A trifecta for Notre Dame’s Kelly

COMMENTARY

AL LESAR
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND

Eight months have passed since Brian Kelly had any sort of football-related reason to celebrate.

Suffering the misery of an opportunity wasted was difficult. A national championship was close enough to sniff, but far enough away that it hardly seemed real.

Saturday provided a perspective adjustment for the Notre Dame head coach.

Not only did the 28-6 season-opening win reward Kelly and his staff and players for the effort expended in preseason camp, but it also was a milestone in the coach's career.

In his 23rd year as a head coach, Kelly became the fifth-quickest coach to win his 200th game (200-68-2), trailing Joe Paterno (246), Tom Osborne (249), Bo Schembechler (262) and Woody Hayes (268).

Pretty fast company, to say the least.

On that same day, Notre Dame announced an extension of his contract.

Now that's a trifecta.

Don't get too worked up over anything that happened — or didn't happen — on the field against Temple. Save the emotion for Michigan next week. That's when it counts.

The best part of win No. 200 was a souvenir football that was already printed for the occasion and presented by a surprise guest, Jack Hull, who was Kelly's quarterback in his first collegiate victory at Grand Valley in 1991.

The occasion hardly made Kelly flinch — at least publicly.

"I haven't really taken the time to think about (the milestone), other than a lot of the coaches that are with me today have been part of a lot of those wins," Kelly said.

The ramifications of the new contract carried the most intrigue.

Everybody at Notre Dame is quite coy about the details. Money was never discussed, but it's a given that his original annual salary of $2.5 million is chump change now.

This was the second time Kelly's contract has been re-worked. A couple years ago, he was locked up through 2016. The present arrangement, signed this week according to athletic director Jack Swarbrick, is for five years — starting now. That means only one additional year, through 2017, has been tacked onto the relationship.

A money — and scope of influence — bump is likely a part of the structure.

"The contract is one that has involved the leadership of the university," Kelly said.

Kelly, Swarbrick and university president Rev. John Jenkins had their pow-wow to come up with a blueprint for what the Irish brand of the future should be.

"When we come to an agreement, it's not necessarily that within it I get a lunch stipend on Tuesdays and Thursdays," Kelly said, drawing chuckles. "It's about that we're all together in this contract about moving the program forward. We've all decided that by signing this contract, we're all in it together — and that's what I was looking for.

"By my signature on it, Father Jenkins' signature on it, and Jack Swarbrick's signature on it, we've all agreed that the principles within this contract (are) that we're all together, and our voices — the communication — was the huge piece for me. That dialogue is open, and that's what I was looking for."

In NFL terms, could it be similar to the head coach also being named the general manager? Kelly could have a much greater input into the decision-making process over the next five years.

"We spent very little time on details that you find in a contract," Swarbrick said. "We spent a lot of time talking about the vision for the program; how we make sure we're building the program we all want.

"It was an ongoing, great discussion. It was a pretty simple contract, as these things go."

What sorts of things are part of that vision?

"It's the Notre Dame things," Swarbrick said. "We talked about (tinkering with the pre-game schedule to have team) Mass on Fridays (rather than hours before the game). How do you do athletes' schedule? Recruiting? What it takes to keep you going strong.

"Are there facility needs that we need to be focused on?"

Does that mean artificial turf and a Jumbotron were part of the negotiations?

"Getting to where we are today, especially after last year, reflected (the united front)," Swarbrick said. "This was more for the long term; what we see the program like in three, four, five, six years."

Money and power are the essentials of coaching in college football.

What are the odds that Kelly just got a lot of both?

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the Notre Dame vs. Temple college football game on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN