Kelly: Arrested players on short leash
CHICAGO -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's reach goes well beyond the football field. It has to, because his new job demands it.
Well-traveled from meeting Fighting Irish alumni and fans across the country, he knows how his past successes and ability to transform programs at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati have ramped up the expectations for a storied program hoping to be a championship contender again.
"I took the job knowing that full well," Kelly said Saturday before a fundraiser for his foundation that supports breast cancer research.
We hold them accountable for their actions on a day-to-day basis, just like any parent would for a 17- to 21-year-old. So yeah, we take that serious.” -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly
"We know what is expected when it comes to Notre Dame football. It had a national following from coast to coast. ... I understand the enormous task and responsibility of the position or I wouldn't have taken it. But I don't think I get caught up every day thinking about it either," he said.
Kelly made it clear Saturday he was not happy with eight of his players who were arrested last weekend for underage drinking at a party in South Bend, Ind.
"We're certainly disappointed that some of our players didn't make good decisions," Kelly said. "We hold them accountable for their actions on a day-to-day basis, just like any parent would for a 17- to 21-year-old. So yeah, we take that serious."
Among the 11 athletes arrested were backup quarterback Nate Montana, wide receivers Robby Toma and Tai-ler Jones, linebacker Steve Filer, kicker Nick Tausch, cornerback Lo Wood and offensive linemen Chris Watt and Tate Nichols;
Kelly said he met with the team last Sunday to make sure his players knew how he felt about the situation.
"I think with a little bit more time with them, I think they are going to make better choices next time around," he said, adding the players involved would be on short leashes.
"I'm thankful it wasn't an event that was larger in scale that could have been catastrophic," he said. "Our players clearly know that I'm not happy about reading about Notre Dame in the newspaper when it comes to things like this."
While Kelly is in Chicago -- about a 90-minute drive from Notre Dame's South Bend campus -- he's scheduled to visit Wrigley Field and throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Cubs' game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.
Kelly will also lead the crowd in the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch. He said he's more worried about the singing than the pitching.
As for his team, which starts preseason practice in two weeks, Kelly knows his team must make a quick carry-over from what it did in spring practice learning his system, especially on offense where the Irish will employ a no-huddle, hurry-up spread attack.
But behind Crist the Irish are even more inexperienced with Montana and four freshmen.
"We got to keep Dayne healthy," Kelly said. "That's the one that keeps me up. There's no question, not having a guy that's got a couple of years experience, even in a part-time role, is unusual for me. ... We've got zero of that."
Notre Dame starts its season Sept. 4 at home against Purdue, and no one knows if that is enough time for the Irish to adjust to their new coaching staff and new system.
Don't expect Kelly to use any of that as an excuse.
"I've just never worked that way, never been wired to go in and say listen, give us a couple more years," he said. "I think I always operate with a sense or urgency. And there's no clearer understanding than there's a sense or urgency at Notre Dame right now."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press