Notre Dame has settled on Brian Kelly as the man who can restore its faded glory, just as he turned Cincinnati into a national title contender.
Just 10 days after Charlie Weis was fired, it’s up to Kelly to revive the fortunes of a team that just completed the worst decade of football in the history of the storied program with a 70-52 record and three losing seasons.
Kelly got a five-year deal from Notre Dame and will be introduced as coach in South Bend this afternoon. He declined to comment in Cincinnati, where he informed his players of the move after their football banquet Thursday night. He won’t coach them in the Sugar Bowl.
The news didn’t play well with Kelly’s current team. Bearcat players were led into a meeting room, where Kelly told them he was leaving and thanked them for making his opportunity possible. One minute into the meeting, the door opened and receiver Mardy Gilyard walked out angry and alone, save his MVP trophy.
“He went for the money,” Gilyard told The Associated Press. “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long.”
Players weren’t told of Kelly’s decision until the banquet ended, nearly three hours after the news first broke. A few blinked back tears as they left.
“We already knew what he was going to say. We weren’t giving him a round of applause or anything,” tight end Ben Guidugli said. “It’s like somebody turned their back on us. We brought this whole thing this far. We’ve come this far. To have someone walk out now is disappointing.”
Offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn will coach the No. 4 Bearcats in their first Sugar Bowl game against Florida. Quinn has been one of Kelly’s assistants for 22 years, moving with him from Grand Valley State to Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
The 47-year-old Kelly was 34-6 in three seasons at Cincinnati.
“I don’t like it,” Gilyard said before the banquet. “I feel there was a little lying in the thing. I feel like he’d known this the whole time. Everybody knows Notre Dame’s got the money. I kind of had a gut feeling he was going to stay just because he told me he was going to be here.”
Kiffin denies violations
Knoxville, Tenn. — Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin says he was not “aware” of any recruiting violations committed by himself, his assistants or support staff regarding the university’s student ambassador program. He said during a news conference Thursday he and his staff take the rules of the NCAA and SEC “extremely serious.”
Royals release Jacobs, Bale
Kansas City, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals cleared a couple of roster spots with the unconditional releases of first baseman Mike Jacobs and left-handed reliever John Bale.
The Royals made the moves ahead of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in Indianapolis, where they selected pitcher Edgar Osuna from Atlanta’s minor-league system. Jacobs played one season with Kansas City, hitting .228 with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs. Bale was 0-1 with a 5.72 earned-run average.
Harden, Rangers agree
Indianapolis — Rich Harden and the Texas Rangers completed a one-year contract Thursday that guarantees the right-hander $7.5 million. The deal calls for a $6.5 million salary next year and includes an $11.5 million mutual option for 2011 with a $1 million buyout. Harden struck out 171 batters in 141 innings last season, going 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA for the Chicago Cubs.
Crane denies quotes
Jacksonville, Fla. — Two golfers quoted by a weekly magazine as making disparaging remarks about Tiger Woods and his marriage said Thursday night they never spoke to the publication.
In a story that Life & Style posted on its Web site, Ben Crane is quoted as saying Woods is a “phony and a fake” and that Woods’ wife knew about allegations of extramarital affairs. It also quotes Charles Warren as saying Woods’ wife “had stars in her eyes and maybe dollar signs too” and should leave him.
“This is unbelievable,” Crane told The Associated Press from his Dallas-area home. “I never said a word about anything. They print this and put my name next to it.”
Tourney expansion mulled
Kansas City, Mo. — The NCAA has rekindled discussion of expanding its men’s basketball tournament and is looking into the possibility of moving it from broadcast to cable.
NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen said Thursday any talks about expanding the tournament or switching to another network are in the very early stages.
The NCAA can opt out of its 11-year, $6 billion contract with CBS after this season and Shaheen said the organization is going through due diligence for all 88 of its championships.
Hasselbeck back at practice
Renton, Wash. — Matt Hasselbeck is back practicing with the Seahawks — and tired of talking about his health.
The 34-year-old three-time Pro Bowl quarterback practiced Thursday, after taking another Wednesday off to rest a sore throwing shoulder. He will start Sunday at Houston.
The shoulder that had been paining him got worse last weekend on a tackle at the end of a scramble against San Francisco.
Raiders’ Gallery finished
Alameda, Calif. — Oakland Raiders left guard Robert Gallery will miss the rest of the season because of a lower back injury. Gallery injured himself in last week’s game at Pittsburgh. Coach Tom Cable said Thursday that Gallery would need a “repair” done and wouldn’t return this season. The injury is not career-threatening.
IOC approves changes
Lausanne, Switzerland — Olympic leaders made two roster changes Thursday for the 2012 London Games: Track cycling’s signature endurance race is out and tennis mixed doubles is in.
The International Olympic Committee executive board agreed to a program of five men’s and five women’s track cycling events as part of a plan proposed by cycling’s governing body. As a result, the Olympics will lose track cycling’s 4,000-meter individual pursuit for men and 3,000-meter pursuit for women.