DUBLIN — Unfortunately for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, his team’s trip to Ireland was somewhat overshadowed by the words of a former Fighting Irish player and current radio analyst covering the program.
Allen Pinkett went on the McNeil and Spiegel radio show Wednesday and stated: “I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team. I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choirboys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choirboys. You gotta have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler.”
Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick was less than thrilled with Pinkett’s comments.
“Allen Pinkett’s suggestion that Notre Dame needs more 'bad guys' on its football team is nonsense,” Swarbrick said in a prepared statement released by the University. “Of course, Allen does not speak for the University, but we could not disagree more with this observation."
Likely at the urging of his representative team and the folks at the IMG Sports Network, Pinkett issued an apology Thursday.
"In reviewing my remarks from a radio interview Wednesday, it's clear that I chose my words poorly and that an apology is in order for these inappropriate comments,” he said. “My words do not reflect the strong pride and passion I have for the Notre Dame football program.
"I am deeply sorry and did not intend to take away the focus from the upcoming season opener. I especially would like to offer my sincere apology to the current members of Notre Dame’s football team, including Coach Kelly, the entire Notre Dame community, the IMG College Audio Network and the Ohio State football program. As a proud Notre Dame graduate, I wish nothing but the best for our football team and the University.
"I understand that there may be consequences to my actions and accept whatever discipline is imposed."
Pinkett’s employer said the following: "The Notre Dame IMG Network is extremely disappointed in the comments made by Allen Pinkett in his radio interview. We completely disagree with those comments. As his employer, we will be determining disciplinary action to be taken."
Pinkett was on Notre Dame’s chartered flight to Dublin, but Kelly said there was no contact between the two during the trip.
“I want tough gentlemen,” Kelly said after practice Thursday. “I want tough guys on the field, tough-minded, guys that play physical that get after it on fourth-and-one. And I want gentlemen off the field. So if there's any misunderstanding I would hope that I can set the record straight in terms of what I'm looking for.
“I can't wrap my brain around [what Pinkett said]. “It's just too much.”
There are more pressing things on Kelly’s mind, like the fact that he has to have his football team ready to kick off the 2012 season a very, very long way away from South Bend.
“We were hoping they slept,” Kelly said of the nearly seven-hour flight. “We were up at five a.m. [Wednesday]. We had really pushed our guys in terms of a morning practice; we brought them back to weight train. Then we obviously turned the lights out on the plane. By the looks of things today we probably got about fifty percent that slept. We're hoping that tomorrow will go a little better.
“Physically (we were a little easier on them today), not mentally. You've gotta be sharp every day. Physically we didn't push the tempo today.”
Blustery conditions in Dublin early Thursday afternoon provided Kelly with an opportunity to teach first-time starting quarterback Everett Golson and the rest of the quarterbacks.
“When it's windy conditions, a tight ball is rewarded,” Kelly explained. “If you throw a good ball you're going to be okay. If your mechanics are bad and you're trying to wing and drop down side arm the wind will play havoc with your football, but all the stops I've been I've had to deal with these kinds of conditions so we should be fine.
“Mechanics have to be good. We had a little play action here and [Golson] was sloppy. His arm was down and the ball was on the ground. The next time [it was] good rotation, [and his] arm slot’s up. You're trying to remind him about the conditions. You have to be on top of your game or the conditions can affect you.”
After touching down in Dublin, the team spent about 90 minutes at the hotel before heading to practice. Kelly said the commute to downtown was enough to awaken the sleepy bunch.
“The roads with the big buses — scary proposition,” he said. “The Garda (Irish police) was with us today as an escort and I hope all their insurance is paid up because that's a group that likes to get going out there. It was fun coming in to the city. Our kids are going to see some Irish dancing tonight. We're staying out a hotel that is a beautiful venue, so they're starting to see and sense a little bit of Ireland.”
The game Saturday is more of a novelty for locals, but Kelly explained the significance of playing in Dublin to his players and area media.
"It’s still an extension of a number of things," he said. "Irish rugby is really the foundation of American football. We’re at a historic site at this stadium, and I made that known to our players today. Secondly, I think it’s the Notre Dame brand being overseas and how popular we are and what a great relationship it is."
And what can a city of rugby and futbol fans expect?
"You would hope, depending on which side you’re on, that there’s a lot of scoring," Kelly added. "I think more than anything else, the game is tactically played — very similar to rugby. I think you’ll see a lot of physical play. It’s fast-paced; there’ s a lot of scoring, and I think you’re going to hear some collisions out there with all the equipment on."