Brian Kelly did what Notre Dame coaches throughout history have done best: rallied their players in a time of strife.
In this case, the players were the general public as Kelly addressed the impact of the coronavirus at the end of a media conference call held Wednesday.
Asked by local television reporter (through a Notre Dame spokesman) to give the public a “pep talk,” Kelly abided.
“We have not won yet,” he said of the coronavirus. “We’re just getting to halftime. We have a second half to play here. Really good job in the first couple of quarters, but we’re just getting into the locker room. Let’s look toward having a better second half. If we have a better second half, we’re going to win this game.”
It wasn’t exactly “Win One for the Gipper,” but these aren’t exactly normal times.
Updating the status of the Fighting Irish as a whole, Kelly seemed to warm to the topic of inspiration.
“Just the game itself, football, it pales in comparison to what people are going through,” Kelly added. “It forces you to look at things from a different perspective.”
Those comments come in contrast to the most college football coaching profession, which hasn’t covered itself in glory lately in regards to how it has reacted to the coronavirus.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy on Tuesday suggested the program get back up and running by May 1, saying it was time “to run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
“At some point,” Gundy told reporters, “we’ve got to get back to work. We’ve got to get these guys back in here. … From what I read, the healthy people can fight this, the antibodies make it better.”
Oklahoma State officials quickly disputed a May 1 return to normal. As of Wednesday, the coronavirus had killed nearly 15,000 Americans. Shelter-in-place orders are in effect almost entirely across the country.
“When we do get the green light to go back, it’s not going to be, ‘Everybody is good. Don’t worry about this virus,'” Kelly said. “We’re going to have to take precautions and do some things differently.”
No Notre Dame football players have contracted the coronavirus, Kelly said.
Notre Dame’s coach, heading into his 11th season, made a point to single out hospital workers, service workers and restaurants for keeping “us safe … moving forward. … If we stay at home, if we stay patient, if we stay vigilant, we’re going to see ourselves on the other side of this, and we’re going to be stronger for it.”
Kelly said he has used the new normal to adapt to change, not to rail against it.
“When you don’t have the ability to control some of those factors, it can be a little bit unsettling at times,” he said. “… [But] we’re a lot more efficient. We can do a lot more things from a remote location than we ever thought we imagined before. That’s probably the biggest thing.
“We’re an adaptable creature in a sense. We can find ways to get through the most difficult times. As long as we are disciplined and stay on this course, we’re going to get through. We can learn from it.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever be the same from it.”