Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

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

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Page 53 of 55

54 SEPT. 25, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T here are three job descriptions for a major college football coach that are relatively equally di- vided into thirds. One is outlining the vision and plan to his staff and then leading its imple- mentation. Two is recruiting the tal- ent to make the plan credible and at- tainable. The third is public relations/ schmoozing with alumni/dealing with media as "the face of the program." The latter is likely the least favorite aspect of all — although it is politi- cally incorrect to ever admit it pub- licly. Longtime NFL coach Buddy Ryan probably summed it up best about his feelings on the media that other coaches might be less apt to say: "They can't help me if I lose, and I don't need them when I win." Yet at a place like Notre Dame es- pecially, public/media relations are critiqued to the utmost. By any criteria, Dan Devine's six- year run at Notre Dame from 1975-80 would be considered a rousing suc- cess with three top-10 finishes and a consensus national title in 1977. Yet his lack of "charisma" possessed by predecessors such as Ara Parseghian (1964-74) or later successor Lou Holtz (1986-96) has often made him an afterthought in the school's coach- ing annals, or has him perceived as someone the Fighting Irish won with "in spite of him." Part of the appeal in hiring Gerry Faust to succeed Devine was he pos- sessed the energetic, enthusiastic, ebullient and enamoring personality and public relations skills that could "shake down the thunder," as op- posed to Devine. It didn't take long to discover that it takes more than having a positive, uplifting and exciting persona. Early on, Charlie Weis (2005-09) had a my-way-or-highway approach with media that he had learned from mentors Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells. Win, and it is tolerated and celebrated. Lose, and you are labeled insufferable. As one who has attended at least a couple hundred conferences held by eighth-year head coach Brian Kelly, I have generally found him to be engag- ing, amiable, mostly forthright and even, on occasion, honest to a fault and to his own detriment, a la calling center Sam Mustipher's snapping in hurricane-like conditions last year at North Carolina State "atrocious." Shortly after this year 's Georgia game when in the heat of the moment Kelly took umbrage to an Indianapolis Star reporter's inquiry about whether yet another close defeat could prompt a repeat of 2016, Kelly was roasted na- tionally for his contentious responses. Reporter: Obviously you made a ton of changes, changed the culture, ev- erything. But obviously, you lost and at the very end, kind of like last year, seven of eight losses, how do you … Kelly: What's the question? Reporter: I'm getting to it. Kelly: Well, get to the question. Reporter: How do you keep this from snowballing? Kelly: It's not going to snowball. Next question. Reporter: Well, what exactly will be different, I guess? Kelly: There's nothing different. I go to work every day, and I coach my football team. Reporter: OK. Kelly: Is that — is that good enough for you? Reporter: Yeah, I was just asking about how it was different from last year's losing by one possession. Kelly: OK. Reporter: Tonight was also like that, so I was just wondering. Kelly: Losing by one possession? Reporter: Yeah. Kelly: No, it was one point. ESPN TV/radio college football analyst Paul Finebaum said Kelly "is a jerk … a punk. He's closer to the end than he's ever been. That is go- ing to help expedite it. … He's not capable of dealing in the real world." As an SEC man, Finebaum often sees Alabama's Nick Saban, who has no peers when it comes to berat- ing media (at times deserved) — yet Kelly is the "jerk." But when you have five national titles to show for it as Saban does, whatever you do is virtually infallible. Wrote Pat Forde, one of the nation's best at covering college football, for Yahoo Sports: "This was the guy who has been billed as the New Brian, pro- moting a new culture: more calm, less of a purple-faced sideline rager; more positive, less caustic; more at peace, less at war. … And then, on the last question of the press conference, the old jerk came out of hiding." Several days later Kelly expressed he could have handled the exchange better. Such is the way of life for a head coach anywhere, but particu- larly at Notre Dame. It was Holtz who said one of the worst things he can do is get into a battle with writers who "buy ink by the barrel." It was Michigan State's George Per- les (1983-94) who said what he learned earliest in coaching was that, and I paraphrase, "When you lose, every- thing you do is wrong. When you win, you can stick your finger up your a-- and walk backwards, and people say that's the way it needs to be done." "You know what charisma is?" Devine told Sports Illustrated during his final season in 1980. "Charisma is winning." It cures a lot. ✦ Winning Cures All, Even Arguing With Reporters THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Brian Kelly generally has been media friendly, but a brief and mildly contentious moment after the Georgia game led to some more castigation of his personality. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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