Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2022*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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26 JANUARY 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA H e turned left from Courtney Lane onto Leahy Drive and was gone, just like that. Brian Kelly sat in the driv- er's seat of a blue luxury SUV and put the pedal down — southbound. As the sun rose over Notre Dame's campus on Tuesday morning, the shade of the ve- hicle almost looked purple. Maybe it was. It would make sense, after all. It was the morning of Tuesday, Nov 30. Kelly was on his way to become the next head coach at Louisiana State University. He traded in Irish blue for Tiger purple. He kept the gold, but even that has a dif- ferent hue to it in Tiger land. Different. A simple word fittingly de- scribed what Kelly's departure spelled for Notre Dame in the hours, days, weeks and now years to come. After 12 years as Notre Dame's head coach, Kelly left for a different (there's that word again) royal throne in Baton Rouge, and he didn't take long to say goodbye. His farewell address to a silent group of Irish players in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex just after 7 a.m. lasted less than four minutes. Nobody clapped after he finished speaking. No- body said anything. Kelly even exited stage right instead of the classic and proper theatrical way of exiting stage left. Fitting. Then he hopped in the SUV. Kelly spent a dozen years cultivating a program and putting it on the verge of a national championship. He left so suddenly and abruptly — less than 72 hours after leading the Fighting Irish to a 45-14 victory over Stanford — with the intention of doing the same thing somewhere else. Such is the nature of the business in college football. It's just, well, different. Kelly told the players in his short farewell address that the past 12 years were the best of his life. He commended Notre Dame for giving him and his fam- ily first-class treatment for the entirety of his tenure. He lauded the players he recruited and the standup young men they turned out to be. "But there comes a time where you look in your life for another opportunity," Kelly said. "And I felt like it was time in my life for another challenge. And I saw that op- portunity in a very short window and felt that it was best for me and my family to pursue a new challenge." It'll take time for Notre Dame fans to fully come to grips with the timing and the manner in which Kelly departed. At the time, Notre Dame was still in the Col- lege Football Playoff conversation. Had one more game gone in the Irish's favor during conference championship week, new head coach Marcus Freeman would be coaching in the Playoff instead of the Fiesta Bowl in his blue-and-gold debut. Kelly had no way of knowing if the chips would fall Notre Dame's way, but he told the players on his way out that he hoped to see them qualify for the playoff. He told them they deserved it. Since the CFP's inception in 2014, there has not been a more bizarre sit- uation involving a head coach whose team was in the mix for a top-four spot than that. One week, Kelly is racking up style points on the road at Stanford. The next, he's speaking with a Southern twang never before heard from his lips on the court at an LSU basketball game. Bizarre might be an understatement. And yet, years from now there may be some who bleed blue and gold that for- get all about the way Kelly pronounced the word "family" in his address to the GONE IN A FLASH Brian Kelly spent more than a decade in charge of Notre Dame football, but it didn't take him long to say goodbye to everything he built in South Bend Kelly spent 12 years as the head coach at Notre Dame, finishing with a school-record 113 wins before his surprising departure for LSU. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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