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By Shawn Muller-
(CBS) If you signed a five year contract with a company, would you expect to be given a two-year extension after your first two years produced average results?
Pleased with Brian Kelly’s efforts during his two seasons in South Bend, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick rewarded the head coach for his back-to-back 8-5 seasons with an extension that will keep him in charge of the Irish football team through the 2016 season.
Is this how far the once proud and mighty Notre Dame Football program has fallen? Rewarding a coach that is a combined 16-10 in two years?
“I am very pleased with the progress we have made during the past two years,” Swarbrick said. “Our football team’s performance on the field, in the classroom, and in the community reflect coach Kelly’s commitment to building a program that will be able to sustain success in the long run, and to doing so in a manner consistent with Notre Dame’s values and tradition.”
What progress has Kelly made during his first two years on the Notre Dame campus?
Going 8-5 in back-to-back seasons is good for a lot of programs around the country, but Notre Dame is not like every other football program.
The Fighting Irish used to be the gold standard of NCAA football, and if I were a Golden Domer, I would be embarrassed that Kelly is being rewarded for being mediocre (according to Notre Dame standards, that is).
I don’t think anyone that follows college football believes that the Irish are going to be competing for a national championship anytime soon, but I also don’t think anyone thinks Brian Kelly is doing an outstanding job either.
Or should I say a better job than his predecessors.
In 2010, his team lost to a terrible Michigan squad at Notre Dame Stadium 28-24, got pummeled by the Naval Academy 35-17, and lost to Conference USA’s Tulsa Golden Hurricane under the watchful eye of “Touchdown Jesus” 28-27.
This season, Notre Dame opened the regular season with a 23-20 home loss to an average Big East foe in South Florida, blew a late lead in the waning seconds the following week to lose to the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor 35-31, and gave up a 14-0 lead to the Florida State Seminoles to lose the Champs Sports Bowl 18-14 to close out the year.
In fact, the only impressive win in 2011 for the Irish was a 31-13 victory over Michigan State in Week 3. Other than the games mentioned above, Notre Dame lost to the teams they probably should have lost to in USC and Stanford and beat the teams they most likely should have beaten anyway.
Is it really that impressive that 12 of Kelly’s 16 wins over the past two seasons were against: Purdue (twice), Boston College (twice), Pittsburgh (twice), Western Michigan, Army, Air Force, Wake Forest, Navy, and Maryland? Sure, beating Michigan State, USC, and Michigan are nice “rivalry” wins, but it’s not like Brian Kelly has faced a murderer’s row to finish 8-5 in 2010 and 2011.
Seriously, is this really how far Notre Dame has fallen? Rewarding a coach with an extension for barely going .500 in two years?
Brian Kelly may just be the right guy for the job, and maybe the extension will prove to be a wise decision by Swarbrick down the line, but for now, I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Why not see how things play out for the remainder of his original contract and go from there?
One would think that makes the most sense, but then again, this is Notre Dame we are talking about, so nothing they do should come as a surprise to anyone, I suppose.