Monday night’s BCS Championship game won’t be the last Brian Kelly coaches on the Notre Dame sideline, he said Saturday afternoon during the team’s Media Day.
Brian Kelly told reporters Saturday that leaving Notre Dame for an NFL job was not an option.
Kelly dispelled rumors about his leaving for a National Football League vacancy from what he described as a dunk tank booth parked at the 20-yard line of Sun Life Stadium. Reports surfaced last week that Oregon’s Chip Kelly wasn’t the only college coach on wish lists for the slew of professional teams that have recently cut ties with their coaches.
He did not say definitively whether he or his agent had been contacted by pro teams, but that taking any hypothetical offer was off the table for the time being.
“I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country,” he said. “NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have.”
He then tried to steer the crowd of questions into more imminent topics like dethroning defending national champion Alabama Monday night in Miami.
“This is the biggest game that I've ever been involved in, so my focus is 100 percent on this football game,” Kelly said. “All that other stuff, that happens when you're winning football games. I've been through this a lot in my career. It's flattering if there is interest, which I don't know that there is, but again, that is such a secondary topic for me right now, it's all about this game.”
Freshman reserve quarterback Gunner Kiel also said he plans to stay put in South Bend despite having to wrestle playing time away from sophomore Everett Golson, who carried Notre Dame to its first national championship game in a quarter century.
Kiel was widely regarded as the country’s top pro style quarterback recruit a year ago when he made a last minute decision to attend Notre Dame instead of LSU. He added a fourth participant to the quarterback battle in spring training, but Kiel said Saturday he never expected to play as a freshman.
“It’s really hard for any freshman to come in and start, especially at the quarterback position,” he said. “For me it was just a learning experience, coming in and learning the offense.”
The true freshman spent the majority of the year playing scout team quarterback, including playing the part of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during the past six weeks.
Notre Dame might have to cut back on physical practice in potential future playoff runs, Kelly said Saturday. He said last week that the Irish picked up their intensity following the Christmas break to try to knock any possible rust off of each other before heading to Miami. But with a four-team playoff looming in the not-so-distant future and the potential for even more postseason games down the line, that might not be an option in years to come.
Kelly played 15-game seasons on a regular basis while leading Div. II Grand Valley State to a pair on national championships at a previous coaching stop. He said they managed to keep players fresh and healthy by removing pads from practice.
“I'm used to playing 15 games, playing for a National Championship. It's a long road. But I think as long as we have this thing planned out where we're not playing in late January and February, I think we can be in a good position,” he said.
“If we start talking about 16 and 32 teams, something is going to have to give on one end. Something is going to have to give on the regular season because we're not going to be able to play this thing into February. So that would be the concern that I have.”
Alabama’s success is still a model for Notre Dame moving forward, according to the head coach. Kelly’s formula of strong defense, physical linemen and consistency above all else closely follows the path Tide coach Nick Saban followed to the top of the college food chain. Kelly said Saturday there is still more to glean from looking at how Alabama sustained its success.
“We're talking about historic success. We're not talking about somebody that wasn't ranked last year — Notre Dame — or at the start of the year,” he said. “Alabama is the model. I concede to that. It’s where we want to be.”