Ahead of the Curve

The football gods can't be happy.  The Notre Dame / Brian Kelly nuptials have left Kelly's former ball club jilted at the alter, so to speak.  Heading into the biggest game in their school's history, Cincinnati will be without the coach that had walked them down the aisle to an undefeated season and a birth in the Sugar Bowl opposite Florida.

The vanity exhibited by both parties is equaled only by the sense of panic that seemed to motivate their rush to contract.   I'm hard pressed to fathom a good reason why ND and Kelly couldn't have waited until after the Bearcat's big bowl game to begin negotiations. 

Kelly may have pushed the process for fear that Urban Meyer might win the day.  But Notre Dame's interest in Kelly is long-standing, going back to his days at CMU (where he also skedaddled just before his Chippewa's upcoming bowl game to take the Cincinnati job).

This is not to say that ND and Meyer (a former Irish assistant) have not been eyeing each other for quite some time.  Ever since Charlie Weis lost his sheen and Meyer won his first BCS title, both must have been pondering the possibility of a merger. 

So why didn't Meyer go after (accept) the job?   Because he knows the world of college coaching is a game of musical-chairs.  There's a time and a manner in how you leave your team and still keep your legacy strong.  Other coaches don't know this or don't care.

As for Meyer's "spirited practice" explanation for un-resigning and taking a "leave of absence" instead: I'm not buying it.  I think he "resigned" initially for health reasons and also to position himself for un-retirement if the right opportunity presented itself (Notre Dame if Kelly failed).  But alumni expressed concerns and Urban changed his mind.

Lucky for the Irish and their shiny new coach that Jesus' Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) incorporates no concept of pay-back.  If it did, both could expect to feel the ill-effects of what Eastern religions call the Karmic backlash.

Back in 1989, Arizona State and Michigan basketball coach Bill Frieder reached a similar in-season pact and agreed to merge for 1989-90.  While neither Frieder nor ASU Regents were adherents to Hinduism, that didn't protect them from a Karmic comeuppance.  Bo Schembechler fired Frieder just before the Big Dance as Steve Fisher led Blue to the title, while ASU made only two trips to the NCAA during Bill's unimpressive 8-year tenure.

I like Notre Dame.  I like their history and independence, what's left of it.  What I don't like is the leadership's sense of desperation and Machiavellian approach to hiring coaches (the ends justify the means).  ND should be setting the standard, not following harsh trends.

But take heart Irish fans, sometimes style has absolutely nothin' to do with winning.  And "like Steve always says, winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" (Lil' Sherry Jackson in Trouble Along the Way / 1953).

Steven Keys


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