A Conversation with Coach Brian Kelly

By: Jeff Jeffers
Posted by: Erin McGinn
By: Jeff Jeffers
Posted by: Erin McGinn

NewsCenter 16’s Sports Director Jeff Jeffers sat down with new Irish head coach Brian Kelly to talk about what Irish fans should expect from his team, why football games need to be played quicker and even how he spends his very limited free time.

Jeff Jeffers: What’s the defining characteristic of a Brian Kelly coached team?
Brian Kelly: I think more than anything else is playing with great enthusiasm, a love for the game… I want our guys to play hard for four quarters. I think that’s more characteristic than maybe the spread offense which I get a lot of talk about, but I think it is playing hard for four quarters.

Jeff Jeffers: Your staff is young, enthusiastic, it’s also very experienced. Is this the type of staff that a team can “buy into”? In other words, enthusiasm is matched by enthusiasm.
Brian Kelly: Well, you hope so, I mean anytime that you ask your kids to do whatever you ask them to do, they take the lead from their coaches and their leaders. Clearly, we’ve got a group that’s enthusiastic, but I think what separates them from other staffs is they’re here for the same reasons – we’re all here together to win a championship for Notre Dame.

Jeff Jeffers: Give me the positives and the negatives of not only being a head coach in Division One –you know what that’s like- but being the head coach of Notre Dame.
Brian Kelly: Well the positives are –you don’t have enough time for this show to get into all the positives- obviously when you get an Ara Parseghian out to your practice you’re humbled by being the head football coach here at the University of Notre Dame because of the greatness that has come before. Obviously the negatives are the scrutiny, the fishbowl, but I knew that coming in and the positives are so much greater than the negatives. I’ll take that any day.

Jeff Jeffers: You’ve settled in the community, campus community, within your team, within this building, is there anything that’s still a little eye-opening for you as the head coach, that maybe is a surprise?
Brian Kelly: Just the excellence in our student body, administration… it’s just a very competitive atmosphere here, not only on the playing field, but in the classroom and around this campus. Extremely bright, hard working – it’s just a very vibrant community and you don’t know that until you, as you mentioned, you immerse yourself in it.

Jeff Jeffers: Do you feel a part of that vibrancy?
Brian Kelly: I hope so, I mean I think everyday we try to lead with that same kind of what I believe to be the Notre Dame spirit, and that is excellence in the classroom, in the community, on the football field.

Jeff Jeffers: You coached a team to 12-0 last year, and you said you never got a chance to enjoy it because of the way things happened. Do you wish you could have changed it to where you and UC and the city of Cincinnati could have enjoyed it a bit more or does everything happen for a reason?
Brian Kelly: Boy, I think you look at it, the recruiting is the problem; the recruiting doesn’t take a day off anymore. If recruiting took a day off until February, everything would be find. You’d finish up your season at UC and then if there’s a change in leadership, you’d make the change and you’re able to do it during those non-traditional months. But because of recruiting, it makes it very, very difficult now because you’re going to want somebody who is going to be moving forward with your football team and it happens right in that January, December and January timetable. So I think it’s unrealistic to think that it will change because recruiting is not going to change. It’s going to become more intense during that period of time.

Jeff Jeffers: The game is not broken, but a lot of people still want to fix it. If you were the czar of college football, what would you change this afternoon about the game?
Brian Kelly: Play ‘em quicker. You know, I understand the need for advertising and TV timeouts, but after awhile, it it’s 3, 3 ½ hours, that’s a long day. We want entertainment, we want fast-paced, we want it exciting, we need to get the game over in 2, 2 ½ hours. I think that’s what everybody wants to see. I think that we have just got to be really careful that we don’t over-indulge the game and make it longer than it needs to be.

Jeff Jeffers: There is something about this game that we love that is the same at Assumption, Grand Valley, Central, UC, Notre Dame – it’s what’s right with the sport. Do you reflect on that every now and then and say, ‘Boy, I’m lucky to be involved, not just at Notre Dame, in the sport of college football’?
Brian Kelly: I think everybody now sees that college football is THE sport when it comes to recognition, viewership, advertising and the reason is because it’s kids – it’s enthusiasm, it’s the band, it’s the cheerleaders, it’s the fall afternoons. Those are very special… the game and its pageantry is really the most important thing.

Jeff Jeffers: Coaches always say just give me one more week, one more day, I just need a little more time to work on this or that. You’ve said in the past, ‘I’m ready now,’ does the team feel that way?
Brian Kelly: Yeah, I think what we’re trying to do now is develop what we believe to be the strengths in our gameplan on offense and defense and special teams, take advantage of the strengths of our players. …Now it’s time to really look at, over these next few days, what we’re good at.

Jeff Jeffers: There’s a natural evolution for every team, from new coaching staff, to spring practice to fall camp. Fall camp, at least in my opinion, has gone so fast. Do you feel that way?
Brian Kelly: I do, I do. This seems to be the quickest camp. You know, we only had a couple of double sessions. It’s just the way the calendar was put together this year. …So a little bit different than in years past, didn’t have the grind if you will, in double sessions… came out of it fairly good in terms of injuries and now we just get ready for game week.

Jeff Jeffers: Do you have any free time at all? Is there such a think as a D-1 coach having a hobby unless it’s going to an alumni event and teeing it up?
Brian Kelly: I think the important thing is to grab an hour or 30 minutes or 40 minutes just for yourself. So the hobby really is to learn how to decompress if you will from all the trappings of being a head football coach, whether it’s at Alabama, Florida or Notre Dame, and I think if you would probably ask Nick Saban and Urban they would say ‘don’t have time for hobbies, but I have time for myself’ and I think that’s really, in my position, what I look to find.

Jeff Jeffers: If Brian Kelly had an iPod, what would be on the iPod and if you do, what’s on it?
Brian Kelly: Well, you have to understand going back, growing up, I’m going to have the music that I listened to when I was in high school and college and that’s Bruce Springsteen for me or, you know, those kinds of artists. And then you have to be in touch with what your kids are listening to, so we’ve got a little Taylor Swift on there. And then today with your players, what are they listening to? So we’ve got a little rap. So you know, I think in my position eclectic is probably the best word I could give you relative to music.

Jeff Jeffers: In your office, what’s on the TV? What do you like to just have on, as say, white noice?
Brian Kelly: Well, I think it just depends. Some days I’ve had my fix of ESPN, I’ll go to CNN just to get a topic that is out there. I want to make sure that I’m not 100-percent athletics, I want to know what’s going on out there.

Jeff Jeffers: If you’re in the office at 11:20 and you want to watch sports, can you say you watch Channel 16?
Brian Kelly: It is the only one that’s programmed in. We have a rule around here – it’s 16 or nothing.
Jeff Jeffers: OK, I’m done.

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