Showtime could give Brian Kelly headaches, or chance to win Emmy

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

What if…?

What if Showtime’s cameras were documenting every miserable misstep in the second half of Notre Dame’s 2014 football season?

From a happy-faced, championship-contending first six games, to a mistake-laden disappointment in the home stretch, the television content rating of the weekly episodes most likely would have had to change.

From PG to R-DD (Dumb Decisions).

Who within the Notre Dame football program would have wanted a Peeping Tom prying its way through the closed doors after the Florida State game? Or Arizona State? Or Louisville? Or Northwestern? Or Southern Cal, for God sakes?

Talk about a gamble. Notre Dame is rolling the dice that this veiled opportunity at a 12-week, 30-minute recruiting infomercial (airing each Tuesday night at 10 ET) doesn’t turn into a disaster.

It’s similar to what has been done with regularity in the NFL. A team is selected to be featured in HBO's “Hard Knocks” segment. Total access, on and off the field, is allowed throughout the entire season.

This year, Ohio State will be getting that sort of treatment from the Big Ten Network.

Notre Dame got a small taste of the Showtime exposure last winter when it allowed the network (which is a subsidiary of CBS) to spend two months with its basketball program. The Irish were under the microscope from midway through the season to early in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Out of that amazing access came one 90-minute show (HOOPSU) that, actually, was shared with Maryland.

Ironically, Notre Dame and Maryland are both Under Armour schools.

The impending project, which will start immediately and first air Sept. 8 after the Texas game, will be much more comprehensive.

So many questions surround a situation like this:

• It’s tough enough for professionals to deal with the constant glare of the bright lights. How will 18-to-21-year-olds handle it? On a focused team, there are always rumblings of jealousy running through an NFL locker room, that one player is featured over another.

• How will coaches adapt to the attention? It’s like a policeman who, after several decades on the job, is suddenly told to wear a body camera. Will that change his style? His every move can be scrutinized.

• With a front-weighted schedule, the pressure will be on early. Not only will the coaches and players be adjusting the world eavesdropping on their every move, but the meat grinder of teams like Georgia Tech, Clemson and Southern Cal make for a daunting task.

Lose a couple games early, and more than ratings could plummet. Those recruits who are the targets of the infomercial could get an up close and personal look at what it’s like to be on a team battling for a spot in the Russell Athletic Bowl or the TaxSlayer Bowl rather than a playoff spot.

Count on coach Brian Kelly to say all the right things when he finally leaves the seclusion of Culver and is asked his opinion on the scrutiny. He will draw on his politically correct roots to leave a positive impression.

In fact, he still has a day or so to rehearse.

But there’s a reason many coaches in the NFL shudder at the suggestion that their team might be the next featured on “Hard Knocks.”

Coaching football is tough enough without warts being made visible under bright lights. Massaging egos can be a challenge without a self-inflicted reason to pump — either up or down.

Notre Dame hasn’t said, and may never publicly say, what parameters — if any — there are on the peeping eye of the camera. Will Notre Dame be able to watch a segment before it airs? Does it have the ability to edit a segment?

Kelly didn’t do a thing, but still got a lot of extra headaches handed to him.

Wait a minute. Does this mean he’s now the star of the newest reality show?

If he doesn’t win a title, he could always win an Emmy.

All access sounds great in August, but would coach Brian Kelly feel the same if things went south as they did last November at Arizona State. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)