Notre Dame is having a spectacular year and has been the most impressive college football team in the country not named Alabama. The Fighting Irish have created so much goodwill that a loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game won't hurt their chances at appearing in the College Football Playoff. In fact, the biggest threat to the Irish's final four dreams is coming from inside South Bend.
Here's Brian Kelly, thinking out loud today how it'd be a damn shame if they had a party and Notre Dame didn't show up because parents weren't invited.
"I'm not sure we'll play in the playoffs if the parents can't be there," Kelly said. "Why would be we play if you can't have families at the game? If you can't have families at bowl games, why would you go to a game where your families can't be part of it? What's the sense of playing a game in an area of the country where nobody can be part of it?"
This is clearly a toothless threat. Notre Dame being slated for a game in the Rose Bowl and saying thanks, but no thanks is something that won't be happening. And upon first blush, Kelly's comments seem pretty tone-deaf. But he does have a point in pointing out that monetary considerations are trumping what's logical. Because it's not logical to play some place where no one can come watch due to the pandemic independent of previous commitments.
We all remember our great awakenings. Kelly realizing that college football does a lot of stuff that doesn't make much sense in service of the bottom line could set him down a wild road. The type of road that makes him wonder where he's been all these years.
He wasn't done being coherent.
"Why can't it be the Rose Bowl in Las Vegas or can it be the Rose Bowl in another town?" Kelly asked. "Where's the flexibility for the student-athlete is all I'm saying. The one thing these kids have been is incredibly flexible, and then on the other side we can't be flexible? It's hard to imagine."
Here's the thing, though. What if the selection committee reads these comments and decides it's too risky to select Notre Dame in the first place? As far as I can tell, the Irish are the only team having reservations about accepting a bid to the playoff. And it'd be unbelievably humiliating to college football as a whole if Kelly somehow followed through on his threat to potentially maybe taking a pass.
This is a wholly human endeavor and while Kelly's statements are understandable, there's no upside to making them. How many people actually clicked through to read them in full context after initially bristling at the excerpt? How does the committee feel about being put in this awkward situation? And how sympathetic is the average person really going to be that families have to watch a game on television as we hang on for dear life during the darkest days of the pandemic?