Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly: 'I was mad as hell'

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Every parent dreads that call.

Middle of the night. One of the kids messed up and is in trouble.

Substitute the word “coach” for “parent,” multiply it by six, and welcome to Brian Kelly’s world.

The Notre Dame head football coach’s phone was blowing up over the weekend with the news that roughly seven percent of his total scholarship roster had run afoul with the law Friday night.

Speaking Wednesday night for the first time since the two separate incidents that involved six players, Kelly said his emotions ran the gamut.

“(My reaction was) like any other father,” Kelly said. “My first one is disappointment. After disappointment, I kinda moved on to embarrassment for the university. Then I was mad as hell.

“Those are the stages I’ve gone through.”

Kelly likely was still pretty steamed when he finally met with the players — Devin Butler, Max Redfield, Dexter Williams, Ashton White, Kevin Stepherson and Te’von Coney — and laid down his law less than 48 hours after the incidents happened.

After all, he’s had seven years worth of situations at Notre Dame from which to draw experience.

“You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions,” Kelly said. “They pop up. You have to be fair, but you have to be quick in making decisions.

“When they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in your program or university, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. You can’t be swayed by external factors. You’ve gotta do the right thing.”

Only a select few in the inner sanctum will ever know all the details that factored into Kelly’s decisions. Who had priors? Who caused the most headaches? We can only guess.

Butler, a senior cornerback who wouldn’t play ‘til October anyway because of a foot injury, allegedly got into a tussle with a police officer at The Linebacker late Friday night. He has been suspended indefinitely.

Redfield, a senior safety, was one of the five stopped in a car in Fulton County. Indiana State Police allegedly found marijuana and a handgun that, reportedly, was unlicensed. Kelly dismissed Redfield. The other four, he said Wednesday, would be available to play against Texas in the opener Sept. 4, unless the university has other ideas.

Meting out extreme punishment on Redfield couldn’t have been easy. One of the most fragile positions on the Irish defense — and, what some have called the most difficult to pick up in coordinator Brian VanGorder’s system — just got a whole lot more suspect.

That’s a message that needs to be sent throughout the Irish football facility, as well as college football, in general. No time to backpedal when the overall mission of the Notre Dame program is on the line.

Kelly didn’t let football get in the way of a tough call.

“These are life lessons,” Kelly said. “‘It’s more than just you.’ We talk about selfish decisions. We talk about representing more than just yourself. ‘You represent the university. You represent the program. You represent the entire fan base.’

“We talk about that more than anything else.”

This time Kelly walked the walk.

Big picture, it will be a plus for the program and the kids he coaches.

The ultimate goal for a coach — or parent.

Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly speaks during a press conference in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex in South Bend Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)