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Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly carries on tradition of snake-oil coaches

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly Robby Toma

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, Robby Toma

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Updated: January 11, 2013 11:36AM

First thing, big-time ballplayers — don’t ever believe your coach. OK?

Not on important things, anyway. Like life. Or tomorrow.

He says the sky is blue, you’d better check it because it might be gray, brown or pitch black.

He tells you he loves you, he’ll never leave you — uh-oh, he may be packing his bags.

Listen to those silly speeches about tradition and winning one for the alums or Jesus or America or the ghost of some old boy who built the stadium. That’s fine. Whatever it takes to get you geeked.

Indeed, football is all about emotion and hyperbole and building to a controlled frenzy, and maybe that’s why Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly — the man who said, ‘‘I’ve got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever’’ and, ‘‘Leaving is not an option’’ — seems prepared to move on to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles just days after losing to Alabama in the BCS title game.

Kelly couldn’t be more Notre Dame if he were born in the Grotto. He’s Irish Catholic, hails from Boston, looks like a dozen leprechauns stitched together with a tomato on top. When he would yell at former starting quarterback Tommy Rees, ‘‘fighting’’ seemed stitched across his forehead like a neon uni-brow.

But his loyalty? Dubious.

See, these coaches have halfway built their careers around lies. They say they’re happy here while their eyes are looking there. They tell little Jimmy he’s the best fullback in the world, and then they slot him fifth string. They tell fans they can beat every team they play, graduate all their players with honors and create well-rounded, ethical men when all they really know is their contract expires in a year, they might get canned tomorrow and they’d take Leatherface if he could score from the 3 and stay eligible through mid-January.

That Kelly interviewed with the Eagles just hours after saying he wasn’t going anywhere isn’t even worthy of confession time, as these things go. Making $3 million a year, four years left on the contract — nowadays it means nothing. Why, the man Kelly looks up to, the man who just handed him his Fighting Irish in a lunch bag, Alabama coach Nick Saban, is legendary for lying about his future. Indeed, his pre-Alabama battle cry when he was with the Miami Dolphins was, ‘‘I’m not going to Alabama!’’

The list of men who were at their ‘‘dream job’’ and then sneaked out of town is long and distinguished. Remember Northwestern’s Gary Barnett? I believe he told his players goodbye via e-mail. Didn’t Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville just slip off to Cincinnati while at dinner with Tech recruits?

And good ol’ Bobby Petrino, man, what did he do at Arkansas? Oh, right. Among other things, the married man lied about a motorcycle crash with his girlfriend aboard, the girlfriend he’d already put on the school’s payroll.

Petrino is worth more study here. The man basically sets the modern standard for lyin’ and leavin’. He signed a fat 10-year deal at Louisville in 2006, but left for the Atlanta Falcons a half-year later. He left the Falcons with three games to go in his first season and took the Arkansas gig. Even after leaving Arkansas in shame, he soon signed a four-year deal with Western Kentucky, at $850,000 per year, making him the highest-paid coach in the Sun Belt Conference.

This is the man Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long fired because of his ‘‘pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior.’’

Kelly himself bolted Cincinnati for Notre Dame three years ago, leaving stunned, saddened players behind. Did Notre Dame care about that? Please. Kelly was coming for the higher ground, the higher good. Remember, it takes two to tango, Domers.

They used to say about Saban — and maybe they still do — ‘‘He’s only lying when his lips are moving.’’

And he’s the greatest college coach in America.

Get the connection, youngsters? If Knute Rockne could lie about the Gipper for personal gain — that is, football wins, fame, money — why can’t Brian Kelly turn his tail on Touchdown Jesus and pursue whatever it is coaches pursue?

Just know for sure, it’s not integrity.

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