Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said his heart kept him with the Irish and he stood by All-American linebacker Manti Te’o during his first comments since the BCS championship game Jan. 7.
Kelly addressed his interview with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Te’o hoax and personnel matters during a teleconference Tuesday.
The coach, who led Notre Dame to a 12-0 regular season before losing 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS title game, said his interview with the Eagles was more about curiosity than a serious look to jump to the NFL. Kelly met with the Eagles on Jan. 8 and released a statement Jan. 12 that he would stay at Notre Dame.
“I really didn’t understand the NFL process, the game, who’s involved in the day-to-day operations of selecting the team, all of those things,” Kelly said. “I wanted to answer those because we’re going to win again next year and there’s probably going to be teams interested in me coaching in the NFL, and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach college.
“The intrigue was more about I wanted that information so it’s easy for me to make a decision on being here in the college game. I love Notre Dame. I love the college game.”
Kelly said he regretted waiting four days to release the statement saying he would stay with the Irish, and he also said he has had discussions with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick about a new deal since Dec. 6.
“We both want the same thing and that is the long-term consistency of the program,” Kelly said. “The best way I could say is Jack and I are in lock step in how we want to continue to build this program.”
Kelly also said as the Te’o hoax has continued to unfold that the details have been in “lock step” with everything the linebacker told him about the situation in which Te’o was led to believe he had an online relationship with a woman, who he was led to believe died of leukemia only to be told she hadn’t died and then later learned she never existed.
Kelly said he wasn’t involved in the discussions on when the story should be revealed, and he also wasn’t positive the hoax didn’t affect Te’o in the loss to Alabama.
“He didn’t play his best,” Kelly said. “Alabama had something to do with that as well, clearly. I really don’t know. That’s a lot of weight on the shoulders of somebody. I think we could make a leap that maybe it did, but I think Manti would know for sure.”
Kelly also provided updates on player injuries and personnel matters.
He said cornerback Bennett Jackson and linebacker Dan Fox had shoulder surgery, and both will likely be limited to non-contact drills during spring practice. Kelly also said cornerback Lo Wood (Achilles) and safety Austin Collinsworth (shoulder) are recovering well.
Offensive lineman Matt Hegarty, who had surgery to repair two holes in his heart, is expected to be cleared to return and will likely compete with Nick Martin and Mark Harrell for the starting center position, but offensive tackle Tate Nichols (knee) could become a medical hardship case, according to Kelly.
Kelly said Notre Dame is still in the process of appealing for a sixth year of eligibility for safety Jamoris Slaughter, who was lost after the third week of the season to an Achilles injury.