Opinion: Brian Kelly's high-minded words, promises don't match his actions

Nancy Armour

Listen to Brian Kelly, and he sounds like the kind of coach for whom players will want to run through a wall.

Actually think about what he says, or do any kind of digging to see how his actions match up with his words, and you'll want to bang your head against a wall.

Or puke.

“This team at Notre Dame is an outstanding football team and they deserve to be in the playoffs.” Too bad Kelly’s dark-of-night departure six days before the College Football Playoff field is announced probably sabotaged whatever chances the No. 6 Irish had.

“You better be able to have the ability to reach your players and communicate with them.” Except when you’re running out the door for a new job. Then it’s fine to ghost them, as Kelly did Monday night, forcing his Notre Dame players to find out on social media that he was leaving for LSU.

“I wanted to get in front of them. Fortunately, I had that opportunity to get in front of them and tell them I was coming to LSU face to face.” Who doesn’t love a 7 a.m. meeting to be told what you already know! One that was over almost as soon as it began, no less.

“We will look you in the eye and we will tell you what we’re doing. We’ll be transparent.” Again, exceptions will be made for when you’re taking a job at LSU. Or at Notre Dame. Or at Cinci… you get the picture.

And my personal favorite, “Be demanding but never demeaning.” Whatever you do, don’t look at any of the videos of Kelly screaming at his players, or read the many more instances of him throwing specific players and staff members under the bus.

Kelly might be one of the country’s top coaches, capable under the right circumstances of winning the national title that LSU prizes above all else, academics and the well-being of its students included. The LSU faithful are, after two subpar seasons in Death Valley, understandably giddy over Kelly and the hope he brings.

But no one should harbor any illusions about Kelly or the promises he makes. Brian Kelly is about Brian Kelly, his loyalties solely to himself rather than any particular school or group of players. If a better opportunity comes along, Kelly will grab it and not think twice about the ramifications.

Even with a team in the running for the CFP, Kelly said Wednesday that it took all of 45 minutes for LSU athletic director Scott Woodward to sell him on his new gig.

Brian Kelly answers questions after being introduced as the new LSU football coach in a press conference at Tiger Stadium.

“I want to be under the bright lights. I want to be on the Broadway stage,” Kelly said in what seemed like his most telling statement of all.

Kelly is hardly the only coach who’s a hypocrite. These days, it often feels as if that’s a requirement to get to the highest level. And maybe the disingenuousness doesn’t bother the teenagers and 20-somethings who play for him so long as Kelly gets them to the playoff or the NFL. Or maybe they’re just immune to acts like his, having seen and heard enough of them before.

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But the model of college athletics is broken, college football in particular, and Kelly’s insincerity seems to personify the whole, sordid mess. The NCAA, conferences and schools are raking in billions, with almost nothing going to the athletes who make it possible. Schools and conferences, their common sense dulled by greed, are blowing up traditional – and sensible – alignments.

And the NCAA throws up its hands, all but begging Congress to be the adult in the room because no one is willing to police themselves.

So, no, it is no surprise that Brian Kelly would tell his Notre Dame players that his love for them is “limitless” after he’s just sold them and their playoff hopes out for a fat new contract at LSU. Nor is it a surprise that, two days later, he would present himself as a model of truth and integrity when his actions have shown him to be anything but.

“It’s not going to happen today, but we’re going to trust each other,” Kelly said, recalling what he told LSU players when he arrived Tuesday. “You’ll see it with my deeds, my actions, how we interact on a day-to-day basis.”

LSU, and anyone who believed anything that came out of Kelly's mouth, should consider themselves warned. 

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.