A Messy End But A Great Ride

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Perhaps the most memorable gift that Brian Kelly ever got for his dad occurred in 1987 when BK used his college coaching connections to provide 50 yard line tickets to a Notre Dame/USC game in South Bend.    


I can't remember whether the occasion was a birthday or anniversary, but I do know that it was a huge deal for Paul Kelly who - like many Catholics growing up in Boston - rooted for the Fighting Irish but had never seen a game at Notre Dame Stadium.


Brian's father will be seeing a bunch of them in the future.


As a Bearcat fan, I'm obviously sorry to see Brian Kelly go.  He's a brilliant coach with an engaging personality and I've enjoyed working with him immensely.  We've had many conversations over the past few years about the likelihood that he would stay at Cincinnati, and I genuinely believe that this was a difficult decision for him.


And while he once told me that Notre Dame was not his dream job, I understand why he took it.  After 20 years of building programs at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati, he's going to where no construction is required.  At Notre Dame, budgets and infrastructure are never an issue; all you have to do is recruit and coach.


Oh yea, and you had better win.


I am disappointed by how things ended.  As soon as BK accepted the job, he should have flown to Cincinnati, called an immediate team meeting and let his players know exactly what he had decided.  It's such an obvious thing to do that I'm shocked that his guys were forced to twist in the wind waiting to hear it from him while every media outlet aside from Al Jazeera was running a "Notre Dame Hires Kelly" story. 


For a guy who usually has impeccable P.R. instincts, that was awful.


And it's not his fault, but the fact that UC will try to complete a perfect season without its head coach is ridiculous.  Perhaps this will lead the NCAA to consider a rule that would prevent coaches from interviewing for jobs until their seasons are finished.  The NCAA banned text-messaging to help student athletes - how 'bout allowing them to know that their head coach won't bolt before the biggest game of their lives?       


Still, there haven't been many bad moments during his three years at UC.  Brian Kelly obviously leaves behind a much better program than the one he inherited.  His eventual replacement will take over a roster that should be able to contend for the next two Big East titles with a junior class that includes Armon Binns, Ben Guidugli, Demetrius Jones, and Jacob Rogers and freshman/sophomores like Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Drew Frey, Adrien Robinson, J.K. Schaffer, Walter Stewart, and D.J. Woods.  UC will have a new practice facility and indoor bubble built by the fall, and with the Sugar Bowl ticket allotment of 17,500 already sold, this year's BCS bowl appearance should pump some badly-needed revenue into the athletic department's coffers.   


Brian Kelly's biggest contribution to the program was making us realize that there's no such thing as impossible for UC football.  The Bearcats can play in the biggest bowl games, pack Nippert Stadium, finish as the highest-rated team in Ohio, and yes, compete for a National Championship. 


Not 5 or 10 years from now . . . now.


You know what else we learned from him?  That nobody is irreplaceable.


To use his favorite phrase, "Next man in."    


I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.


And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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