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Kelly hits airwaves in SEC country

There’s no bigger mouthpiece in the South for college football than Paul Finebaum, who has been a presence in Birmingham and across much of the Southeast for thirty years. Besides his platform as a columnist, he’s also a popular sports-talk personality, and yesterday he had Brian Kelly on his airwaves for an interview.

Here are a few snippets from Finebaum’s conversation with Kelly:

On the adjustments to coaching at Notre Dame:

“Coast to coast, recruiting, 250 alumni groups across the country and obviously the footprint is national for Notre Dame relative to its fan base and quite frankly the interest in its program. I’ve gone from taking a drive up to Columbus on occasion when I was at Cincinnati to being on a plane from New York to LA.”

When asked about joining the Big Ten:

"(Laughing) We were thinking the Mountain West. It’s obviously shifting out there. It’s a dynamic time in college football and it’s never been more popular than it is. I think we saw that with the conferences and how it didn’t really affect basketball as much as the football schools we’re moving. Clearly we’ve got to keep our ear to the ground. Our Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has obviously been in constant communication with all the players but we’re able to stay in an independent status right now. I’d like to keep it but were also realists and we have to be able to react and have a plan if this turns into super conferences.”

On handling the expectations of coaching the Irish:

“It’s much like Alabama. You don’t have much time. Nick Saban went into Alabama and transitioned to a championship team in very short order and we’re gonna have to do the same thing at Notre Dame. There’s no patience for it any more so it doesn’t matter what you say. You gotta get it done right away and we’re gonna have to get this football team playing at a national, high level and be a national caliber football team early. We don’t have the luxury of waiting around. It’s been too long since Notre Dame has been in that picture and we gotta get it done early.”

On whether it’s hit him that he’s the head coach of Notre Dame:

“If I came in the office everyday thinking I was the head coach at Notre Dame, Id jump out my window with the expectations. I’m focused on the process and the process for me is to work on winning every day. All the attention to detail, all the things that are necessary to build a championship program, that’s really what I focus on. I did those every step of the way and I’m gonna continue to do them at Notre Dame. That’s all I know. I’ve got 20 years experience as a head coach and I don’t know how to do it any other way. I will rely on my instincts of working on winning every single day and focus on the process not being the head coach at Notre Dame.”

We didn’t get anything new out of the BK media playbook, but it was interesting to listen to Finebaum’s reaction to Kelly. If you listen to the interview (audio here), you can hear Kelly actually engage Finebaum, getting laughs when he wanted them and almost immediately turn one of the biggest skeptics in the college football world into believing in him.

Finebaum, who stated he had doubts after the Kelly hire was announced, seemed to do an about-face after having one conversation with the new Irish coach.

“He is basically a nine year younger version of Nick Saban,” Finebaum said after the interview. “Completely consumed with recruiting and success, has a plan and is not going to take a breath or waste a second.”

As a Notre Dame fan, I don’t think there can be a bigger compliment paid to your head coach, especially considering Kelly’s already far superior skills with the media.

(H/T: Sports Radio Interviews)