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How Brian Kelly’s insane stint from Notre Dame to LSU revealed a flawed system


The press conference to introduce Lincoln Riley as head coach of USC on Monday was so full of grandeur that athletic director Mike Bohn actually said the following words without even a hint of irony:

“Our goal has never been to change the landscape of college football with one of the biggest moves in football history, but that’s exactly what we did.”

Bohn’s roost on top of Coach Finder Bravado Mountain lasted about two hours.

Because despite all the talk in Los Angeles about paradigm shifting sports by hiring Riley, LSU removing Brian Kelly from Notre Dame raised it in an even more shocking way for an industry whose wake-up call should now be fully thunderous.

Coaches change jobs all the time and desperate schools are doing desperate things this time of year. But for Kelly, leaving Notre Dame dry while her team still has a shot at winning a national championship is both something we’ve never really seen in college football and a crossover rubicon that drives the sport on a perilous way.

How can you continue to pretend this is amateur sport when a multi-million dollar coach leaves his players in a bind when they could still end up playing for history? How does anyone take the sanctity of the college football playoffs seriously when it means so little to Kelly that he’s leaving town before he even knows if his team is getting in?

Brian Kelly leaves the field after Notre Dame’s victory over Stanford.

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OPINION: Lincoln Riley at USC was a given. He avoids the chaos of the SEC, shot a championship.

Just two days ago, after Notre Dame ended an 11-1 season with a resounding victory over Stanford, Kelly said the following: “We have one of the top four teams on my mind in the country, without a doubt, and we are ready to prove it.

And with the Fighting Irish expected to be ranked No.5 or No.6 by the selection committee on Tuesday, it wouldn’t have taken that much for Notre-Dame to enter. If Georgia beat Alabama and either Cincinnati, Michigan or Oklahoma State lose their conference championship game, the Fighting Irish would almost certainly be in the bottom four.

In other words, Kelly bailed out one of six teams that still had a shot at winning the national title. It’s not just the action of a broken man, it’s the product of a broken sport.

And college football had better get this madness under control before the playoffs expand to 12 teams, where theoretically there could be more than 20 schools still in the mix at the height of the coaching carousel.

ESPN or any other TV network better think twice before spending billions of dollars on a TV product where coaches would rather seek big deals for themselves than help unpaid amateurs burn their names. in the history books. If potential attendees don’t care, why would someone else?

For those who say you can’t blame Kelly for taking on an LSU contract that should be well north of $ 10 million a year, that is bullshit. There’s no one to blame but Kelly for a classless, gutsy outing before the kids he recruited from Notre Dame even know if they’ll have the privilege of playing for a national championship.

By taking this step now, Kelly should be an outcast in her profession, never thought of the same way again. He doesn’t care about those players at all, and all the respect he has earned for his handling of the Notre Dame program over the past twelve years has been flushed down the toilet. He should forever be known as little more than a serpent and a mercenary.

And yet, the larger story here is about a sport rushing over the edge of an economic cliff while operating in a way that fundamentally devalues ​​its core product.

No other sport does this. The Minnesota Vikings cannot offer to double Bill Belichick’s salary while he prepares for the Super Bowl. In professional sport, there are contracts and consequences. In collegiate sports, the culture of agents who flout athletic directors has led to a progressive acceptance of the idea that they can do whatever they want, renegotiate contracts when they want and change jobs at will regardless of what is written on a piece of paper. .

It’s one thing when a coach leaves for a new job and skips the Weed-Eater Bowl. But when it gets in the way of the playoffs – the only thing that still matters in this sport besides money – you have a real problem on your hands.

Notre Dame’s fate in the playoffs will be decided by a 13-person committee who will supposedly consider all the factors involved in the season and a team’s potential competitiveness. Will they watch the Fighting Irish the same knowing the program is suddenly in chaos?

That’s a fair question and a rotten result for players who have worked too hard to be brought to their knees like this by a coach who is going to earn eight figures at LSU while still getting their scholarship, room and board at Notre Dame.

And yet, it perfectly embodies the current spirit of college football where schools can afford to offer 10-year contracts to coaches they want and hand out huge buyouts to those they tire of precisely because they don’t have to pay the players.

If the new standard is over $ 10 million for coaches who haven’t won a national championship, imagine the extensions Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and maybe Kirby Smart will be looking for in their next round of bargaining.

It is not a sustainable system. At some point, the idea that a coach could take on a new job while his team is still in the championship must be approached with massive financial penalties and contractual consequences. Otherwise, it will only wreak more havoc in the years to come.

As Bohn said, the landscape of college football changed completely on Monday. It’s just that USC didn’t turn out to be the biggest culprit.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How Brian Kelly’s move from Notre Dame to LSU revealed a faulty system


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