By Vua Byrn , CNN Written by
Notre Dame football fanatics that hit the bricks on Saturday to watch the Fighting Irish kick off their season will be greeted with a surprise sight: not only will their team once again be home in time for Memorial Day weekend — but they may be thrilled to find Brian Kelly standing on their sideline.
A national coach of the year and iconoclast, Kelly announced Thursday that he has quit his position at Notre Dame, citing “an inevitable loss of perspective when the commitments required of me extend beyond my family and the comfort of my home.”
Kelly’s 14-year tenure at Notre Dame included winning an unprecedented seven straight league championships (2008-2016), after going 8-5 the previous season. Still, the former Irish QB wasn’t just about wins and losses for Kelly; his storied program — compared with Navy’s (basketball), Louisville’s (football) and North Carolina’s (women’s) reputation for partying — was one of college football’s most frugal (think deep grass for practice field, employee parking near locker rooms).
Kelly found success with his own persona: as the polarizing coach with a goatee and sideline demeanor often unfriendly to parents, media and players.
“Sometimes, your message is drowned out by all the noise around you. When that happens, it becomes too difficult to stay focused on the ultimate mission,” Kelly said in a statement on the Notre Dame website.
“Now is the time for me to devote my full attention to my family and to the numerous leadership opportunities that await me. I am always putting Notre Dame first and, although we are sad to see Brian leave, we understand and support his decision.”
Over three stints as a quarterback at Notre Dame (1983-88), he went 51-18, becoming just the third QB to win three straight Cotton Bowls. But following a 1-2 start in 2011 — his first season in charge — the tide turned and the team continued to put up quality play under Kelly.
Former Notre Dame coach Bobby Bowden also left the school, while analysts remember past ND head coaches Pete Carroll and Gerry Faust, both of whom came and went with mixed results.
But in a sport where money and in-state recruits rule — and where the country’s biggest programs rake in salaries in the seven figures (Johnny Manziel earned $6.3 million this season, and 50 of the 53 highest-paid players in college football hail from the Big Ten) — Kelly’s Notre Dame program — thought to be dead in 1997 — quietly improved its profile by appearing in several BCS bowls.
The program, which has a history of churning out NFL prospects, was featured in Rolling Stone as one of the “Best College Teams of All Time,” something no other college program sports boasts.