The Brian Kelly Coaching Decision Debate – Know Who Butters Your Bread!

December 18, 2009

Read the debate intro and arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It is not often that someone can win a debate by answering the debate question with another question. That is exactly what happened, and this time it worked in Babe Ruthless’ favor! Babe Ruthless posed the rhetorical question – “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?” My honest answer to that question is, “Yes, I would.” It is important to finish what you start… MOST of the time. Cincinnati’s former head coach, Brian Kelly, is not building a model airplane or remodeling his bathroom, though. Coaching Cincinnati was Brian Kelly’s job (note the past tense of that phrase). Kelly’s CURRENT job is to be the head coach of Notre Dame. As much as he may have been committed to seeing Cincinnati succeed (and I am sure he will be rooting for Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl), his priority became the success of Notre Dame the moment that he signed his contract.

This is not an attempt to deny Bearcats players and fans their frustration, anger, or disappointment in Kelly’s decision. As Loyal Homer points out, it is a bitter pill to swallow when you have expected support from someone, then at the moment you perceive the greatest need for that person, they are either unable or unwilling to provide the promised support. The fact that they do not like his decision, though, does not mean it is the incorrect one.

Consider the implications had Kelly made the decision to coach Cincinnati in its bowl game. He would have been splitting his time between two universities, each with very different needs. As a result, he would be unable to fully commit himself to either. Notre Dame needs Kelly to focus on building a staff and recruiting to the university. How can he be expected to do that if he is studying film in Cincinnati? Likewise, how can he truly focus on preparing to take on the Florida Gators if his true employer is demanding his time elsewhere? It would be unfair to BOTH institutions if he were to try and split his focus between the two.

Kelly’s decision, although unpopular in the Queen’s City, was the right one to make. Notre Dame is his new home, and his new employer. Having contractually agreed to lead Notre Dame’s football program, he owes them 100% of his time and energy TODAY, not in one month after he coaches more for a school he no longer formally works for.

If it is any consolation to the Bearcat faithful, Rich Rodriguez’s absence on the sideline when the West Virginia Mountaineers took on Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl did not seem to have an impact at all, and Rodriguez has failed to even sniff a HOPE of playing in the BCS since leaving Morgantown. As fate has already seen fit to provide a little karmic payback for what Rodriguez did at West Virginia, perhaps the monkey’s paw has something similar in store for Kelly!

Cincinnati has been dealt a difficult blow, but the worst thing the team could do now is to wallow in self-pity. Instead, use the situation as motivation as they prepare for the Gators on January 1st!

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – It is a Question of Commitments

December 17, 2009

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It was viewed as the height of treachery.

On December 17th, 2007, despite repeated denials that he was not leaving West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez announced that he would be the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. While there were many factors within Rodriguez’s exit from Morgantown that led to his vilification, one of the biggest reasons for the ill-will was his seeming abandonment of the Mountaineers as they prepared for a BCS Bowl Game. Instead of sticking around and coaching West Virginia in the biggest game of the season, he took the Michigan job and left the Mountaineers without a coach when they arguably needed him most.

In 2009, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats played to a perfect 12-0 record, won a second Big East Conference championship, and are scheduled to take on the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Like the Mountaineers of two years ago, though, the Bearcats will be without the head coach that led them to a perfect season. Brian Kelly, who just wrapped up his third season as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, accepted the position of head coach at Notre Dame and will not be on the sidelines for the Bearcats as they play to close out their season in perfect fashion.

Understandably, many of the Bearcats players are upset by Kelly’s decision. Quotes like “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation” and “He went for the money” and “It’s like someone turned their back on us” have been heard throughout Cincinnati’s locker room. After having successfully navigated through the entire college football season, it makes sense that the players would feel betrayed, used, or abandoned because their coach has left them for greener pastures. For Kelly’s part, he has defended his decision by stating that his job is now to build a successful program at Notre Dame. While he loved his time spent in Cincinnati, he had to shift his focus to his new job, which meant that he could not coach Cincinnati in January.

Thus, today’s topic – Should Brian Kelly have stayed to coach the University of Cincinnati in the BCS bowl game?

This is a very complicated question. Brian Kelly was forced to choose between two conflicting loyalties. On one hand, Kelly had spent the past three years building a program in Cincinnati, and those years of hard work finally paid off. After building strong relationships with his players and implementing his plan on the field, Kelly had elevated the Bearcat program as close to the pinnacle of success as it has ever been. It only seems right that Kelly should stick around and finish what he started.

On the other hand, he is now a hired employee of Notre Dame. As such, he is paid by the university to make the football program successful.

In debating this issue, Babe Ruthless will argue that Kelly made the right decision by deciding not to coach Cincinnati, while Loyal Homer will argue that Kelly should have stuck around to finish what he started before moving on to his new responsibilities in South Bend.

Burned bridges may be a Bear(cat) to deal with, but does the luck of the (Fighting) Irish make it all worthwhile?

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – Just A Little Bit of History Repetition

December 17, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Currently there seems to be a whole lot criticism of Brian Kelly for his decision to leave the head coaching job at Cincinnati for the head coaching job at Notre Dame before the big Sugar Bowl showdown with Florida. Sorry Cincinnati fans, but you are going to have to face the facts – Brian Kelly is gone and he had the right to leave.

Cincinnati needs to man up about the whole situation because I am starting to get a whole “woe is me” vibe from the Bearcats. That has no place in college football. (Crying?! There’s no crying in football!) In fact, Cincinnati fans should knock off the whole “he left us before our big game” act or else they are going to come off as hypocrites. Though it may seem like an eternity ago to Bearcat fans still riding the high of Cincinnati’s Kelly era success, just three years ago Kelly did the exact same thing to Central Michigan University, but I do not remember too many voices in Cincinnati questioning Kelly’s ethics then. What’s that Bearcats? Coach got your tongue? (Get it? They are cats… the Bearcats… whatever, you get my point.)

I am sure that many at Central Michigan felt equally “betrayed” and “abandoned” – if not more so – when the Chippewas lost the coach that brought the programs its first winning season in seven years for a bigger, flashier coaching gig. I am sure that many Chippewa players felt stabbed in the back when their beloved coach left them before their big game – the Motor City Bowl. But I do not remember too much sympathy coming from the Cincinnati fans. In my opinion, Kelly’s detractors can either admit that since Kelly left Central Michigan before their big game it is only fair that he leaves under similar circumstances or they can form a support group for hypocritical crybaby college football fans. I think they should choose the first option, though I find the latter far more interesting.

Kelly brought the Cincinnati program to the top of the Big East Conference. He brought them an undefeated regular season in 2009, and somehow he is the villain for using this success to get a promotion. All of Coach Kelly’s critics need to put themselves in his shoes. Sure, he might have made promises to the team that will now go unfulfilled. Yes, he is leaving them just before one of the biggest games in the school’s history, but would you really do anything differently? If you think Coach Kelly is selling out, ask yourself this question and really, really try to be honest about it: “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?”

Kelly has earned a promotion and, like anyone else, he has the right to accept it. If a Double A pitcher gets the call to move up to the majors during the minor league postseason, should he turn it down so he can stay with his teammates? No, that would be ludicrous because a shot at the big leagues is his ultimate goal. Similarly, Kelly’s ultimate goal should be to coach winning football at the highest level of competition possible. That is exactly what the job at Notre Dame offers him.

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The Notre Dame Job Envy Debate – The Most Enviable Position in South Bend is in the Visitors’ Locker Room!

December 16, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Describing Notre Dame as the best head coaching job in college football is like saying that the best head coaching job in the NFL is with the Cleveland Browns. Both jobs are for storied programs with a great history (and exposure in front of a loyal, rabid fan base), and both are about as stable as a toilet-paper table in quicksand.

If you haven’t noticed, the revolving door has been spinning on high in South Bend over the past few years. During Notre Dame’s hey-day, coaches like Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian, and even Lou Holtz, stuck around for 10-15 years at a time. Brian Kelly, who was just last week named the newest head coach of the Fighting Irish, will become the FOURTH head coach since Holtz retired 13 years ago. It seems to me that the best head coaching job in college football should be one that comes with a little stability.

Make no mistake, Notre Dame is a step up for Brian Kelly. With all due respect to the University of Cincinnati, he now has a marketing machine at his disposal to help him recruit talent to a more prestigious institution than Cincinnati. Do not confuse a step up in caliber from Cincinnati as being the best coaching job, though. There are too many other jobs in the NCAA that offer more pay, more support, success, and a LOT more security.

The Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes program offers just as much prestige and history as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but they have managed to remain relevant in the national conversation over the past 20 years. Unlike the Irish, who have not been able to claim a national title since 1988, Ohio State has won a national championship in the last 10 years, and has played in the championship game twice in the past five seasons. This season also marks the fifth consecutive season the Buckeyes are participating in a BCS bowl game. Notre Dame has been absent from the BCS since 2005 (where they were soundly throttled by the Buckeyes).

You want history? The Buckeyes played their first season in 1890, only three years after Notre Dame’s first season. If legacy is what you’re after, the Buckeye’s head coaching history competes very favorably with Notre Dame’s. The Irish may have had Knute Rockne and Lou Holtz, but the Buckeyes had Paul Brown and Woody Hayes. Both schools also boast seven Heisman Trophy winners, but none have come from Notre Dame since 1987, when Tim Brown won the award. Once again proving their ongoing relevance, the Buckeyes have seen two Heisman winners SINCE Brown won it over 20 years ago, with Eddie George and Troy Smith earning the honor in 1995 and 2006, respectively. As for fan support, the Buckeyes play in front of an average home crowd of more than 100,000 for EVERY home game!

University of Southern California Trojans

Like Ohio State, USC carries history and tradition to rival Notre Dame, and their national relevance today far surpasses that of Notre Dame. What else does USC offer that Notre Dame does not? The top paying coaching job in the country! Pete Carroll earned a whopping $4.4M this year, which was the top draw for any college football coach. Sure, Charlie Weis earned a very respectable $4.2M at Notre Dame, but it was not the HIGHEST paying job.


The model of success in college football today comes from the SEC. In terms of recruiting, Alabama has had one of the two best recruiting classes in the nation for three consecutive years. Before that, Florida was at the top of the recruiting heap. In the time of Alabama and Florida’s recruiting dominance, Notre Dame has had one successful year of recruiting in 2008 when they were ranked as having the second best recruiting class of the year. Outside of 2008, Notre Dame has not had a recruiting class better than eighth.

How has that recruiting success worked out for the SEC? How about three consecutive national championships, with a possible fourth coming in January?! The SEC has provided some of the best talent to set foot on the gridiron over the past five seasons and all indications point to continued success for the foreseeable future. While Brian Kelly is tasked with trying to resurrect a Notre Dame program that has not seen championship-caliber football in twenty years, the coaches of the SEC seem to perennially experience nothing but victory.

All of these examples lead to the same conclusion – the head coaching position at Notre Dame is very impressive, but it is far from the best there is in the nation. There are plenty of programs with the history and legends that Notre Dame has. Whether the goal is to play in front of a monster-sized fan base (Ohio State), earn the highest paycheck in the country (USC), or to lead a program that successfully turns top-tiered recruiting classes into championship football teams annually (the SEC), there are better options than the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

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The Notre Dame Job Envy Debate – Notre Dame is Simply The Best

December 16, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

At one time or another, most red-blooded American males have daydreamed about being a head football coach. Each week millions live vicariously through their most beloved play callers. But what do those lucky enough to actually be coaches dream about? I bet they dream of coaching for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is by far the best coaching gig around. But, coaching at Notre Dame is not for everyone. If a coach is looking for a warm paradise to call home, then Indiana may not be at the top of the list. If a coach is looking for a soft schedule littered with pushovers, then I suggest continuing the search. And if a coach is hoping for a small market free from media intrusions, then Notre Dame is certainly not the right school. But if a coach seeks a challenging schedule, a team with an enormous national fan base, and a rich legacy steeped in the tradition of winning, then there is no place better than Notre Dame.

The perks of coaching for Notre Dame are phenomenal. Notre Dame literally sets its own schedule. The Irish are one of a few schools that compete at an elite level of college football without having to play in an NCAA-affiliated conference. Despite lacking a conference affiliation the Irish are still BCS bowl eligible. Heck, they have their own “Notre Dame rule” where they are guaranteed a BCS bowl if they simply finish in the top eight of the BCS.

On top of all of the football perks, Notre Dame is one of the premier schools of scholar-athletes. In an era of prima donna players that create media circuses (e.g. Exhibit A: LeGarrette Blount), Notre Dame has attempted to establish a bastion for the academically focused student-athlete – a seemingly dying breed. The Irish also benefit from a national appeal to Roman Catholics, Americans of Irish Descent, and fans of great football. Take me, for example. I grew up a world apart from Indiana, but being the grandson of someone named Patrick Francis O’Reilly, was their any doubt I was going to pull for the Irish? I don’t think so. Notre Dame’s immense following draws crowds wherever the team plays, opening doors for invitations across the U.S., thus, creating another perk by making the Irish even more profitable.

Notre Dame football boasts an impressive list of accomplishments. The Irish lay claim to seven Heisman Trophy winners and 48 players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. The Irish also have an impressive list of All-Americans and national championships to boot. Sure, other schools (like the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan, and The Ohio State University) have accomplishments and accolades to brag about as well. What sets the Notre Dame apart is its unrivaled history.

Tradition defines a team, and today the words “Notre Dame” are synonymous with football history. The ghosts of the Gold and Navy are interwoven into football’s past. Legends like Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen are not only Fighting Irish heroes but icons of football history. Do I even have to evoke the name of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger? (Once all the “Rudy!” chants have stopped I will continue.)

Notre Dame is even credited with the popularization of the forward pass, forever changing the way the game is played.

It is tradition that ultimately separates the Notre Dame coaching job from all other high profile college football head coaching jobs.

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The Unbeatens in the BCS Debate – Too Much BCS Confusion

December 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that a bunch of unbeaten teams in BCS games is a good thing.

Back in the middle of the season I saw this as a possibility. Many teams were undefeated, and I envisioned many of them staying that way through the end of the regular season. Critics kept saying, “We’ve seen this before. It’ll sort itself out. It always does.” Well, I am still waiting for the sorting out. In fact, it looks like I am going to be waiting quite awhile. Five undefeated teams (Alabama, Florida, Boise State, TCU, and Cincinnati) currently are starting preparations for postseason BCS bowl games. As Bleacher Fan stated in the intro, only two of those have a chance to win the ultimate prize – the BCS national championship. In just looking at that fact alone, there is no way whatsoever that is a good thing for the BCS as a whole.

The main goal of the Bowl Championship Series is to find the two best teams and put them in the national championship game. The BCS wants to crown a champion. Most people, even Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly, have said that the best two teams are playing in Pasadena. For the record, Loyal Homer is not convinced.

I am not saying I am right, I am not saying I am wrong. What I am saying is that we do not know who the best teams are. How do we know that Cincinnati or TCU, on any given night, are unable to match up with either the Longhorns or the Crimson Tide? “Experts” tend to not view Boise State as a contender, but they are one of the three teams (Boise State, Alabama, and Ohio State) who have a win over another BCS team. Boise State defeated Oregon in the season opener, Alabama beat Florida last weekend, and Ohio State defeated Iowa in November.

As Bleacher Fan stated in the intro, last season Utah had a gripe, perhaps a legitimate gripe, as it finished 12-0. Yet the Utes finished behind the champion Florida Gators. This season, another team, perhaps another two teams, are going to have gripes. Perhaps these gripes will be legitimate, also.

Let’s say Cincinnati beats Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which I am most definitely not eliminating as a possibility. Does Cincinnati have a gripe about not being named national champion? Perhaps! My point is that we just do not know. At least one, and possibly two, teams will have done everything possible to stake claim to a shot at the national title. But, those teams will be sitting on the sidelines watching either Texas or Alabama add another championship to the mantle. It’s like being promised a shot at a promotion at work, yet not being given a realistic shot because someone else in the office has been there longer. You have done everything that was asked of you. But there you sit… in your little cubicle with a computer that doesn’t work half the time, while someone else gets a brand new office with a brand new computer and a significant raise. It makes you just throw your hands up in the air and wonder, “What do I have to do?”

You may say, “Well this is just one of those years.” Well, these years should not happen. If a team goes undefeated at this level, it should be given a chance to compete for a national championship. As long as Texas and the SEC winner went undefeated, no other team was going to have a chance. And that is just not right.
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The Big East in the BCS Debate – No Guarantees for the Big East

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher’s Fan’s argument that the Big East still deserves an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.

This is sure to be a popular topic with our friends in the Northeast!

Sports Geek poses the question in today’s debate about whether or not the Big East is still deserving of its guaranteed BCS bid. I most definitely say NO!

Let’s take a look at last year (2008).

West Virginia came into the season as the team to beat, despite the fact that head coach Rich Rodriguez left for the supposedly greener pastures in Michigan. However, with the momentum from the 48-28 trouncing of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and the return of Pat White, things were still looking up in Morgantown. (On a side note, does a victory over Oklahoma in a BCS game really mean anything these days?)

But the Mountaineers struggled all season, and limped to a 9-4 record with a loss to an 8-5 North Carolina team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

I will give Cincinnati credit. They won the Big East by going 11-3 – even with a loss to an average Virginia Tech team in the Orange Bowl – and finished the season ranked in the top 20. Head coach Brian Kelly has that team on the rise, and Sports Geek and I can stake claim to witnessing Kelly dominate Division II football earlier this decade when he was coaching Grand Valley State. But, winning the Big East in football is like Memphis winning Conference USA in basketball or like beating your two-year-old sister in a game of Madden on PlayStation 3. What have you really accomplished?

I would discuss Pittsburgh some, but year in and year out – especially since Dave Wannstedt came back to “save” the program – they have been inconsistent showing they are not yet ready for the big stage. They couldn’t even fill up Heinz Field for the season opener against Bowling Green (who they lost to, by the way). Only 45,063 showed up for the season opener. For the record, “Ketchup Field” has a capacity of 65,050.

Truth be told, I think the Big East is still living off of just one good performance this entire decade, the 2006 Sugar Bowl. West Virginia knocked off heavy favorite Georgia 38-35 in Atlanta (it wasn’t in New Orleans that year due to Hurricane Katrina) behind outstanding performances from White and running back Steve Slaton.

In 2007, West Virginia actually had a shot to play for the national championship. All the Mountaineers had to do was beat rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, at home in Morgantown, and it was likely they would play in the BCS Championship game. But, with all the pressure on them, West Virginia folded and lost 13-9. If WVU wins that game, and was able to win the championship that year, we would not be debating this issue.

The fact is that the Big East isn’t ready for prime time and that’s obvious from their recent history. I’m not even sure enough people in Big East country even care, outside of Morgantown. As far as attendance goes for the entire conference, the numbers don’t lie. The average attendance at a Big East game in 2008 was 42,995, with West Virginia averaging 58,085 to lead the conference. Four schools (Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Cincinnati) averaged less than 40,000 fans at each game. Folks, that’s terrible, and borderline embarrassing.

The Big East is undeserving of a BCS bid, and I think everyone outside of the Northeast agrees with me.


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