Friday, December 11, 2009

Cincinnatians Turn On Brian Kelly

A little over a decade ago, my North Carolina Tar Heels football team were doing things that hadn't been done in half a century. The Heels were consistently ranked, were fighting for ACC championships and were in the national championship picture. The 1997 Heels finished fourth in the polls.

The successes there peaked the interest of a big time college football school. The University of Texas came over and took Mack Brown from us. To this day, I can't stand Brown for leaving Chapel Hill and I seem to always root against Texas.

So I know exactly what Cincinnati Bearcat fans are going through right now. It's tough to watch the coach that led you to your program's best days is leaving for the bigger, better payday. It's tough to then watch that coach go on to win a BCS title at the new school while your program is wallowing in lower tiered bowls.

The real reason I was mad was because I was shown that I wasn't special. No one wants to realize that they aren't as special as someone else. Obviously Tar Heel fans feel a bit privileged due to their successes on the basketball courts, soccer fields and various other sports. But in the world of high stakes college football, Carolina is a stepping stone for a bigger gig. For Mack Brown, that was Texas. And if Butch Davis has any sort of great success at UNC, then big time programs will come after him, too.

Cincinnati is feeling that right now. Bearcat fans haven't seen their football team having this kind of success ... ever. This is a city that never really cared too deeply about Cincy football, but once Brian Kelly flew in and made two BCS bowl appearances and two Big East crowns, Cincinnatians starting believing that this could be the beginning of something special.

Then Notre Dame swoops in and takes Kelly. Now the Bearcats are left feeling un-special.

Fans in the area are irate. They cannot believe that Kelly would leave their program for Notre Dame. He's a traitor! He's classless (more on that later)! Yeah, Kelly sucks for taking a job with more prestige, more money, better facilities and a much, much, much more passionate fan base than Cincinnati could ever have. Remember that Charlie Weis, like Kelly, went to two BCS games. Next thing you know, he's fired.

Cincinnati has a 35,000 seat stadium that was built in the 1920s. Notre Dame has an 80,000 seat shrine to college football that they play in. Cincinnati has its games on ESPN+. Notre Dame is almost always on national television. Cincinnati's biggest non-conference game was at Oregon State. Notre Dame gets to play USC and Michigan every year as well as a few other big dogs during the season.

The opportunity is too great to pass up for Kelly and you cannot blame him for jumping all over it. While he's beloved around Cincinnati for the great things he's done here, he'd be legendary if he pulled that off in South Bend, Indiana.

That isn't to say that Kelly's departure doesn't leave a sour taste in everyone's mouths. The ultra-secretive meetings between Kelly and Notre Dame rubbed the players the wrong way. Kelly apparently told his players that he'd be there for the long term ... only the jump ship. He didn't even meet with the players to tell them in person that he was accepting the Notre Dame job. Instead, he used their football banquet dinner the quickly make his announcement before being whisked out of the place.

That's not cool. Leaving is fine, but the players shouldn't be the last to know.

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