fateful day they were twice that.
The people who make the lifts knew Sullivan shouldn’t have been up there, and so did Sullivan. The most heartbreaking aspect of the story is the content of Sullivan’s two Tweets that afternoon. He basically said in the tweets he was scared to go up in the lift and was afraid for his life.
Less than an hour after his second Tweet, the lift blew over. Stationed beyond the uprights, it fell through the chain link fence on the edge of the field and crashed into the street. Sullivan was taken to the hospital and died there. The practice continued for 25 more minutes.
Weathermen, heavy equipment manufacturers and the victim himself knew this was a recipe for disaster. Who else should have known? Maybe person or persons who sent him up there…?
I could write a book on Kelly scandals; the following are are just a few more.
Michael Floyd’s three alcohol offenses
Floyd had three alcohol-related legal infractions during his college football career, and his only punishment for this was … being thrown off the team during spring ball in 2011.
Only to be reinstated for the fall.
Missing spring ball is really more of a perk/reward than it is a punishment, so can Floyd be considered to have truly even been reprimanded? Well, it didn’t really hurt his NFL draft stock too much, as he went to the Arizona Cardinals at no. 13 overall in 2012. But these actions clearly sent the wrong message to the team. Since Floyd wasn’t held accountable for what he did, how does that deter other players from committing the same infraction?
The assault and suicide of Lizzy Seeberg
In the same year Declan Sullivan lost his life, another mostly-forgotten case involving Notre Dame football and the untimely death of a college student occurred. People, especially defenders of Kelly, should probably read up on this incident.
As noted in a piece of December 2012 entitled Notre Dame Football and the Federal Case of Lizzy Seeberg’s Death:
The incident allegedly occurred on September 1st, 2010. The alleged assault victim, Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg of Northbrook, IL was diagnosed with clinical depression and possibly committed suicide nine days later. (The overdose on anti-depressants was ruled a suicide) Seeberg’s alleged sexual assailant is currently on the Notre Dame football team.
The identity of the alleged assailant never came out. The fact that the only true witness has passed on makes things rather murky. But what we know for sure is that an incident of this magnitude is not receiving the amount of media coverage that it should.
While the tragic loss of Declan Sullivan and his macabre tweets forecasting his own death made every wire service, every network, every website and saturated the news cycle […] Lizzy Seeberg has gone largely unnoticed and well under-reported by the press…
When outrage resulted from the announcement three months after the incident that the unnamed player would not be charged by local authorities (he would later be cleared of all charges in federal court), Kelly was quoted only as stating that “One of my jobs as the head football coach, as I tell our players, is to eliminate confusion. The prosecutor’s statement, at least from what I was able to glean, clears up some of that. That’s probably what I took from it more than anything else.”
Treatment of players and coaches
The way Kelly talks to his coaches and players is often completely outrageous; here are a few examples.
There are many instances of Kelly screaming, hollering and degrading his players and coaches; throw in an academic scandal and player arrests, and you have a coach that is so far away from what Notre Dame is supposed to be it is sickening. I know you are saying kids need discipline these days, and I agree that is true, but there is a fine line between discipline and humiliation.
The University of Notre Dame football team used to be something that was special compared to the football factories that were around the nation. Fighting Irish players went to school, got good grades and were held to a higher standard. That all changed in 1985 when head coach Gerry Faust was fired. True, Faust failed to win enough games to keep his job – the problem I had was they hired Lou Holtz as the head coach.
Holtz had not always run the cleanest of programs. By the time he was done at Notre Dame, you had steroid accusations, academic scandals etc… Notre Dame has not hired the right coach since Dan Devine, and Devine won a National title and was chased off. Brian Kelly should already have been fired for his off-field actions alone. With the Irish in a spiral on and off the field, his dismissal seems necessary.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame athletics will still look for the quick hire that can bring immediate gratification (just like every other program) when maybe they should return to a time when the University was special and actually had high-quality student-athletes: Remember how they won when they did so?