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Leftovers & Links: Welcome to Notre Dame’s spring break

Phil Jurkovec Notre Dame

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 28: Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Phil Jurkovec (15) hands off the ball during the game between Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Iowa State Cyclones on December 28, 2019 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While Brian Kelly essentially took more than two months off from public appearances between Notre Dame’s dominant bowl victory and the beginning of spring practice, the rest of the world kept spinning, including the college football world. To a lesser extent, that continues this week as the Irish enjoy spring break before reconvening practice next Tuesday.

It may have largely been a quiet offseason for Notre Dame in terms of outgoing transfers, at least to this point, and the only ones to arrive in South Bend this winter were both graduate students with already built-in immediate eligibility — Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor and Northwestern receiver Bennett Skowronek — but Kelly is still well aware of the tides changing regarding transfers across the country.

Multiple conferences have endorsed a change in rules to allow each player a one-time chance at immediate eligibility following a transfer — essentially turning that graduate-student exception into a constant that can be applied one time for undergraduates, as well — and the NCAA has begun the process of putting that shift on the fast track, perhaps even for the 2020 season. Kelly is not going to be the head coach to oppose the new reality on a misguided principle.

“This is about getting student-athletes to be student-athletes,” Kelly said after the initial Irish spring practice on Thursday. “So if there’s a student-athlete component in transferring, I’m fine with it. I think you should give them the opportunity as long as they’re students and athletes.”

Kelly was not specifically asked about former Notre Dame quarterback Phil Jurkovec, now the presumptive starter at Boston College, pending eligibility. Even if he was, Kelly would be obligated to give a no comment, citing the privacy inherent to a student-athlete pursuing an eligibility waiver. But the reality is, if the NCAA gets the new rule in place by the fall, Jurkovec will start for the Eagles without needing a waiver.

RELATED READING: Jurkovec’s transfer a 2020 reality, not a surprise

To Kelly, that is similar to his coaching the Irish in 2010, just months after leaving Cincinnati. Frankly, his honest acknowledgment of the hypocrisy innate to many coaches criticizing transfers was refreshing.

“I was allowed to go from Central Michigan to Cincinnati,” Kelly said. “I got to move up. I got to move up from Cincinnati to Notre Dame. If players want to move and move up, I don’t have a problem with that.

“I had to do some things to move up. I had to be successful and do things the right way and follow the NCAA rules and be a good citizen. You don’t just get to choose and do things whatever just because you want to do them. As long as they’re thoughtful and have some parameters, I think it’s fine.”

The math is pretty simple: Kelly took over as the head coach at Grand Valley State in 1991. The average college student is between 18- and 22-years-old. Undoubtedly, more than a few players Kelly coached nearly three decades ago now have children of their own in college, including one of them on the practice field with Kelly.

The child of a former player working as a student manager does not garner as much notice as Kelly’s coaching staff now including two of his former players, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, but it is a bit more humbling for Kelly.

“That other stuff doesn’t matter to me,” Kelly said. “It’s when you have one of your manager’s dad played for you, that’s when you really feel it.”

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