Notre Dame disclosed two weeks ago that Golson, who helped the Fighting Irish go 12-0 during the regular season and get to the BCS title game against Alabama, was no longer enrolled in school. Golson revealed in a statement issued the next day by Notre Dame that he had been suspended for the fall semester for what he called poor academic judgment.
Kelly announced last week the university would not release Vanderdoes, a standout high school recruit from Auburn, Calif., from his letter of intent so he can enroll at UCLA, meaning he can't play football for the Bruins this fall and will lose a season of eligibility. Kelly was asked whether it was fair he was allowed to leave Cincinnati in 2009, where he had a contract to coach the Bearcats through the 2013 season, and take the Notre Dame job and begin coaching the Irish the next season and Vanderdoes can't play this season.
“I paid a million dollars in a buyout, too. There's accountability in making those decisions,” Kelly said. “You can break the contract. He's broken the contract and he's going to go to another school. But there's a level of accountability there.”
Kelly said there are circumstances that he might let a player out of a letter of intent, but didn't specify what those would be. Kelly said it was the first time in his 23 years as a head coach that a player had sought to get out of a letter of intent and he thought it was important to protect the integrity of the process.
Kelly also said he decided to name Tommy Rees as the starting quarterback for the 2013 after having time to think about it. He had initially said it would be a three-way competition.
“I hadn't had time to think about Everett not being our starter. As I got a chance to think about it, Tommy does not have to fight to be the No. 1 quarterback,” Kelly said.
There have been media reports that Golson is considering playing at a junior college. Kelly says Golson has indicated he's focusing on improving his academics, and he doesn't think he will play football this fall.
Kelly was speaking at a golf outing at Lost Dunes Golf Club about 35 miles northwest of South Bend where foursomes paid $5,000 so they could play golf and have their pictures taken with Kelly and former Irish coaches Lou Holtz and Ara Parseghian. Money raised went to charities for the three coaches.
Holtz and Parseghian talked about the challenges Kelly will face trying to keep the Irish among the college elite after making it to the championship game last season. Holtz said Kelly has to continue to raise expectations, saying he was guilty of focusing too much on trying to maintain the program.
“You say, `Let's not risk and let's maintain it,”' he said. “That's what happened to me here. You try to maintain it so you never have a reason to celebrate or get excited,” Holtz said.
Parseghian, who had the Irish ranked in the top 10 in nine of 11 seasons, believes it's harder to stay on top than it is to get there.
“Once you've been there, everybody is shooting at you harder than they did on the schedule. And of course you may find some complacency,” he said.
The Irish went 8-2 after winning the national championship in 1966 and 10-2 after winning the title in 1973. Like Kelly, Parseghian faced an unexpected challenge in 1974 when six players, including four starters, were kicked off the team shortly before the start of the season for violating university rules.
“It took us half the season to get everybody plugged in,” he said.
Holtz said Rees can't make up for the loss of Golson by himself.
“You don't expect Tommy Rees to replace him. But what everybody else has to do is pick up a little bit of the load,” he said.
It's all about accountability.