Yesterday, we discussed at length the comparable situations between Eddie Vanderdoes and former UCLA golfer Gavin Hall, who was released by golf coach Derek Freeman without penalty after enrolling in Westwood and enjoying the benefits of his student-athlete status at one of the world's elite universities. The comparison between how UCLA and Notre Dame handled the release of student-athletes with signed NLIs (and in the case of UCLA and Gavin Hall, a student-athlete enrolled in and attending classes prior to the commencement of his athletic season) could not have been more different, which just exposes the unfair and hypocritical NLI process.
Naturally, this entire situation is all the more comical because it's Brian Kelly preaching about protecting the integrity of an unfair NLI process and about the need to hold people "accountable" when they back out of their commitments. And this is where someone needs to take Brian Kelly, behind the proverbial woodshed. If I was a Notre Dame fan, official, or alum, I'd be embarrassed every time this guy opens his mouth to talk about accountability:
"Eddie Vanderdoes had a standard to live up to and he was held accountable. So those aren't that hard. I don't have to spend much time thinking about it," Kelly said Wednesday.
Kelly announced last week the university would not release Vanderdoes, a standout high school recruit from Auburn, Calif., from his letter of intent so he can enroll at UCLA, meaning he can't play football for the Bruins this fall and will lose a season of eligibility. Kelly was asked whether it was fair he was allowed to leave Cincinnati in 2009, where he had a contract to coach the Bearcats through the 2013 season, and take the Notre Dame job and begin coaching the Irish the next season and Vanderdoes can't play this season.
"I paid a million dollars in a buyout, too. There's accountability in making those decisions," Kelly said. "You can break the contract. He's broken the contract and he's going to go to another school. But there's a level of accountability there."
Let that sink in for a minute while we discuss Eddie's situation. As we discussed before, Gavin Hall backed out on UCLA (after enjoying the benefits of his athletic scholarship) because the West Coast wasn't a "good fit." Apparently, Austin is a "good fit" but Los Angeles was not. That's it. No extenuating circumstances, no dying family member back in New York. And yet, Derek Freeman wasn't going to penalize a young man who (like many young people) had a change-of-heart and wasn't happy. Now, Eddie, unlike Gavin, has extenuating circumstances (as reported by the excellent Tracy Pierson at BRO and Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports), as we discussed at length before (original quote from Pierson at BRO):
Eddie Vanderdoes, the five-star 2013 defensive lineman, has tried to get out of his National Letter of Intent to Notre Dame because his grandmother is seriously ill, according to sources.
Shortly after Vanderdoes signed the NLI in February his grandmother took ill. Once he learned the seriousness of the illness, Vanderdoes determined he wouldn't want to be so far away from her or his family.
... When asked how seriousness the illness, a source indicated that the next year and half would be an important time for Vanderdoes to be close to his family.
Gavin Hall is allowed a full four years of eligibility at the collegiate level, yet Eddie Vanderdoes isn't. Does anyone else see how wrong that is? It's not as if Notre Dame have detrimentally relied on Vanderdoes' NLI in any manner. Yes, they expended a great deal of resources during his commitment, but if Eddie had faxed his NLI to Southern Cal, UCLA, or any other school, Notre Dame would still be out those costs and have no reason to complain. And, it's not as if Notre Dame had to release other players from their NLI to save a spot for Eddie: Notre Dame only signed 24 players (out of the 25 maximum allotment per year) in the Class of 2013. In short, Kelly's response just reads as nothing more than sour grapes.
Naturally, the Notre Dame homers are quick to point out that Auburn is northeast of Sacramento, and at least a seven-hour drive from Los Angeles, which of course, ignores the fact that there are between six and eight flights (depending on the day) between Sacramento International Airport (approximately 1 hour from Auburn) and LAX, on just Southwest Airlines alone. Good luck trying to find a direct flight from South Bend to Sacramento. Speaking from personal experience (having had a dying member of my immediate family in Northern California during my time at UCLA), those regular 1-hour flights from LAX to Northern California were a God-send to get home as often as possible.
But, because his grandmother had the audacity of being ill, Brian Kelly is going to punish Eddie Vanderdoes and strip this 18-year-old of a year of college football eligibility.
But even if Eddie's grandmother was in excellent health (and all of us in the wider Bruins family hope and pray that she make a full recovery), why does that matter? It didn't matter to Derek Freeman when Gavin Hall wanted out of Westwood. But, apparently, it really matters to Brian Kelly.
So let's turn back to Kelly's comments on accountability. In his world, he was accountable because he "paid a million dollars in a buyout." In other words, in Brian's world, if you have the cash, you can buy your accountability. Never mind that those "million dollars" are a drop in the bucket for Notre Dame, which presumably gave Kelly a one-time payment of $1.7 million in 2010 to contribute to his $1 million Cincinnati contract buyout. Yes, you read that right: Notre Dame gave Brian Kelly a one-time payment of $1.7 million (out of his $2.4 million total compensation for 2010) in 2010, which in all likelihood is a combination of a signing-bonus and cash for his Cincinnati contract buyout (which is common-place in contract buy-out situations, as we learned with Steve Alford and the New Mexico contract buy-out):
Meanwhile, Kelly earned a total of $2,424,301 — but a notation referring to $1,762,334 of "other reportable compensation" indicated that all or part of that total was a "one-time payment to Coach Kelly."
Given that Kelly did not begin receiving compensation until the 2010 calendar year and therefore did not appear on the tax form for July 2009 through June 2010, that money may have contributed to any buyout Kelly owed Cincinnati after leaving for the Irish in December 2009.
Kelly's base compensation is listed as $617,846 and the form does not include any compensation from "external sources," such as shoe companies.
Easy to talk a big game about "accountability" and paying a "million dollars" in a contract buyout when your new employer is footing the bill for it, isn't it?
Of course, Brian Kelly's "accountability" by paying a "million dollars" in a buy-out completely ignores the accountability he had to the the young men he recruited to play at the University of Cincinnati, the football players he abandoned just before the Sugar Bowl to end the 2009 season (just like the football players he abandoned at Central Michigan just before the Motor City Bowl at the end of the 2006 season). Of course, you have to remember that Brian Kelly recruited many of those players at Cincinnati, that he went to their homes, met their parents, convinced these young men to play football for him at Cincinnati. And when he takes them to a perfect season, preparing for the Sugar Bowl against the vaunted Florida Gators led by Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow, what does he do? He abandoned them:
The news did not 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.
And of course, it was done in the classiest of ways:
The team held its annual football banquet at a downtown hotel on Thursday night. As players arrived for what was supposed to be a night of celebration, they were greeted by camera crews and reporters asking about Kelly's decision to leave Cincinnati for Notre Dame.
Three hours later, players were told to gather in a meeting room so Kelly could share the news that most already knew.
One minute into the meeting, the door opened and Gilyard walked out angry and alone, save his MVP trophy. His teammates soon followed, some with teary eyes. They had a difficult time accepting that Kelly was leaving one of the nation's top teams before its biggest bowl game.
"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."
Sure, you can't blame the man for taking the Notre Dame job; after all, this is Notre Dame football we're talking about. But, to not finish the season out with his team? To abandon them before the most important game of the year (and for many, of their entire career)? It's just cold-hearted.
But then, years later, to preach about accountability while refusing to release an 18-year-old from his NLI because his grandmother is sick, is, at best, the worst kind of hypocritical narcissism. But, this shouldn't be a surprise from a man, who not once, but twice, abandoned the young men entrusted to him on the eve of a bowl game to jump ship and take another job. But hey, it's okay, "he" (read: out of the $1.7 million Notre Dame paid him) paid a "million dollars" in his contract buyout, which somehow justifies penalizing Eddie Vanderdoes for having the audacity to want to stay in California close to his family, despite never enjoying any of the benefits of his Notre Dame football scholarship.
But would you expect anything less from a coach that bailed on his football team not once, but twice, before an end-of-the-season bowl game?
Stay classy Brian.