It's widely known Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly is on the hot seat heading into the 2017 season,
Maybe I'm in the minority, but I was shocked when the Irish decision makers made the choice to bring Kelly back for the 2017 campaign. I'll acknowledge Kelly was solid his first 6 seasons in South Bend producing winning records and even a trip to the BCS Championship game, but last year was a failure of epic proportions when it comes to Notre Dame's massive expectations.
The 4-8 record is one thing. Every so often — for various reasons — reputable college football teams have an off year and lay an egg. That happened for Notre Dame, a group that seemingly had a ton of talent, but Kelly's issues go far beyond wins and losses and have been documented since his first year.
Last November, CBS Sports wrote a piece titled "Notre Dame Is Running Out Of Reasons To Keep Brian Kelly After Latest Indiscretion."
It would take me a while to outline every incident at Notre Dame that took place under Kelly's watch, but I will name a few. Last year it was the academic scandal that resulted in the vacation of two winning seasons. There was the tragedy in 2010 where a student who was filming practice was killed because of high wind gusts. Then there was the alleged sexual assault by an Irish player in 2010 that led to the suicide death of Lizzy Seeberg. Then there are many instances where recruits are turned off by Kelly and said they would never play football at Notre Dame.
So why would a coach with this many marks against him still have a job after a dismal 4-8 performance?
The first is easy. Kelly wasn't the one directly committing these acts, but just look around at the biggest scandals in college sports, that's usually the norm. He's s in charge and should be accountable.
Secondly, is the fact that he's proven to be a really good coach. Last year was the first time the Irish finished with a losing record since 2007 and Kelly is responsible for Notre Dame putting together two 10-win seasons under his watch.
With just a few months until the start of the 2017 season — one would have to believe Kelly's leash is getting smaller and smaller. He can't afford another sub-par season, and it's a schedule that features some tough matchups.
How many games does Kelly and Notre Dame need to win in 2017 for the head coach to get at least another year in South Bend?
|Date||Opponent||Opponent 2016 Record|
|Sept. 2||vs. Temple||10-4|
|Sept. 9||vs. Georgia||8-5|
|Sept. 16||@ Boston College||7-6|
|Sept. 23||@ Michigan State||3-9|
|Sept. 30||vs. Miami (OH)||6-7|
|Oct. 7||@ North Carolina||8-5|
|Oct. 21||vs. USC||10-3|
|Oct. 28||vs. N.C. State||7-6|
|Nov. 4||vs, Wake Forest||7-6|
|Nov. 11||@ Miami||9-4|
|Nov. 18||vs. Navy||9-5|
|Nov. 25||@ Stanford||10-3|
This is a really interesting slate. At first glance, the USC pops out as the toughest test, but Georgia, North Carolina, Stanford and Miami won't be easy. Michigan State is in a similar boat as Notre Dame coming off a down year, but could turn it around quickly.
The N.C. State game shouldn't be taken lightly. The Irish fell to the Wolfpack a season ago, and this year's N.C. State team is one of the most underrated squads in the ACC. Temple? Navy? Those aren't cakewalks, either.
So how many games does Kelly need to win on this schedule? I think the number is somewhere around 8 or 9. He must show the Irish brass that he's making significant moves toward consistent national title contention, but it's unrealistic to think Notre Dame will leap from 4-8 to the College Football Playoff. If Kelly can have a drama-free, productive season, he should be in good shape.
Do I think it will happen? No. Notre Dame enters the year with a lot of question marks and I firmly believe the Kelly era is coming to an end.