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Brain Kelly and Dabo Swinney should be fired if their jobs are truly about leading and protecting young men

Clemson’s Dabo Swinneh, left, and Notre Dame’a Brian Kelly have failed at protecting the interests and well-being of their players.
Image: Getty Images

College football coaches love to talk about how their job is to be leaders who earn their astronomical paychecks not only by winning football games, but by molding their players into something better, to guide their growth from high school boys to upstanding men who have learned how to handle the world with what they’ve learned in football, or some shit like that.

Brian Kelly and Dabo Swinney have Notre Dame and Clemson sitting at No. 2 and No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and preparing to play each other in the ACC title game on Saturday afternoon.

And both of them should be fired because they clearly are not up to the standard that their job is supposed to be about if college football is anything more than a feeder system for the NFL and a recreational brain-damage system for everyone else involved.

These two pissbabies have decided that what’s really important right now is that the CFP semifinal be played not at the Rose Bowl, as scheduled, but somewhere with looser COVID-19 guidelines than Pasadena, in order that there can be people in the stands to watch a game that, for the record, neither of their teams has clinched a berth in yet.

“I’m not sure we’ll play in the playoffs if the parents can’t be there,” Kelly said on a Zoom call leading up to the ACC title game. “Why would we play if you can’t have families at the game? If you can’t have families at bowl games, why would you go to a game where families can’t be part of it? What’s the sense of playing a game in an area of the country where nobody can be part of it?”

Well, idiot, the point is to generate the television revenue that’s so important to paying your seven-figure salary and keeping the NCAA afloat. That’s why we’ve had a football season this year, even though all the other fall college sports got moved to the spring. That’s it. And maybe Kelly hasn’t noticed, because his head is too far up his own ass, but we’re now passed 300,000 American deaths, and December has been the deadliest month of the pandemic here. So maybe pump the brakes on saying it’s so important to have players’ families at football games that you might not want to play if they can’t attend.

“It makes no sense to me to put a bunch of kids on a plane and fly them all the way to California to play in an empty stadium,” Swinney said, almost getting it before swerving into idiocy. “That makes zero sense to me when you have plenty of stadiums where you can have fans and, most importantly, you can have families. It should be the same for all four teams as far as the opportunity that you have. This year everybody has had to make adjustments. To me, that would be a simple one to make.”

Yes, everybody has had to make adjustments. People have stayed away from their loved ones at holidays, people have had to figure out how to work at home if they’ve even been able to keep their jobs, and people have had to say final farewells to dying relatives on video calls because they couldn’t see them in person. And Swinney and Kelly are big mad because they might — might — have to spend New Year’s in the California sun, but without players’ parents? In order to protect those parents from traveling and possibly contracting a deadly virus?

“Why can’t it be the Rose Bowl in Las Vegas or can it be the Rose Bowl in another town?” Kelly said. “Where’s the flexibility for the student-athlete is all I’m saying. The one thing these kids have been is incredibly flexible, and then on the other side we can’t be flexible? It’s hard to imagine.”

What’s hard to imagine is someone being so incredibly thoughtless that they truly believe it’s college football players who have had to be the most flexible in this pandemic. Millions of people have gotten sick, have lost their jobs, have had to rearrange their entire lives. Notre Dame had to skip a trip to Wake Forest and got to play Clemson without Trevor Lawrence, because the star quarterback got coronavirus. In fact, without COVID-19, there’s a pretty good chance the Fighting Irish aren’t No. 2 in the country, and they definitely wouldn’t have played this season in the ACC, so who knows what might have happened with their season?

The gall of this, the ability to go in front of the world and say that the big issue is making sure a football game can be played in front of fans, is so self-centered and myopic, it’s almost impossible to understand how anyone could have that perspective, until you remember that the college sports world does nothing but bend over backwards for football, and that the coaches are little more than chalkboard wizards with their own little regional cults of personality.

We’ve seen their true colors now, brighter and more vibrant than ever before. The next time that anyone tries to tell you that Kelly or Swinney are anything more than football savants, that they’re responsible for the development of young men, don’t believe it for a second.

If their schools were about anything more than gridiron glory, these men advocating for extending a public health crisis in the name of football would have been out on their ass as soon as the ACC Zoom call ended. But we already know they’re not, especially Notre Dame.

If Kelly or Swinney is really serious about this, go ahead and withdraw from the College Football Playoff, if they make it. See how long they keep their jobs then.

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