As Kelly enters his fifth year, the Rover seeks student opinions of coach


Brian Kelly’s image is critical to the success of the program as he begins his fifth year as head coach. His leadership both on and off the field plays a significant role in keeping Notre Dame football on the national stage.

Unfortunately, the student body has mixed reviews about Kelly’s performance. Most seem confident in his leadership on the field, but some of his actions—such as having the team not sing the Alma Mater after a loss—have led students to question his understanding of the Notre Dame community.

The results of Kelly’s impact on the student body cannot be overlooked or ignored. Put succinctly by Notre Dame senior Andrew Becker, “I think he can lead the team to a national championship, but he has to get the students 100 percent behind the team. That’s the real challenge.”

With the students behind Kelly and the team, the fervor and atmosphere of the campus can undoubtedly drive success.

“I think he’s done a great job with the team thus far,” Notre Dame junior and lifelong football fan Michael O’Brien stated, referencing the four consecutive postseason bowl appearances and BCS National Championship game.

“I like his style of offense because it’s not mainstream,” offered junior Michael Creehan. “He’s a bit more progressive in his offense.”

This support from the student section is encouraging, especially considering the disappointment that many fans felt following the 2013 season.

“We have such high standards as a fan base,” explained freshman Zach Trewitt. “I feel like if we’re in an average situation [Notre Dame fans] see that as a failure.”

Freshman Tim Chang agreed, saying “last season is a testament to how [Kelly] is as a coach, to rally the troops moving forward despite the adversity.”

As Kelly continues to build his team, many students are confident in his ability to attract, recruit and retain talent.

“He has the program moving in the right direction,” according to O’Brien, “and that’s an effect of hard work on the recruiting trail.”

This confidence is especially noteworthy heading into 2014 which is the first season that the entire team will consist solely of Kelly’s recruits.

Off the field, however, some of Kelly’s actions have caused students to question him and waver in support.

“I think he could embrace Notre Dame a bit more,” said O’Brien. “He’s done an admirable job so far, but if he means it when he says Notre Dame is his dream job, he can certainly do it a bit more.”

Perhaps the most notable off-field incident occurred last October, when the Irish lost at home to Oklahoma. Despite a tough loss, the student section remained in the stadium to sing the Alma Mater with the football team. Kelly and the team, however, walked into the tunnel and into controversy.

The next day Kelly stated, “We don’t stay out on the field to sing the alma mater [after a loss] … I just don’t think it’s appropriate to put your players after a defeat in a situation where they’re exposed … it’s important to get the team back into the locker room and get them under my guidance.”

For some, this debacle was something that should not have been blamed on Kelly.

“The Alma Mater [rule change] was Charlie Weis’s thing,” explained Creehan, referring to the fact that the rule change was instituted in 2006 under Weis. “[T]hat kind of got overlooked. If people realized that it was Weis, they would have killed him.”

Chang commented: “I can understand why people are upset, but if [Kelly] thinks that doing so will bring about results, I don’t see why there should be a problem … I absolutely understand the backlash but at the same time he shouldn’t be made a villain because of that.”

Many others, however, felt that the action spoke volumes about Kelly’s disregard for the Notre Dame community.

“If you want to protect the players, you should have them sing the alma mater,” said junior Keldan Mulvey. “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the community. After the game, the team comes out and sings the alma mater, and no matter how the game went you can let the players know we still appreciate them.”

“Not a fan [of the Alma Mater situation],” O’Brien added. “I understand he wants to protect the players, but it’s part of the Notre Dame tradition and one that is ubiquitous throughout the culture of the university—you do it when you graduate, when you get here, you do it throughout Notre Dame.”

As Brian Kelly continues forward into the 2014 season, the student body will continue to watch closely to see if he can continue his success on the field and perhaps improve off the field. With good leadership and support from the student body, Kelly can help guide the team towards another championship.


Kyle Mulholland is a junior residing in Duncan Hall studying computer science and economics. If anyone has a copy of the 1951 American thriller film The Scarf that they are willing to lend out, please contact Kyle at