Kelly on leaving Ireland for LSU: “We were different ways”

BATHON-ROUGE, LOUISE (AP) – On the ground floor of the LSU Football Operations Center, to the left of the reception desk, food center.

With high ceilings and a wall of windows illuminating the space, the dining room seats 170 people and serves dishes day and night, often including basic Louisiana produce such as etafi and gumbo. Players do not need to leave the building to eat freshly prepared before or after training.

If you want to know why Brian Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 years spent leading the college’s most famous football program to become a coach at LSU, part of the answer lies in one of the most beautiful cafeterias in student sports.

“It was great because you have incredible opportunities, you have players who want to be great,” Kelly told the Associated Press ahead of her first spring internship at LSU. “I want to be in an environment where I have the resources to win the national championship. And I came here because I want to be in the American League of the East. “

Kelly’s move to the awesome SEC West was drastic, and his departure from Notre Dame was the most stunning step in the wild hiring cycle of 2021-2022. which included changes in coaches in Southern California, Oklahoma, Florida, Miami and Oregon.

Nine weeks after becoming the best coach in Fighting Irish, Kelly left behind the Golden Dome and the landing of Jesus for Tiger Mike and Mardi Gras to chase the only prize that eluded him in a career worthy of the Hall of Fame.

The display case on the coffee table in Kelly’s office is filled with large shiny rings from his work in Division II Grand Valley, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Rings for major cup games, conference championships, regular unbeaten seasons, playoff appearances and two national D-II titles.

All that the 60-year-old Kelly lacks is the national championship at the highest level of university football. LSU has won three in the last 19 years, the last two with coaches whose credentials are pale compared to to Kelly.

Kelly insists Notre Dame can win everything again and he was ready to spend the rest of his career in pursuit of that goal in South Bend, Indiana. He and his wife Paki had just built an “eternal home” a few blocks from campus on Notre Dame Avenue.

The roof of the LSU has already been raised.

“I felt like I did the best I could in Notre Dame, and they felt like they did everything they could for me,” Kelly said. “I felt like we both reached a point if that’s what they could have done, right? That’s what I did. And we couldn’t get past that. GOOD? And here we are. “

A whirlwind courtship for Kelly by LSU has been going on for about 10 days, including the Thanksgiving weekend. Kelly through her representatives has made several requests for additional resources and improvements in Notre Dame.

“I felt that what I was looking for was focused on student-athletes. And I was achieving more for the student-athlete. And I wanted to see this piece. And we didn’t seem to be on the same path as it would be, ”Kelly said.

Among the items that Kelly pushed? A chef dedicated to the football program and a new facility to replace the Guglielmina athletics complex, which currently houses the football team and has no dining room.

“We don’t have that,” Kelly said of the LSU Power Center, reflexively referring to Notre Dame as we are. “We distribute food. It’s pre-cooked. “

Kelly’s request for a new institution was not new: “I mean, and that’s what’s been in the books since 2016.”

Notre Dame sporting director Jack Sworbrick has declined a request for comment from the Associated Press regarding the story. He has publicly stated that Notre Dame, which has a fund of about $ 20 billion, needs a modernized football facility.

“We’re trying to figure out what it might look like, gradually, to give us what we need at the institution,” he told the South Bend Tribune last year.

The university has approved a new football chef, the AP was told by a man familiar with the correspondence and conversations between Kelly, his representatives and Notre Dame last fall on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

But how quickly a new and improved football facility could become a reality in Notre Dame remains uncertain. And so Kelly, as the Irish Fighting Irish are still battling for a place in the playoffs, accepted an offer from LSU sporting director Scott Woodward for a 10-year contract for $ 95 million to head south.

“I enjoyed my time at Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “We went different ways and that’s okay. I’m fine with that. “

Woodward earned a reputation for cool hires while working in Washington (Chris Petersen), Texas A&M (Jimba Fisher) and now LSU. He promised Kelly to support and level the LSU from the university president down, but said he did not need to convince Kelly that the LSU could better provide a smoother and more direct path to the national championship.

“He did his homework and I didn’t have to sell,” Woodward said. “He knew the answer to the question.”

The biggest difference between Kelly’s new work and the old one is that Notre Dame could never repeat. Like real estate, success in football college often comes down to three things: location, location, location.

Notre Dame relies on a national hiring plan, more than any other successful program.

“I’m not in Notre Dame for six weeks,” Kelly said. “From Los Angeles to New Jersey to Texas and anywhere.”

Now he can pop into his new Tesla Model X Plaid and drive a few hours in either direction to draw prospects with blue chips.

LSU is the only Power Five school in the state that has 17 of the top 400 recruits in the current 247 Sports rankings for 2023. By comparison, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio have a total of 26. Batan Rouge is also a four-hour drive from Houston, one of the most talent-rich subway areas in the country.

On a sunny spring day in Batan Rouge, Kelly stood on the balcony near his office, pointing to his cool new ride in the parking lot downstairs and laughing at how she could walk more than 130 miles an hour – as if he would ever need it.

He said he did not care that he was being mocked for dancing with recruits or that he seemed to suddenly have a southern accent after he was introduced as a LSU coach.

Familiarity with Louisiana culture was a blast for the Massachusetts native, though he said rich food calls into question his ability to stay fit. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that LSU is closing on Mardi Gras and that swimming trunks are using the road outside his office to access the parade route.

“So you have floats that take three days,” he said. “I’m like, it’s different.”

Kelly later headed to Tesla’s Tiger Stadium for a press conference to watch spring football. Lotan’s room is not so different from Isban’s audience, where his weekly media availability took place in Notre Dame. Theatrical seat. A podium is installed in front of the room.

Kelly stood in front of a purple background with rows of gold LSU logo and answered questions for about 25 minutes. High on the walls that frame the stage are two huge tiger heads.

This is, of course, different.

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Follow Ralph D. Rousseau at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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