Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly doesn't need to make public apology

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

So sorry, but the question begs to be asked: Do apologies have a place in college football?

Should Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly publicly make nice with assistant strength coach David Grimes after Kelly went ballistic on Grimes during Saturday’s win at Temple?

Late in the third quarter with the Irish up by seven, a tripping penalty was called on Notre Dame center Nick Martin. Grimes — a former Notre Dame receiver — took issue with the call. While he was apparently expressing his displeasure to the nearest official, Kelly recognized a dangerous situation brewing.

Officials, by and large, can tolerate getting grief about a call from the head coach. He’s the guy paid the big bucks, the mouthpiece of the team. But when an assistant — let alone an assistant strength coach — starts chirping, the fuse is likely much, much shorter.

One cross word by a minion probably sends most zebras into their pockets looking for a yellow hanky.

At that time, Notre Dame couldn’t afford another 15-yard penalty. Kelly recognized the predicament and reacted to the only part of that equation he had control over: Grimes.

Reacted? OK, maybe over-reacted.

Kelly tore after Grimes like the ex-player had just stolen his trick-or-treat candy. Staff members and defensive lineman Sheldon Day intervened to diffuse the situation, put some distance between the two, and talked Kelly off the ledge.

All in front of a national television audience. No doubt about it, Notre Dame is always must-see TV.

Can’t wait to see how Showtime handles that.

Never know what’s going to happen next.

This most recent eruption from Mount Kelly is hardly reason for public outcry. Remember, this was the guy who used to entertain lip readers whenever former quarterbacks Tommy Rees or Everett Golson came to the sidelines.

This was just an assistant strength coach who was treading in territory he shouldn’t be.

There are two perspectives from which to view the situation:

• There’s the human resources side: Kelly is the program’s CEO. His mandate is to provide a positive environment for the workplace. The sidelines at Lincoln Financial Field, at least for 3 hours and 24 minutes Saturday night, was the workplace.

The atmosphere and attitude on the sidelines — for at least a few minutes — was discombobulated when the boss lost his cool and charged an employee. Rather than tasking a middle manager with resolving the situation, Kelly took matters (and almost Grimes) into his own hands.

Probably won’t be used as a “how-to” tool on the next conflict resolution training video.

• Then again, there’s the football side: Besides grass and fertilizer, the third-most prevalent component on any football field is testosterone. This is a man’s world. It’s a place where men settle debates with aggression. That’s why they wear helmets.

During the heat of battle, the conscience is often allowed to take a siesta. The scope of vision is narrowed. Combatants are oblivious to a stadium full of people and folks all around the country watching their every move.

Kelly, who has been front and center on that stage for 25 years — six in the high beams caused by Notre Dame —  has become savvy enough to keep himself politically correct with the world watching his every move.

For the most part. 

Until Saturday.

In a few seconds of a knee-jerk over-reaction, Kelly made national headlines and a viral video (don’t you just love the look on defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s face when it all goes down?).

Kelly looked bad.

From the human resources side, it was a boss who lost his cool and resorted to violence to handle a problem.

From a football perspective, he was a coach who — at least briefly — lost control of his sidelines. That’s a damning indictment for a rookie coach, let alone a veteran at the highest level in the college game.

But, does he owe Grimes an apology? Only a rare few know the inner dynamics of the Notre Dame program.

Maybe Kelly already has offered an act of contrition. Heck, maybe they handed Grimes a bus ticket home from Philly.

Nobody knows for sure. Kelly doesn’t owe the public an explanation.

Everything that was necessary to see was shown on TV.

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly claps after a fighting Irish touchdown against Temple, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ