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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Family, football and food are keys for Kelly at LSU

20 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Slick dark suit. Deep purple tie. A three-time national coach of the year at the podium in full command at the College Football Hall of Fame, where his resume of 32 seasons already may be good enough for future induction.

So that's what Brian Kelly looks like when he's not dancing like no one's watching to impress a recruit. That's what the winningest coach in Notre Dame history sounds like when he's not attempting a Southern accent and coming no closer than his Fighting Irish against Alabama in the postseason.

During his first SEC Media Days appearance, his first visit to an event of this type since 2009 - his last year at Cincinnati in the Big East - someone asked Kelly to name his favorite dish since moving to Louisiana "in your best Southern accent."

"Understand now," Kelly said. "I have a Boston, Midwestern, Louisiana accent now. It's three dialects in one."

Previous awkward, welcome-to-Southern-football moments aside, Kelly sounded totally comfortable in his blended dialect discussing why he left Notre Dame at age 60, after 113 wins in 12 years, for LSU. He described fit as "the ability to run a program at the highest level. I've done it for 32 years."

In that time, he's had only two losing seasons, and his teams have won 10 or more games 13 times. He's 16 wins shy of 300. Imagine the possibilities at LSU, where the last three head coaches each won a national title. That's the only thing missing from the Football Bowl Subdivision portion of Kelly's impressive list of accomplishments.

Fit may not have to be "geographical," in his mind, but Kelly said he has embraced his new home.

"I've gotten to love where I'm at in Baton Rouge," he said. "I love the people. They love football. They love family. They love food. That fits me really well. I guess I should have been in the South all along."

There was only one discordant note in this love song of the South. Kelly balked at the suggestion that lopsided losses to Alabama in the 2012 BCS Championship Game and a 2020 College Football Playoff semifinal may have played a role in his career decision. The question had history behind it, considering that LSU beat Alabama en route to national championships in 2003, 2007 and 2019, but Kelly dismissed it.

"Those were really good (Alabama) teams," he said. "They both won the national championship. I thought we played Alabama better than anybody in that last playoff. Their talent was unbelievable on the offensive side of the ball that year.

"So that wasn't like, I'm taking the LSU job (because) Alabama is so much better than us. That was not part of the process for me. It was timing. It was this place at LSU. It was the administration and the opportunity to bring this program back. It really had nothing to do with the Alabama game."

That changes Nov. 5th in Tiger Stadium when his career will have everything to do with the Crimson Tide. In the interim, he'll savor his newest favorite food, crawfish etouffee.