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Men Behaving Badly

I’ve never liked Brian Kelly since he showed up at the University of Cincinnati team banquet in 2009 accompanied by a police escort.

Kelly had just coached his team to a perfect 12-0 season and a No. 3 BCS ranking. But that night he was going to blindside his players at the team banquet by announcing his departure for Notre Dame, just three weeks before his Bearcats were to meet Florida in the Sugar Bowl in the biggest game in school history.

I guess Kelly thought he needed police protection because one of his players, feeling betrayed, might rush the podium.

Well, Kelly has done himself one better at Notre Dame. He’s bolting for LSU, of all places, while his Fighting Irish team still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff and compete for the National Championship.

Notre Dame, currently ranked No. 6, can move into the top four if No. 3 Alabama loses to No. 1 Georgia—which is likely—and either No. 4 Cincinnati, No. 2 Michigan or No. 5 Oklahoma State loses their conference championship game—which is quite possible.

No matter. Kelly couldn’t wait. The lure of big bucks and easier admission standards at LSU—where any recruited football player will be admitted if he can tie his shoes—was too much to resist.

Kelly’s exit was even messier than at Cincinnati. Because word had leaked Monday night, he informed his players by text message. Then he met with them Tuesday morning and spoke for all of three minutes and 40 seconds, most of which he spent explaining why nobody was to blame for his departure.

Yet he had the shameless gall to tell the team, “my love for you is limitless.”

Imagine what he might do if his love was limited.

While Kelly is a coward and a weasel, the biggest mercenaries here are the administrators, the athletic directors who cut “minor” sports because of budgetary reasons and predicted that NIL compensation and transfers without penalty would lead to chaos.

They’re the ones creating the chaos, not the kids making 500 bucks for signing a few autographs. It’s the “adults in the room,” the so-called “industry leaders” who are threatening the future of college sports by paying coaches ridiculous sums of money.

LSU announced that Kelly is going to make $9.5 million per year, plus a $500,000 “longevity bonus” paid each July. A day earlier, USC lured Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma with an even richer deal.

On top of this, both schools are paying millions to the coaches they fired. Ed Orgeron, the deposed coach at LSU, will receive a buyout of $16.8 million and Clay Helton, who was shown the door at USC, will get north of $10 million.

Loyalty, like the term “student-athlete,” is one of the casualties in this brave new world of college sports.

Coaches have no loyalty to players, and schools have no loyalty to coaches. This year, head coaches at LSU, USC, Florida, Washington, Texas Tech, TCU, and Virginia Tech, among others, were fired during the season.

We've written often in this space about the insanity of college football salaries. How the sport has become a big business. How everything is driven by the almighty dollar. How academics, traditions, and rivalries have all been forgotten.

The bombshells of the past few days have taken it from the realm of insanity to the theatre of the absurd, a world gone mad, where coaches are paid like rock stars and movie actors, where even the opportunity to win a national championship can’t stop a coach from leaving his players at the altar to pursue a bigger paycheck.

And this is supposed to be “amateur” sports?

Give me a break.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//

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