Brian Kelly abruptly left Notre Dame to accept the head coaching position at LSU, but his exit speech to his players was a pretty good snapshot of just how abrupt the departure was.
Reports indicated that athletic director Jack Swarbrick wasn’t overly shocked by Kelly’s exit, but the college sports world at large was. As is the case with most college coaching carousel departures (and hires), there was nothing particularly graceful about Kelly’s Fighting Irish exit.
First, Kelly’s text message to players on the night before he left, which struck some the wrong way: the short paragraph text to his players had hit phones after the news of his exit leaked. The next, rumors of a short, awkward speech to his players at 7 a.m. the following morning, which were substantiated with a leaked video on Dec. 1.
Here’s Kelly’s speech in full:
Good morning, guys. Thanks for getting up here in short order, short notice. As you know, I sent out a text last night, trying to give you as much notice as possible given the circumstances that you all know, that happened over social, and information getting out. Look, I know we’ve been through this together, I’ve recruited, personally, everybody in this room. And I wanna be able to tell you, face-to-face, why we’re at where we’re at. And that is, very simply, that the past 12 years have been the most incredible 12 years of my life. For me, for my family, being here at Notre Dame, magical in what what we’ve been able to build with the most incredible student athletes — the ones that I’m looking at right now.
So many times, people are looking for a reason to blame, or there was a reason for something — there was nothing here but first class in everything that Notre Dame has done, for me and my family. I saw my time here as a blessing working with incredible men on a day-to-day basis.
But there comes a time where you look in your life for another opportunity, and I felt like it was time in my life for another challenge. And I saw that opportunity in a very short window, and I felt like it was best for me and my family to pursue a new challenge. So there’s no one to blame, there’s nobody at fault, nobody did anything wrong. You guys have been the backbone of this program, and what you’ve accomplished, and will continue to do that.
If you’re one of the four best teams in the country, Jack is going to get somebody that’s going to continue to lead this program in incredible fashion. I don’t know what it holds for us, but I hope to heaven it means you’re playing for the national championship because you absolutely deserve it.
So, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every one of you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you directly. ‘Cause you don’t get that chance very often. And thank you for allowing me to pursue what I love to do, and that’s to develop 18-to-21 year olds. And you will continue to achieve at the highest level, and will have great success, no matter what moves forward for you.
Again, thank you. I love each and every one of you. And for me, more than anything else, it’s a sad day, but one where I know each one of you are gonna do great things, and you’ve got more to accomplish. I wish everybody here the very best, and thank you for the opportunity that you’ve given me, and my family. Thank you guys, I appreciate it.
In all, Kelly spoke for 3 1/2 minutes to the team members (who were present), and left without taking any questions. Swarbrick can be heard introducing Kelly and also stayed to answer any questions (not on video).
Kelly heads to Baton Rouge to replace a departing Ed Orgeron, whose future with the program was set in stone in October. Each of LSU’s prior three head coaches — Orgeron, Les Miles and Nick Saban — have won championships with the school.
Kelly leaves Notre Dame as the program’s winningest head coach, surpassing Knute Rockne with 106 total wind — he also leaves the school in position to potentially make the College Football Playoff, the members of which will be decided on Sunday, Dec. 5.
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