You get the impression that Brian Kelly has learned how to deal with the necessary evils of serving as the football coach at Notre Dame. Maybe he secretly embraces, what he terms “the noise,” surrounding the supposed no-longer-relevant program, but he won't admit to loving the attention, but he does acknowledge it.
In his first two seasons in guiding the Fighting Irish, Kelly felt the spotlight growing brighter with each defeat. However, during this season, it's been the exact opposite. His team has gone unscathed through its first five games and is now ranked seventh nationally, and the spotlight is white-hot.
The Irish will host 17th-ranked Stanford on Saturday (NBC, 3:30 p.m.) and the cast of ESPN's College GameDay will be on hand broadcasting from the South Bend campus.
“You want to be in that group of football programs that has College GameDay on your campus,” Kelly said. “You want to be that program that appeals to the audience that we are out recruiting.”
Therein lies Kelly's mission for building this football program. He isn't so concerned about what he, a 50-year-old enjoys, but what the future of the program (nationally-rated recruits) finds appealing about South Bend.
Kelly has made – in some ways quietly and other ways publicly – his opinions known to the university about bucking some traditions and moving forward in order to become “cool” with the younger generation.
He has had the gold on the helmets brightened. The game day atmosphere at Notre Dame Stadium now includes the music of Ozzy Osbourne (approximately every 17 seconds), and last Saturday the biggest change of all – the wacky and wild unveiling of new uniforms (only to be worn once, thankfully).
“You saw those uniforms,” Kelly explained on Sunday, “we got great feedback from those.”
All of these changes heighten the awareness of the Irish program with the youth of America, and that increase in exposure is seemingly just fine with Kelly.
“We're excited about the spotlight being here in South Bend,” Kelly said. “But I'll work diligently to keep our guys on task.”
That has been a chore of late, as Notre Dame has been featured on a recent cover of Sports Illustrated, as well as serving as the subject of an upcoming piece produced by NFL Films.
That latter organization has spent the past 10 days trailing the Irish players in workouts and practice and Kelly says it is business as usual for this storied program.
“It's a life in the day of the Notre Dame football program,” Kelly said. “It's kind of business as usual, but having said that, we'll have to remind 18- to 21-year-olds about how they got here.”
The exposure is abundant and intense, but thus far through Notre Dame's rise through the national polls, Kelly said that his players haven't gotten too full of themselves yet, so all has been good to this point.
“You want to be in that in crowd,” Kelly said. “You don't want to be on the other side looking in. All of those things are great.”