In an ideal world, most college football coaches would prefer to keep their athletes on campus developing as players and working toward their degrees for as long as they’re eligible. However, circumstances change for young men in their teens and early-20s, and transfers are inevitable.
Most coaches leave some room for understanding that fact of their professional lives, but Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly doesn’t appear to be one of them. Unless a player has graduated, Kelly is making his anti-transfer position pretty clear.
“I don’t think it can be a good thing, unless they have their degree,” Kelly said, according to Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune. “Then if a young man believes he could be receiving more playing time, we shouldn’t be quarreling about playing time. You should go find a place to play.”
That means that Kelly has had quite a few uncomfortable conversations with unhappy kids in recent years. Hansen reports that 49 of 178 players signed during the Kelly era (not counting the Class of 2018) have transferred or are in the process of transferring.
The risky thing for Notre Dame is that Kelly’s position may eventually cost him on the recruiting trail. Nobody wants to imagine anything but the best-case scenario as a high school athlete embarks upon a collegiate career. But given the increasing prevalence of transfers, the idea that Kelly might give them trouble if they decide to leave might be offputting.
Despite claiming he’s OK with graduate transfers, Kelly took a swipe at former Notre Dame defensive lineman Jay Hayes when he announced his decision to leave. Those comments clearly upset Hayes, who is finishing his college career at Georgia. If coaches aren’t already using Kelly’s demeanor to recruit against him, this may become a prime example.
Ultimately, Kelly will be defined by wins and losses. The general standoffishness evidenced here will continue to be overlooked if he’s winning. But if he’s not, and if he rubs people the wrong way on the recruiting trail, he’ll have a mighty challenge ahead of him.