Brian Kelly not overwhelmed by Notre Dame balancing act

Brian Kelly not overwhelmed by Notre Dame balancing act
May 21, 2014, 11:30 am
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Lou Holtz had a simple answer when asked how Brian Kelly has found success entering his fifth year at Notre Dame.

"He's won," Holtz laughed. "He's won."

That's the reason why no Notre Dame coach has lasted more than five years in South Bend since Holtz left his post in 1996. Bob Davie oversaw two losing seasons and was fired after his fifth year. Ty Willingham, despite being ranked as high as No. 4 in 2002, didn't make it through his third season. Charlie Weis made back-to-back BCS bowls then saw his program fall on its face over the next three years.

Only six coaches have lasted more than five years at Notre Dame: Holtz, Dan Devine, Elmer Layden, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Knute Rockne.

Kelly hasn't had astounding success, with 2012's BCS Championship berth still an outlier among two eight-win and one nine-win season. But there's a prevailing sense around Notre Dame that Kelly has the program moving in the right direction, a sense Holtz agrees with.

"He's not overwhelmed by the job," Holtz said. "That's the big thing. Don't be overwhelmed by all the people and the expectations."

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There's more that goes in to being the coach at Notre Dame than just being a football coach. It's a balancing act between working with alumni, foundations, players and recruits that's not always easy to negotiate, especially in the face of pressure to win. But Kelly feels good about his role heading into Year 5 -- he's more hands-on with his players (and will call plays this coming fall) and has worked to prioritize the non-football stuff so it's not overwhelming.

"It's gotten easier," Kelly said on Bruce Feldman's podcast this week. "We've been able to really focus on those thing that are most important. I think early on, everything was important. Now, it's pretty clear that we have to prioritize those things.

"Foundation work is extremely important, alumni work is equally there as well as developmental work. And then the recruiting. There's still a major piece that I have to be able to pick up, even though I can't be on the road, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made in recruiting. May pretty much is about that, and that's all it's about in May for me. June is a real simple equation now with the change in the NCAA rules we're going to be able to have some face time with our players and we'll get campers here on campus.

"I think it's a lot easier for me now and defining the months. I feel a lot more comfortable with all the responsibilities as the head coach at Notre Dame."