Program changes gave Kelly, ND big boost
November 27, 2012 11:26PM
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on prior to their NCAA college football game against Southern California, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:29AM
For those who want to know what the next coach gets after the coach before him is fired, it’s worth taking a look at what happened after Charlie Weis was canned as the Irish coach in 2009.
Notre Dame loosened its policy for discipline, instituted a training table and allowed its head coach great latitude in meting out punishment when players run afoul of the rules. In other words, the administration finally joined the 21st century in areas of college football nutrition and in defining a proper structure for dealing with misbehaving players.
Presto! The Irish are hovering on the brink of their first national title in more than 20 years.
Was it really that simple? No, but those factors are way more pertinent in defining the Irish success in Year 3 of the Brian Kelly rebuilding project than the average fan off the street might think.
Consider this: It’s a distinct possibility that Tommy Rees wouldn’t have played this season under the old rules, where players were disciplined under the auspice of Residence Life. Rees was arrested on May 3 after he kneed an officer while running away from police. He was initially charged with battery, resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol. He eventually pleaded guilty to resisting law enforcement and illegal consumption of alcohol. That resulted in a one-game suspension.
Rees returned and helped lead the Irish to victories in tight games against Purdue and Stanford. It’s plausible the Irish are 10-2 without Rees.
It’s also completely possible that Rees would’ve missed the whole season if he was subject to the same standard of discipline that forced Kyle McAlarney, a guard for the Irish basketball team, to be kicked out of school for a semester after he was arrested for marijuana possession in 2007.
Or Will Yeatman, a tight end who was suspended for a semester in 2008 after getting arrested for driving under the influence. He later transferred after being cited for another alcohol-related offense.
After Weis was fired in 2009, in the form of what amounted to an impromptu exit interview with a few selected media members, he complained about Residence Life, saying it was the biggest issue on campus for many students and that some of its policies and punishments were “petty.”
To be fair, the movement away from the inflexible and harsh style of discipline was something that the university started to examine as early as 2007, according to the South Bend Tribune, because of the consistent grumbling from parents and people on campus who viewed the old school approach as archaic.
The changes just happened to be instituted the year Kelly started.
They essentially allowed him to keep Michael Floyd, his star receiver, on the field in 2011 even though he was arrested for DUI in March of that year. Floyd was suspended from the team and practice until the season began. He finished his career at Notre Dame without any incidents. He had two other alcohol-related offenses before the DUI.
The training table concept is pretty simple.
Football players get a mountain of food made for them daily during training camp and in-season. It’s food that compliments their weight lifting program. It’s healthy food with the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates.
It’s the kind of science that all the best schools in the country — Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma — had been using for years.
It was one area the Irish were woefully behind other schools.
It was something that was part of a conversation Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick had for several years with Weis before he left. It’s something, more as a matter of coincidence, that came to fruition when Kelly arrived.
It’s a big deal, too. Notre Dame physically is as strong as its been along both the offensive and defensive lines for years — since before the training table was pioneered.
I’m not suggesting that Weis could’ve done what Kelly has done, taking the Irish to the national title game, but I will say this for Kelly: He arrived at a time when Notre Dame finally had the resources to “Play Like a Champion.”