Interesting article in the Observer today about Coach Brian Kelly's recent meeting with student leaders. He said a lot of good things, such as:
“The kind of guys that I am recruiting here now are going to be hardworking and they better recognize the value of the Notre Dame education,” he said. “Not all of them will be on the same elite level as the students in this room, but they are going to work their butts off.”And
“The number one thing I talk to my players about is whether or not they care,” he said. “If you aren’t excited to play for the University of Notre Dame then you are not going to play here.”And
“My players should understand that if they’re going to come to Notre Dame, it’s going to be about being at a unique place,” he said. “There is a uniqueness to us that doesn’t make us better or worse, but it makes us different. The right kinds of guys understand that.”
“We’re not going to be bringing in guys who want to hang out here while they wait for the NFL. Those days are over,” he said. “I want guys who want to play for Our Lady — I usually get what I want.”All of which I agree with 100%. But part of the interview struck me as being a little bit at odds with the actions we have seen from the coach so far. See if you have the same reaction:
Kelly said he was expecting the football team to get rid of the attitude of “us” and “them” and become a part of the student body.
“My job is to reconnect some of the things that I believe haven’t been emphasized in the proper manner,” Kelly said to the students. “This is not a relationship of separation. It should be all of us together.”
Kelly said he saw a divide between student-athletes and the rest of the student body when he arrived on campus this past winter. He said he believes football is the best way to “get the bridge between students and athletes back.”
“I want the players to reengage with something that is really unique to Notre Dame,” he said. “Part of that is the community and the love students have for what happens on this campus.”
Okay, be honest with me, how many of you when you read that excerpt immediately think "training table" and "bookstore basketball"? Those are the two things that jumped into my head. Coach Kelly obviously has a lot of work to do to take this football program back to the level on which it belongs, and it is to be expected that he will change the way the football program operates in all areas. But I have to admit to being a little skeptical about his desire to tear down the wall between the students and the athletes when the first significant move he made upon becoming head football coach was to institute a training table in the Gug that takes the football players out of the dining halls, where they get to really be a part of the student body, and sequesters them into a private athletes-only facility where they get specially prepared meals served at special hours. I'm not saying that there isn't a very sound football reason for training table. I am saying that training table, especially the way it has been implemented, does not build a bridge between students and student-athletes.
Likewise, Coach Kelly's decision to prohibit football players from participating in the Bookstore Basketball tournament this year, while justifiable from a football perspective, serves to eliminate one of events that truly integrates the football team with the rest of the student body each spring.
It's not my intent to be critical. But I'm just sayin' ...