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Coach Kelly says he’s in lockstep with Notre Dame hierarchy

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 10:11 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — On Sunday night, the Notre Dame football players wanted to know if their coach planned to stay their coach. So Brian Kelly said he told his team what he told the Philadelphia Eagles and then the rest of the world after a few uneasy days of silence earlier this month: He was where he should be.

“It’s not what I want to do,” Kelly said Tuesday of the NFL dalliance. “I want to be a college football coach.”

So the Irish coach has set about recruiting and planning and finding a way to close the apparently sizable gap between his program and the Alabama team that rolled over the Irish in the BCS title game Jan. 7, firmly establishing Tuesday that he has no other goals on the horizon.

As ever, time and deep pocketbooks will test such a commitment. But it’s the one Kelly nevertheless made in his first public comments since the championship game loss, framing his conversation with the Eagles as a fact-finding mission of “intrigue” rather than “interest.”

His only regret, he said, was not issuing a statement sooner after getting answers to his questions about the NFL process.

“Quite frankly, I wanted to answer those because we’re going to win again next year and there are probably going to be teams that are going to have an interest in (me) coaching in the NFL,” Kelly said, “and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college.”

He said he is in “lock-step” with athletic director Jack Swarbrick on a restructured contract, and now comes the part about making it to a title game and giving Notre Dame a legitimate chance to win it.

“We know what it looks like now relative to the national championship game and our offseason workouts now will be focused on getting back to that game,” Kelly said. “As I told our team, we have some work to do, there’s no question. But we know where we want to go.”

As for the infamous alleged dead girlfriend hoax that ensnared one of his best players before that title game, Kelly said Manti Te’o’s initial revelations to the Irish staff have held up against the details uncovered in the past two weeks.

Kelly wouldn’t make the leap that the apparent Lennay Kekua scam directly affected Te’o’s play against Alabama.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” Kelly said. “I didn’t think going into the game that he was affected by it, but he didn’t play his best. 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. We could make a leap that maybe it did, but Manti would know for sure.”

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