Brian Kelly is LSU football’s biggest hire yet


People to Watch

in the Capital Region

After two lackluster years with a coach who had lost his luster, LSU lured Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly away from South Bend to try to bring the Tigers back to the promised land of college football.

He was introduced Dec. 1 and immediately, as they say, won the press conference. He then kept it going by attending that night’s LSU basketball game and addressing the wildly cheering crowd at halftime.

“I will tell you this: The greatest fans deserve an incredible football team,” Kelly told fans in the PMAC. “We will begin right this minute to put together the next national championship football team at Louisiana State University!”

His record is the best of any football coach ever hired at LSU, and for it he got a 10-year, $95 million contract.

Photo by: Gus Stark / Courtesy LSU Athletics

LSU has won national championships in 1958, 2003, 2007 and 2019. But in the truncated 2020 season, the Tigers finished 5-5, the worst ever for a team after winning it all. At this writing, they’d finished 2021 at 6-6 and were pondering bowl opportunities.

Kelly is not going to win the Miss Congeniality award. He has a blunt, matter-of-fact style that is reminiscent of other top-level coaches (think Nick Saban and Bill Belichick) and gets right to the point.

He has his share of off-the-field detractors, too. Do a Google search for “Brian Kelly jerk,” and 23 million hits come up.

When he was introduced to the LSU faithful, The Advocate did a story with the headline “As Brian Kelly comes to LSU, here’s a look back at off-the-field Notre Dame controversies.”

Photo by: Gus Stark / Courtesy LSU Athletics

Among them: A student videographer died when the lift on which he was shooting flipped over in a Notre Dame practice. A student from another school reported that a Notre Dame football player raped her and she later committed suicide. And Notre Dame had to vacate wins in 2012 and 2013 when the NCAA ruled that football players got improper academic help.

None of that will matter to LSU fans if Kelly does what his three predecessors—Nick Saban, Les Miles and Ed Orgeron—all did: Win the national championship.

This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of 225 magazine.