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BATON ROUGE – Here are five things to know about new LSU football coach Brian Kelly, who decided to leave his job as Notre Dame’s coach Monday night for $95 million over 10 years and will be introduced at a press conference at LSU on Wednesday.
Kelly will not coach Notre Dame in the College Football Playoff should the Fighting Irish reach that, nor will he coach Notre Dame in a bowl.
1. HE HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR AND A FAIRY GODMOTHER: Kelly was asked last week whether he would ever leave Notre Dame.
“No,” he said. “Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check. My wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.”
Apparently, she said, “Yes.”
And at the time, Kelly or his representation had reportedly already been in contact with LSU athletic director Scott Woodward. Lee Brecheen, a recruiting and high school football expert who publishes Louisiana Football Magazine, reported on Nov. 1 that Woodward was very interested in Kelly.
An LSU source said Tuesday that Woodward had zeroed in on Kelly over the last three weeks.
2. NOTRE DAME DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR, WHO KNOWS LSU, MAY JOIN KELLY: Kelly is expected to bring defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman with him to LSU, if Freeman wants the job. Freeman was former LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s first choice to be defensive coordinator after the 2020 season when he fired Bo Pelini.
Freeman, whose 2020 defense at Cincinnati finished No. 8 in the nation in scoring defense with 16.8 points allowed a game, interviewed at LSU and dined on the $65 bone-in filet at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Freeman, a native of Huber Heights, Ohio who played at Ohio State and has spent all of his coaching years in the Midwest, later chose Notre Dame over LSU.
Notre Dame is No. 11 in the nation in scoring defense under Freeman this season with 18.2 points allowed a game. The LSU defense under first-year defensive coordinator Daronte Jones finished 59th with 25.3 points allowed a game. Notre Dame finished No. 29 in total defense (339.1 yards a game) to 61 by LSU (372.2 yards a game).
Freeman’s Cincinnati defense finished No. 13 in total defense in 2020 with 324.6 yards allowed a game. In 2018, his Bearcats’ defense was No. 9 in scoring allowed with 17.2 points a game and No. 11 in total defense at 303.5.
Freeman was Purdue’s co-defensive coordinator in 2016 before going to Cincinnati. Jones was a defensive coordinator this past season at LSU for the first time since he coached at Division II Bowie State in 2009.
3. KELLY TOOK A SHOT AT LES MILES: In late November of 2009 while the head coach at Cincinnati, Kelly was asked whether his name being brought up as a possible new coach at Notre Dame was hurting his recruiting with the Bearcats.
Charlie Weis was the Fighting Irish coach at the time and had just lost 33-30 to 17-point underdog Connecticut in two overtimes to fall to 6-5 after his third straight loss. He would be fired a week later after a loss to Stanford. LSU coach Les Miles, meanwhile, had just lost 25-23 at Ole Miss after hugely botching clock management during a would-be game-winning drive in the final moments. And Kansas coach Mark Mangino had just lost 51-20 to Texas to fall to 5-6 on the season. He resigned under pressure after a 5-7 season.
“I guess it’s better than being on the other side of that,” Kelly said of stories that linked him to Notre Dame. “They’re talking about, let’s see, Charlie Weis, Mark Mangino, Les Miles. To give due respect to all the coaches that are supposedly on the hot seat, I don’t want to be one of them because that really hurts your recruiting.”
Miles, who survived another six full seasons as LSU’s coach with a national championship game appearance in the 2011 season, was asked about what Kelly said at the time. His comments about Kelly are not suitable for print.
4. KELLY FIRST FOOTBALL COACH TO LEAVE IRISH FOR ANOTHER JOB SINCE 1907: Thomas Barry went 6-0-1 as Notre Dame’s football coach in 1907 and left to become coach at Wisconsin. No other Notre Dame coach in history had left for another immediate job without being fired until Brian Kelly took the LSU job on Monday. Lou Holtz was not fired when he left Notre Dame on his own after the 1996 season. He returned to coaching at South Carolina before the 1999 season.
5. KELLY WAS IRISH COACH WHEN DECLAN SULLIVAN FELL TO HIS DEATH AT PRACTICE: On Oct. 27, 2010, Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan, 20, fell to his death when 50 mph winds blew down the hydraulic lift he was on while filming a Notre Dame practice.
Notre Dame was found negligent by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Sullivan’s death and fined $77,500 for directing an untrained student employee to use a scissor lift during dangerous weather conditions of 51 mph and for failing to properly maintain and inspect the lift.
According to the OSHA exhaustive report obtained by the Chicago Tribune in 2019, Kelly kept his team practicing at first so that players’ exits would not crowd the accident scene.
“I called our team together and informed them of the accident. We prayed, and I dismissed the team,” Kelly told the OSHA.
Kelly also told investigators that weather was normal before the gust that blew down the lift.
“It was a beautiful day,” Kelly told the OSHA. “It was 68 degrees, and I remember looking up, and the wind was 22 mph.”
Kelly also released a statement at the time of OSHA report release in 2019.
“Declan was a wonderful member of our football family and is missed to this day,” he said. “We all continue to both grieve and keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers. I’m sure the university will use the findings from the state to enhance the investigation into this tragedy.”
Sullivan was the subject of an ESPN documentary called “Declan Sullivan: My Time on Earth” in 2018. His family never sued Notre Dame for wrongful death, which reportedly could have paid them between $15 and $60 million.