Brian Kelly and Notre Dame have the preeminent loveless marriage of college football.
It’s clear the relationship has broken down. Emotions are running high. No one is happy anymore. You can sense the animosity whenever they go out.
Will they do the prudent thing — the healthy thing — and get a divorce? Or will they stay together, for the kids?
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Or, in this case, because of the buyout.
The Irish are going to have an incredibly difficult time making a bowl game this season — at 2-5 on the year, Notre Dame needs to win four of their final five games to make the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Given the Irish’s expectations this season, that should be an unacceptable outcome.
Add Kelly’s impossible-to-misinterpret angst for his current situation on top of his growing sensitivity and the Notre Dame fanbase’s rapidly diminishing patience — the Irish have lost back-to-back games to NC State and a Christian McCaffrey-free Stanford, scoring a total of 13 points in the two games — and it’s not ridiculous to see Notre Dame and Kelly parting at the end of the season.
It’s been seven years, and while a few of those campaigns were good, the wheels came off. It’s probably best for both parties to move on.
But, again, the buyout.
Kelly signed a new deal, which lasts until 2021, earlier this year. Notre Dame, as a private institution, doesn’t make public its coaching contracts, but Kelly was believed to have been making more than $4 million under his last deal.
That means that the Irish could have to pay Kelly $20 million (or more) if they were to fire him.
For a school that just finished paying the last coach that didn't take them to a bowl game, Charlie Weis, last year (he was fired in 2009) that might not sit well. It’s not as if Kelly didn’t take the team to a BCS title game appearance and within a field goal of the College Football Playoff last year.
But the toxicity continues to grow and Kelly’s temperament on the field and in press conferences is bordering on untenable. He’s already fired his defensive coordinator this season, and Saturday he pulled starting quarterback DeShone Kizer after two interceptions, only to then re-insert him with 3:44 remaining.
Kelly has blamed his center for losing a game that was played in a hurricane, and he’s spending more time than he should discussing the slights against him in public forums.
Things are bad in South Bend. Will the man who was in charge for the downfall be able to turn it around?