Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

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4 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED F rom play calling and g a m e p l a n n i n g , t o lineup and adjustments, once a football season de‑ rails, no theory is off limits to explain why. So as Brian Kelly tries to keep the zipper from pop‑ ping off this season and somehow get to bowl eligi‑ bility, the sideline demeanor of the Irish head coach is again a popular topic of con‑ tention. Following the 36‑28 loss to Mic h iga n State, Kelly was criticized for his side‑ line scolding of then‑de‑ fensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. After the 38‑35 loss to Duke, Kelly indicated that his team lacked any ur‑ gency, going as far as calling out star junior quarterback DeShone Kizer as one of the players most in need of an attitude adjust‑ ment. And after the 10‑3 loss at North Carol i na State Oct. 8 i n awf u l weather conditions, Kelly was again criticized after he verbally undressed Sam Mustipher on the sideline for the junior center's "atrocious" work snapping the wet and slippery foot‑ ball. When asked last week about de‑ flecting blame after losses, Kelly bristled up and lashed out. "I've got a great relationship with my players," he explained. "I'm just coaching. I'm being Brian Kelly. So if people have a problem with that, then they're not going to be friends or fans of Notre Dame football." This isn't the first time Kelly's fiery coaching style has come under fire. After a 1‑3 start in 2010, Kelly had his demeanor blamed for the slow start because his players weren't re‑ sponding to the coach's animated approach. The same explanation gained trac‑ tion in 2011 after an Irish roster at full strength was stunningly up‑ set by South Florida in the season opener, which sent starting quarter‑ back Dayne Crist to the bench. "I don't feel like I'm crossing a line," Kelly explained of his coach‑ ing style. "I think I'm being who I am. I'm being direct. I'm handling the situation as it hits me." Just last season, Kelly was caught on camera during the Temple game shoving assistant strength coach David Grimes on the sideline. Kelly explained afterward he was trying to keep Grimes from arguing with the referees. Not much was made of the incident because Notre Dame improved to 7‑1 after that game and went on to a 10‑win season. "It's my office. If it were your office, they'd probably see your interactions with your employees, too," Kelly ac‑ curately explained of his very public sideline work. "It's not personal. It's about getting it right, and again, it's my office." Kelly's point is well made. Big‑time college football isn't about group hugs and s'mores. And given the di‑ rection of this season, could anyone imagine the firestorm Kelly would come under for being anything other than ticked off? "It's high stress," said Irish senior captain James Onwualu, "especially in a situation we're in now." But of course, in 2012, when Kelly was leading his team to an unde‑ feated regular season and a trip to the national title game, his coaching methods were considered impecca‑ ble and his style a perfect fit for Notre Dame. And remember Lou Holtz? He was the hard‑nosed, no‑ nonsense, player‑grabbing perfectionist while coaching the Irish to 10 or more wins a season through the early 1990s … until he became "overly intense" when his team slipped to 6‑5‑1 in 1994. Earlier this season, Ala‑ bama head coach Nick Sa‑ ban was caught on camera screaming at his offensive coordi nator, Lane Kiffi n. And when asked later about the exchange, Saban simply said, "Those are called ass chewings." Kelly has certainly been tough on his players through this sketchy season — and rightfully so — but the coach also deserves some credit for taking his share of the blame both publicly and privately. Fighting Irish Media posted a video of Kelly in the locker room af‑ ter the North Carolina State game, apologizing to his team for a pass‑ happy strategy in crummy weather that likely contributed to the loss. "You were ready to play, you were excited to play, you were energized to play," Kelly told his players, "and I couldn't find a way to win that game for you, and I apologize." Apologies aside, until Kelly turns around program momentum, he'll face the occupational hazard of hav‑ ing every coaching move he makes both analyzed, and of course, criti‑ cized. Perhaps 1983‑94 Michigan State coach George Perles best summed up the scrutiny big‑time programs face, explaining that during tough times, even how you tuck your shirt in is dissected. But when he's win‑ ning, "You can stick your finger up your ass and walk backwards," and it would be praised. Winning has that effect. ✦ When All Else Fails, Blame Demeanor UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at Just like Lou Holtz before him, Brian Kelly displays fiery sideline actions that are praised when the Irish win and criticized when Notre Dame loses. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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