Brian Kelly has had a lot of success as the Notre Dame football coach over the last 10 years but will he see the 11th season or is it time for a split?
Notre Dame was a 17.5-point favorite at home vs. Virginia Tech but the Fighting Irish sure didn’t play like the prohibitive favorites. Notre Dame managed to escape with a win thanks to a pair of fourth-down conversions by Ian Book on the game-winning drive that was punctuated with Book’s rushing touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
For the better part of four quarters, it looked like Virginia Tech was going to get the win and continue on their midseason turnaround. Too many penalties, including one that negated an interception, ultimately did the Hokies in on a cold day in South Bend.
However, despite the win, is the writing on the wall that Notre Dame and Kelly are headed for a split?
You know about Kelly’s background, which includes last year’s College Football Playoff berth and the National Championship Game vs. Alabama, although it was such a debacle, Notre Dame fans may have wiped that from their memory with a Men in Black mind eraser.
All this to say, Kelly is a really good coach. You don’t stay at Notre Dame for 10 years without being a good coach, right?
But is Kelly a great coach who can win national championships at Notre Dame? Is Kelly ready for a change of scenery after coming close two different times? Could Kelly look for a move to the NFL, which was the hot topic earlier in his Notre Dame tenure? Could Notre Dame pursue a former Irish assistant who has three national championships on his resume?
I think all of these options are in play.
Notre Dame could choose to pursue Urban Meyer who is the No. 1 target of USC. But if Notre Dame is interested and makes the sacrifices they’d need to make to welcome Meyer, does that change their feelings on Kelly?
Don’t be surprised if that happens.
And don’t be surprised if Kelly, on his own volition, decides to kick the tires on some openings in the NFL this offseason. There figures to be a handful of openings around the league and he might think to himself it’s either now or never. He’s passed up NFL opportunities in the past and if he continues to pass them up, they will pass him by.
The safest option would be continuing with the relationship and hoping things get better. They’ll never be terrible with Kelly, but the same frustrations that plague him now and the same frustrations from fans who expect to win every game and win national championships will still ring at a high volume.
It’s been more than 30 years since Notre Dame has won a national title but expectations aren’t going to be lowered in South Bend. But the longer Kelly stays at Notre Dame, the longer that championship drought will continue.