SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Athletic director Jack Swarbrick says it’s “business as usual” at Notre Dame and dismissed speculation that football coach Brian Kelly won’t be back next season, saying “we’re happy to do our part to provide entertainment to everyone who’s been engaged in all of that.”
Speaking publicly for the first time since the Fighting Irish finished the season 4-8, their second-worst record in five decades, Swarbrick said during his weekly radio show airing Saturday that in evaluating Kelly, he doesn’t look at this season in isolation. He noted the Irish finished 10-3 last season despite numerous injuries, describing that as one of the best coaching jobs he has seen. He called it “a remarkable year.”
Although Kelly agreed in January to a six-year contract that runs through 2021, there has been speculation about whether he wants to return for an eighth season and whether the university wants him back.
The university issued a statement from Kelly at about 3:40 a.m. on Nov. 27, hours after the Irish were beaten 45-27 by Southern California , saying he planned to be back next season. He had said the same thing immediately after the game but issued the statement following media reports that said he had reached out through representatives to explore other coaching options.
“I fully understood the background of those reports,” Swarbrick said. “Brian and I had discussions about his intentions and his future.”
Swarbrick conceded this season has been disappointing.
“Every player, every coach, myself, other administrators involved in the program, we all share the same view. There’s no way around that conclusion,” he said. “It’s not bad breaks, it’s not a play here or there. We didn’t do what we need to do. So we do start from that perspective. But I think there’s a danger in overreacting to any one piece of information that you get in the course of the evaluation of football programs.”
Swarbrick said he hadn’t commented earlier because he told ESPN in October he expected Kelly to be back next season and he didn’t feel like he needed to say anything further, saying: “If you get in the business of then reaffirming every week, you create an untenable situation.”
The radio show was taped Wednesday, while Kelly was conducting end-of-the-season meetings with players. Swarbrick said he and Kelly will sit down and go over the season and discuss what changes need to be made. Swarbrick said he won’t talk publicly about what changes he thinks must be made, but said he doesn’t expect “wholesale changes.”
Swarbrick said no pressure was put on him by the board of trustees to make a coaching change, saying that’s “not how Notre Dame operates.”
Kelly has a 59-31 record at Notre Dame, including going just 15-15 since getting off to a 7-1 start in 2014. The 31 losses are the most by a Notre Dame coach, one more than Lo Holtz had in 11 seasons.