When Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis following the 2009 season, the former head coach criticized the university’s disciplinary branch, the Office of Residence Life, for its handling of issues on campus. During the initial stages of Brian Kelly’s tenure, the divide between Notre Dame’s administrative offices and football offices remained a lot further than the walk from the Golden Dome to the Guglielmino Athletics Complex.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said the communication between himself and the Notre Dame administration has improved since he arrived in South Bend.
Kelly has been vocal in the past about the need for communication between the two sides, but judging by his recent comments, it appears substantial progress has been made in that department.
“I don’t know if I want a voice, I just want to be part of the conversation,” Kelly said at his media briefing Thursday. “I think the communication is what I’m interested in more than anything else. Notre Dame has du Lac. Notre Dame has their policies and I am 100 percent behind all of those. I just want to be in the discussion.
“I believe I am [part of the conversation]. I feel very comfortable that we have made substantial progress to that end. I think it’s like anything else, there’s a crack in the Sistine Chapel. We’re not perfect at Notre Dame. And it’s not perfect at Alabama. … But we are committed to it and [University President] Father John [Jenkins] is committed to it, Jack Swarbrick, we’re all committed to getting better every day. That’s all I want. I don’t want to be perfect, I just want to keep getting better every single day. And I really believe that we’re getting better at it every day.”
Kelly told Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel earlier this month that transparency is his No. 1 challenge at Notre Dame.
“They have to be able to trust that when I bring a kid here and I tell you that he's the right kid for Notre Dame that he is not here just because he is just a football player,” Kelly told Wetzel.
Connected to that is Kelly’s disagreement with an Office of Community Standards policy — the department was recently restructured and renamed — stating that a coach cannot be a player advocate in a disciplinary matter.
“I disagree with that premise, obviously,” Kelly said. “I believe that’s short-sighted. And I think that’s a flawed premise as it relates to advocacy. I think that cuts across student life, I think that cuts across academics, I think that cuts across everything as it relates to being a student-athlete.
“That’s kind of the crux of where we are in terms of this old model that the football coach is trying to protect his players. I don’t subscribe to that. He should be accountable for his actions on a day-to-day basis, but we should all be part of the dialogue.”
The four-year anniversary of Kelly’s hiring approaches in December, and he says his longevity and comfort at the university has helped bridge the divide more than a 12-1 season and trip to the national championship did.
“We’re building a program, not just one year,” Kelly said. “One record should not be about how you run a program. This is more about how to run a program year-in and year-out.”