ND notebook: Kelly brushes off NFL rumors

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ND notebook: Kelly brushes off NFL rumors

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Only a few days before kickoff of the BCS Championship, the NFL is the furthest thing from Brian Kelly's mind.

As a slew of NFL coaches were fired following the conclusion of the regular season a week ago, Kelly's name was thrown out as one that would interest some teams -- including the Bears -- if he were keen on jumping to the next level. When asked on Saturday, Kelly didn't offer any hints about overtures from the NFL, adding that every inquiry is directed through his agent.

"It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is," Kelly said. "But again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now, it's all about this game."

If Kelly is thinking about bolting, he certainly didn't intimate it on Saturday -- and it would come as a surprise even when one gets beyond the usual coachspeak of a press conference. As a successful college coach who, by some observer's accounts, has the intangibles necessary to coach in the NFL, the rumors will be there, even if there's nothing backing them at this moment.

"When I took the job at Notre Dame, I think I said it was a dream job," Kelly explained. "But I never went around day to day anything about being the Notre Dame head coach, because the job that I had in hand was what I was thinking about. And I think that's the same thing with the NFL.

"I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have."

Kelly striving for Alabama's success

Nick Saban doesn't like the throw the D-word around, but a third title in four years would firmly slap a dynasty label on the Tide. Just as Kelly said earlier in the year he hoped to establish the kind of dominance at home Bob Stoops has at Oklahoma, he's hoping to see the kind of year-to-year prosperity established by Saban at Alabama.

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"We're talking about historic success," Kelly said. "We're not talking about somebody that wasn't ranked last year -- Notre Dame -- or at the start of the year. Your program is defined in consistency, and Alabama is that model. I concede to that. It's where we want to be."

Notre Dame hasn't won back-to-back titles since the 1940s under Frank Leahy, while Ara Parseghian's two championships were seven years apart. No team has won back-to-back titles since Nebraska in the mid-1990s (although USC supporters would contest that).

It's not easy to do, but Saban's on the cusp of doing it -- and Notre Dame, obviously, wants to get to the point where it's feasible for them as well.

"We want to be back here next year," Kelly said. "I think there's been some commentators that have talked about, is Notre Dame for real? Well, for me we're for real because we're here. We won all of our games; that's clear. Where is Notre Dame going to be as it relates to the consistency thing? And that's why I'm the head coach and that's why I want to be the head coach, because I want to show we can do this consistently."

Coming out of the woodwork

The holidays were an interesting time for Notre Dame players, who returned to their friends and families only a few weeks away from playing for a National Championship. Offensive lineman Chris Watt, who grew up in a family that supported the University of Illinois, said the whole experience has "been kind of surreal" while center Braxston Cave said he's heard from distant, distant relatives trying to snatch up tickets for the game.

Notre Dame players get six tickets for the game, and Manti Te'o's using all of them for his family, although with five siblings and two parents, someone might've had to stay home.

"I think every individual who plays in this game is contacted from family members that they haven't met yet," Te'o said.

Cave, in his fifth year at Notre Dame, won't have any friends coming down to South Florida for the game, though. Recognizing his envious position, the center grinned: "All my friends have jobs now. They couldn't take time off."

DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

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AP

DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

DePaul hoops received a huge boost this week as five-star recruit Tyger Campbell committed to the university.

The elite point guard recruit out of La Lumiere, will join the Class of 2018, choosing DePaul over schools like Michigan State, Illinois and Memphis.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy.

"Mainly what I like about the school is I want to help bring it back. I love Chicago; it's a great city. I want to bring the city a college back to cheer for."

Campbell also said the Blue Demons' new Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place Event Center, which is slated to open this fall, is a big draw for him.

The Blue Demons are a combined 18-45 the last two seasons and hasven't had a winning season since 2006-07 when they went 20-14 and made the NIT Quarterfinals.

The program last made the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04 during Leitao's first stint as the team's head coach.

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

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USA TODAY

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

Northern Illinois University added it's fourth known verbal commitment today in its growing Class of 2018.

Maine South junior running back Fotis Kokosioulis (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) added an offer from the Huskies on Tuesday after making a spring practice visit, and today he gave head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment.

"I chose NIU because it's been a school that I've liked for awhile now," Kokosioulis said moments ago. "I like the facilities at NIU, the stadium and everything else they have to offer. I also really like all the coaches at NIU. I felt that even if I got more offers I would've still chose NIU over other schools. I know that there are bigger school and programs but I feel that I just fit in well at NIU, so I committed."

Kokosioulis, who was an All-State performer for the Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks in 2016, is now the fourth known in-state verbal commitment for Rod Carey and the Huskies and the fifth known commitment overall. Kokosioulis joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan and Danville tight end Julian Pearl in the NIU Huskies in-state Class of 2018.