SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Coach Brian Kelly said No. 14 Notre Dame will concentrate on its Camping World Bowl game against Iowa State before addressing the vacancy at offensive coordinator.
Chip Long, who held the position the past three seasons, and Kelly mutually parted ways Wednesday. Although Kelly wouldn’t reveal his reasons, he said quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees and running backs coach Lance Taylor would share duties when the 10-2 Irish (No. 15 CFP) meet the 7-5 Cyclones on Dec. 28 in Orlando.
“What’s most important is that I did what was best for the program,” Kelly said after the team’s first workout Saturday. “To get into specifics is not in anybody’s best interest at this time.”
Long has not publicly commented either on his departure but is thought of highly for his coaching acumen. He could be available at a school with a head coach vacancy or in a similar capacity at schools such as Texas and Oregon.
“Anytime you are scoring points at the level we were, you are pleased in that respect,” Kelly said of the Irish, who averaged 37.1 points, 13th nationally. “There were some other things that I wasn’t as pleased with, but overall this wasn’t an offense that lagged in the back half of many categories.”
Kelly said he wouldn’t rush to fill the position.
“I’m looking forward to getting through this bowl cycle and then doing what’s in the best interest of the program,” Kelly said. “I’m going to be thorough; I’m going to be measured and deliberate. We’re going to have a really good football team coming back. (The) schedule is challenging (among the 2020 Irish opponents are Wisconsin, Clemson and USC). We want the best staff moving forward to put our players in best position to succeed and win a national championship.”
The Irish coach said that Rees, the starting quarterback for Notre Dame under Kelly from 2010-13 and an assistant since 2017, and Taylor, who joined the staff this year as running backs coach, would split Long’s coordinating duties.
“I will not call plays,” Kelly said. “I’ve moved past that role. I will assist, be there to lean on and consult with. This will be a collaborative approach with the lead coming from Lance and Tom. Somebody will eventually be the primary play caller. I’ve just not made the decision yet.”
Quarterback Ian Book, who threw for career highs of 2,787 yards and 33 touchdowns (against six interceptions) and rushed for 516 yards and four scores, was sorry to see Kelly move on from Long, who took over as offensive coordinator following Notre Dame’s 4-8 campaign in 2016. Since, the Irish have gone 32-6 and reached the College Football Playoff in 2018.
“I haven’t played a game here without (Long),” Book said Friday after the team’s annual awards show. “I couldn’t thank him enough. He’s the one who gave me the opportunity.”
Book, who redshirted his freshman year at Notre Dame and could return in 2020, hasn’t made a decision yet whether he will go pro or transfer after earning a Notre Dame degree. But Book does have a fondness for the 27-year-old Rees, who recently interviewed for the offensive coordinator vacancy at Northwestern.
“It would be a huge step for him – he obviously wants to be an OC and head coach one day,” Book said. “I believe in him wholeheartedly. You guys all know how I feel about coach Rees.”
Kelly said he’s already fielded inquiries from outside the program but wouldn’t be opposed to staying in house.
“I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of this football program … not me,” Kelly said. “I’ve already made a tough decision. I’ve had to make other tough decisions. I made them a few years ago. I had to let go of guys who stood up in my wedding. I’m going to make decisions that are in the best interests of Notre Dame’s football program and gives us the best chance to win a national championship. I can’t articulate it any clearer.”