Speaking on a podcast hosted by Steph Curry and others in which the main topic of conversation, surprise surprise, was race in America, Kelly appeared to let the cat out of the bag early by naming new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman his heir apparent. Freeman is a black man who became a hot coaching name in the past couple of years, and since he’s signed with Notre Dame despite a myriad of other offers, speculation that he may be the next head coach one day began circulating. When Kelly himself gleefully made mention of it too, the rumors became outright predictions.
Now Kelly is backtracking, going as far as claiming that he would be “offended” if someone asked him about his replacement.
“We were talking about race so we weren’t talking about Notre Dame at all. It’s like anything else, somebody took the comments and inserted Notre Dame in it and it had nothing to do with Notre Dame. We were talking about giving qualified people, in particular African American and Black leaders the opportunity to lead.
“I’ve done that in my football program with director of operations, I think I alluded to that. Then we were talking about coaches and I said the next head coach will be Marcus Freeman and that got taken as the next head coach at Notre Dame, but that was never part of the equation. I was talking about him being the next Black head coach, in terms of that will be the next head coach that is Black in the country.
“It’s just one of those things, you’re on a golf course, and you’re talking about race in America and everybody else thought I was talking about Notre Dame football. So, it is what it is. I don’t know if I clarified it any because I think it’s still gonna be taken as, ‘Oh, he must have been thinking that he’s the next head coach.’ But if you think about it, why would somebody ask me, ‘Hey, who’s going to be the next head coach?’ I’d be pretty offended.”
It’s pretty clear what happened here: Kelly got swept up in the liberal, white guilt driven pleasure of lamenting race relations with other serial lamenters, and accidentally stepped over the line in an attempt to quantify just how much he truly cares.
Whatever his intentions may have been, he made clear comments that were rightfully construed by the entire media as significant and newsworthy; comments he likely doesn’t make at a camp presser or post-game interview. They occurred in an environment where they were supposed to occur.
No doubt someone above him in the administration admonished him for the handcuffing error, which would have destroyed any negotiating leverage if true, and demanded that he clarify in the interest of the university’s next hire cycle.
So what’s the lesson here? Be yourself, regardless of the company you presently keep. Brian Kelly is an old pro who knows not to put words in other people’s mouths in order to score political points, even if he thinks he’s doing them a favor. Marcus Freeman’s success will be entirely based on his own merit, not his skin color, and certainly not because his current employer notices that people of his skin color have endured hardships. It’s high time that anti-racists come to understand that the less we talk about life through a distinct prism of race, especially negatively, the less racism will truly exist in the world around us.