BCI: What are your early impressions of Butch Jones?
Kelly: I like him a lot. He’s very, very down to earth. He’s not as much of a sizzle guy as Brian Kelly was. Brian Kelly first of all is a very gifted speaker, he has a political background, and is very good at it. Now Butch is not a bad speaker, but he doesn’t have the years of being a head coach that Brian Kelly does. The comparisons (between Jones and Kelly) will be there because they’ve coached at the same schools and have similar offenses, so there’s a lot of similarities there.
But what I’ve found about Butch Jones is that he’s very down to earth and very sincere. All of the messages he carries to the team about family and getting along as teammates, he really lives that. He’s direct, he doesn’t beat around the bush.
In the little bit that I’ve worked with him in the spring, I’ve gotten to meet with a couple of times , he’s very honest with me. Not that other coaches aren’t, it’s just that in the coaching industry when the media is involved sometimes you are purposely kept out in the cold. I like him a lot and I think he will be very successful at UC.
BCI: What do you make of all the potential conference realignment talk?
Kelly: I guess I had just hoped it all would go away. Maybe there is a traditional part of me, like I had said earlier, that getting into the Big East was a big part of what helped turn this program around. Obviously there was a lot of hard work and sweat by people(to turn the program around). I think you have to make sure that you are in one of those BCS conferences, if it comes down to there being four 16-team conferences, or however it lines up after it’s all over.
I would be fine with (UC going to) the ACC. If the ACC were to lose some teams to the SEC, I think if you put some Big East teams in there with North Carolina, the North Carolina State and Virginia, Virginia Tech and Maryland I think you have a real nice conference. And I think it would be just like the Big East in that you have a chance every year to compete for the championship. Now that is assuming that Miami leaves and Florida State leaves for the SEC.
BCI: Do you think the potential formation of “super conferences” is good or bad for college football?
Kelly: I don’t think it’s good, I don’t. If you look at the Big 12, the ACC, the SEC currently have championship games anyway for football. If you do get super conferences it would be great football, but I don’t know college football needs it or not. Part of it is exciting, part of it is that I don’t like the fact that it’s taking away from a lot of the traditional college football setups.
BCI: Should you go to four super conferences, or whatever it winds up at, does that almost necessitate going to a college football playoff?
Kelly: I think you could do it. If you look at the playoff systems that have been put out there. It’s always been a matter of how do you set it up. One vs. eight, two vs. seven and how many teams you let in. In this particular case you would have four conferences and four conference winners. You could have one vs. four and two vs. three with the winners playing the next week, that way you keep it short.
I know that’s been one of the problems with football vs. NCAA basketball where they can play on Thursday and again on Saturday while with football you can’t do that. But then you could have that team from say a Mountain West where they have that great year and go undefeated and then they have their argument for getting into the playoff.
I do think someday there will be a true playoff championship (in football). Whether that includes two teams, four teams, eight teams I’m not sure.
BCI: Are you in favor of a playoff?
Kelly: I am.
BCI: What are your thoughts on the BCS?
Kelly: Everyone knows it’s flawed, but I do think they do the best job they can with the way that it’s set up, but I would like to see a playoff.
BCI: There’s been a lot of talk about expanding Nippert Stadium, clearly it needs to happen, but what is your take on it?
Kelly: The big issue is obviously money, and making the right decision. Don’t just add seats for the sake of adding seats. There has been a couple of things written about it and it’s all about revenue streams.
I know they took the entire athletic department out to Oregon State last year to take a look at what they had done with their addition and the club seating as well as the premium seating and corporate boxes and that is where the money is.
So it’s not just about adding seats, it’s about adding seats that will make you money. I think it’s great that they play a game every now and again at Paul Brown Stadium, but I think that takes away from the mystique (of playing on campus). That is, in my opinion, and I’m a little bit bias, but Nippert is the greatest stadium in the world. The sightlines are perfect, you can sit almost anywhere and not miss a play.
It’s a shame that it’s not at 42,000 (capacity) right now but a few years ago they were drawing 12,000 fans it looked empty. It wasnt that long ago when there were a lot of empty seats but it’s really cool to see it full. I know that brings a lot of issues with it like trying to get people in and out of the stadium and trying to get to the restrooms and those are all things they have to work on. But architects are amazing, they can do a lot of things in little spaces.
What I suspect will happen is that the whole west side where the press box is now, there will be a deck of some sort there. Whether it ties into Tangeman (University Center)or not, it would include club seats, press box and the private suites. But regardless of where you build there will be cost involved. The other factor is they need to keep winning. Not to say people will turn and run the other way if you have an 8-4 season, but it took a while to get them (fans) here and you want to keep them.
BCI: On to a lighter subject, you’ve been around the program a long time, who do you think is the best player you’ve ever seen at UC?
Kelly: Wow, that is hard to say. I don’t know that I could pick one. I look at a Gino Guidugli who played for four offensive coordinators in four years and he had a great career, but what would he have been had he been in say Brian Kelly’s system. Tinker Keck was outstanding, as was Robert Tate.
But I’d have to put Mardy Gilyard up there. If you look at that Pittsburgh game, they don’t win that game if he doesn’t return that kickoff for a touchdown before the half. He may not be the best pro, might not be the biggest guy but he’s a guy who made things happen.
BCI: Aside from Nippert, what is your favorite stadium either from your playing days or from announcing games?
Kelly: One of my goals is to visit all of the Division I stadiums and I’m currently at 89, but I haven’t been in the press box of all of them or seen all of the amenities. I’ll tell you what, if you ask me who has the best overall stadium, and I might make people mad by saying this, but Louisville. Kentucky’s is awfully nice too.
I’ve seen games at Penn State and that is very impressive. I’ve done a couple of games at Army and that is very impressive as well, same with Ohio State. All of those are impressive, but Louisville, it’s a little newer stadium with some ambiance to it and the features to it are really nice.