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Irish fans, recruits left wondering about Kelly

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Irish fans, recruits left wondering about Kelly

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III captured the emotion of just about everyone who follows the Fighting Irish with a simple tweet: ``Didnt see that coming!''

News that coach Brian Kelly had interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles one day after the Irish were thoroughly beaten 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS title game caught just about everyone by surprise.

The job, after all, has not traditionally been a springboard to the NFL and is viewed by many - at least Notre Dame fans - as a destination job for a deep-pocketed program with one of the most storied histories in college football. And why would anyone leave after coming so close to the national championship?

Nix, who already announced he was skipping the NFL draft and returning to Notre Dame next season, told his followers he wasn't concerned about Kelly's interview.

``Im not worried and you shouldnt be either,'' he tweeted.

The early reaction from Notre Dame recruits indicated they are still committed to the Irish.

``If Kelly leaves!!!!!,,,,, I'm still a domer S/O to my ND fans,'' linebacker Jaylon Smith tweeted.

Cornerback Devin Butler expressed similar feelings, tweeting: ``I committed to a program and school.. Not a coach.'' He then added: ``But I doubt he leaves.''

Still, the interview alone could prove costly. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports says Notre Dame was on track to possibly have the top recruiting class this year, but said some recruits will get antsy if Kelly doesn't announce his intention soon. He said other schools probably started calling recruits shortly after the news broke.

``There will be kids looking at other schools now. I don't see that happening unless Kelly's telling them he's not leaving,'' Lemming said.

Kelly, who was believed to be out of the country, originally signed a five-year contract three years ago at a reported $2.5 million a year and was given a two-year extension a year ago. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters Sunday he had planned to talk with Kelly about extending his contract. Swarbrick did not respond to messages left by The Associated Press at his office or on his cellphone seeking comment. Neither did Kelly's agent, Trace Armstrong.

Kelly told reporters in Florida before the game that Notre Dame was his dream job, but said while he was coaching at Cincinnati he was focused on that. He then added: ``I think that's the same thing with the NFL.''

``I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever. I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have,'' he said.

The question is, will he have another opportunity? He is the first Notre Dame coach in recent memory to interview for another job. Former Irish coach Charlie Weis was given a 10-year contract when there were reports the New York Giants might be interested in talking to him.

Former Big Eight Commissioner Chuck Neinas, who has spent years helping coaches and administrators find jobs and recently spent about 10 months as the Big 12 interim commissioner, said it's hard to tell what might motivate a coach to interview for a job.

``Some people might be using this as a stepping stone, others to get their name out, that they're movable,'' he said. ``But I think most people that interview are interested in the position.''

Kelly could be trying to get something more than a better contract, including more money for his assistants, and he has indicated he would like a massive scoreboard that can show video replays and synthetic turf at Note Dame Stadium.

Neinas said he doesn't think most coaches have hidden interests. He said his advice is to interview only if you want the job.

``I tell them, `If you're not interested, don't interview,''' he said.

But sports attorney Darren Heitner says Kelly owed it to himself to at least talk with the Eagles.

``Even if he had no intention of actually accepting that job, it is the most beautiful bargaining chip he has in his possession. Even if the entire time he intended to stay, why not entertain the offer and perhaps get some more money into his pocket?'' he said.

Ato Boldon, speakers stress accessibility of youth sports at hearing on Capitol Hill

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NBC Sports Washington

Ato Boldon, speakers stress accessibility of youth sports at hearing on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON -- About a dozen players from the Howard County TERPS 10U football team ran around Rayburn Lobby at the House of Representatives on Tuesday morning, their red, yellow and black jerseys darting around members of Congress and visitors as the players tossed footballs and swung plastic mini golf clubs.

Earlier that morning, the team sat in the seats of the Ways and Means Committee in Room 2020, a vast change from the suit-and tie-wearing politicians normally behind the microphones. 

The team wasn't there to wreak havoc on politicians but was instead present for the National Youth Sports Day hearing and expo, a joint effort by the National Council of Youth Sports and the Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports intended t0 start a dialogue around youth sports and the NCYS's policy platform. 

The main message: youth sports needs to be accessible to all children and prioritized by the federal and state governments and by coaches.

Youth sports are one of our most valuable assets and teaching tools, implored Clay Walker, the National Fitness Foundation executive director. He emphasized the need for persons at both the state and federal level to make youth sports a top priority. Walker added to four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon's message that right now, the most critical issues lawmakers face are those concerning today's youth.

For Boldon, who has served as the lead track and field analyst for NBC Sports' coverage of the Summer Olympics since 2007, his achievements in sports served as a "catalyst" for other opportunities, opportunities that he, and other panelists, said need to be accessible to everyone. 

A rising sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Nora Fairbanks-Lee was the youngest member of the panel. She explained how playing basketball and softball have helped her develop into a more confident person.

"Sports teaches unforgettable life lessons," Fairbanks-Lee said, adding that sports provide a safe space for children in the community to work through their problems. 

The final message of the main hearing came from Charles Elliot, who said that coaches "have to begin to invest in kids [and] put time in." Elliot, the president of the Maryland Football and Cheer Association, and former football coach, demonstrated the innate power coaches hold over children by blowing a whistle, at which point every Terps player jumped to their feet ready to go.

"Whatever coach says, that's what goes," Elliot explained. He argued that coaches should strive to be mentors and turn players into better human beings, not simply into better athletes.

Elliot's argument carried back to the necessary prioritizing of youth sports and the purpose of the conference as a whole: to greate that dialogue which continues to promote safe, healthy and accessible play for all children.

After the hearing, those in attendance retired to the lobby, where various organizations set up tables and some games to allow both Congressional staff and the children in attendance to play and learn about each organization.

Though only a few staffers and representatives participated in the activities, including a carpet golf set from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and inflatable basketball hoops from Monumental Sports, those few children filled the air with giggles as they frolicked amongst politicians and event organizers. 

Three Congress members-- Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX)--spoke over the course of the day about the positive impact of youth sports on their own lives. 

Both Armstrong and Davis coached little league baseball, which they discussed at the beginning of the hearing; Armstrong was elected to the North Dakota Dickinson Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017, while Davis remembed when he found out he was nominated to the caucus while he was coaching a little league game (he waited until after the game to address reporters, showing his players they were his priority in that moment). 

Davis and Veasey are two of the three co-chairs of the caucus, and Vesey made sure to address specifically the children in the room.

"Comfortable is the most dangerous word in sports," Boldon explained during the hearing. He tells all his athletes that phrase to warn against complacency in training. But that same saying holds true to the panelists' feelings toward the current state of youth sports in America.

"We've made progress," Trish Sylvia, co-founder of the National Center for Safety Initiatives said. "But there's more to be done." 

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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

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Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott has said privately he will hold out from training camp, per report

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has established himself as one of the elite rushers in the NFL.

Now, he wants to be paid like it.

Elliott, who has two years remaining on his rookie deal, has privately said he plans on holding out from training camp until he receives a new deal, per ProFootballTalk.

Slated to make just $3.5 million in 2019, Elliott is one of the most underpaid players in all of football. He's set to make $9.09 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal.

Dallas has put off extension talks with Elliott simply because he's still under contract for two more seasons, per the report.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are both free agents after the season, and the Cowboys would like to keep both at all costs, ProFootballTalk said. Additionally, Dallas just signed defensive end Demarcus Lawrence to a five-year, $105 million contract extension this offseason.

Should he not receive a contract extension, Elliott could face a situation similar to what Demarco Murray had with the Cowboys in 2014. Murray set a franchise record for most rushing yards in a season, yet Dallas still chose to let him walk in free agency.

Elliott's not the only star running back threatening to holdout this offseason. Los Angeles Chargers' Melvin Gordon has publicly stated he will skip training camp until he gets a new deal and is not afraid to miss regular-season games, similar to what Le'Veon Bell did last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Since entering the NFL in 2016, Elliott has led the NFL in rushing twice. His 4,048 total rushing yards over the past three seasons are the most in the NFL, and he has over 600 more rushing yards than Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley, the next most rushing yards over that span.

Whether he actually holds out or whether the Cowboys turn their attention to extending their star running back will be seen in the coming weeks.

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