CHICAGO - Days before the University of Notre Dame's NCAA Tournament game against the Akron Zips, Irish coach Brian Kelly gave a motivational speech that left ND hoops players confused and uncomfortable.
"Everything that happens on that court on Friday is your responsibility! When you cut to the basket, when you make that pass, or when you let a college aged kid go into a scissor lift that's 39 feet in the air; remember that it's your responsibility for their well-being. Unless that pass, basket, or rebound somehow threatens your role on the team...then you might not want to take responsibility...as a matter of fact you might just want to shove it under the rug...well, until you find a really good lawyer."
The motivational speech came on the heels of a $77,500 fine levied by Indiana OSHA. The fines were a direct result of the Notre Dame football program permitting 20 year old student Declan Sullivan to film football practice on a 39-foot lift prior to football practice. The decision made to film practice despite 50 miles-per-hour winds has left Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and team head coach Brian Kelly in an uncomfortable position...a feeling that was relayed to the Irish basketball team days prior to their first round game.
"Every rebound you make on Friday is a play that will bring your team closer to victory.
You've studied all the plays. You've done all you can at practice...and you've spent hours evaluating Akron film. Film study is very important. If you don't have film study, your team is left in the woods. You can't play without knowing their tendencies...how do you know their tendencies if you don't have film?! Your coach is making millions of dollars a year...think about that...millions of dollars depending on every win. So, if that means he has to put somebody's life in danger in order to protect the well being of his program, then he needs to do so.
"Could you imagine having the 12 of you interviewed after the game because of poor decision making? How soon would it be before everybody starts pointing fingers? That's why Friday's game is so important to win...because if you don't, you might have to start hiring lawyers to defend yourself...and you might also have to align your story with each of the 12 players on the team...because if your stories don't align, you might cost your coach his job...and millions of dollars...and who would want that? You love your coach don't you? Don't you?!"
Notre Dame players stammered for answers, and spent the remaining portion of the speech fidgeting and hoping coach Mike Brey would interrupt the gridiron field general.
"Some of you freshmen here might not get another chance to make an impression. That's why this game is so important. What happens if you lose this game? You might not get another chance. Somebody might go back in the year to find out that you let some 20 year old kid go up on a 39 foot platform to record practice in 50 mile an hour winds, and they might find out that you authorized this practice, and then they might kick you off the team. You know these days anybody can sue you? Anybody. Even if you let a kid go up to record practice, which, as I said earlier, film is very important...wait, what the hell were we talking about? Oh. Yeah. Responsibility. You are responsible for winning on Friday. Not your coach...he's just doing his job. He just listens to orders. He doesn't make all the decisions...he defers many of his decisions to other people...especially in cases where somebody dies. Which, I'm not saying will happen on Friday. Nobody should die...or get sued...god, where am I? Oh, yeah...responsibility. You're responsible for supporting your coach and your university."
When Brey tried to cut Kelly off after this stanza, the Irish coach made sure he made some final words.
"So, in closing, it's not your fault if you lose, but it is...and you're not guilty of anything...if you are, you're just guilty of caring too much...and remember, teammates are going to make mistakes during the game on Friday...just don't let them sulk on it...there are more important things to worry about...maybe some of you raped a fellow student, and you're uncomfortable about disclosing that information to your coach. Remember, it's your responsibility to keep his job...and to win..so he can keep his job...Sorry, that was long. Let's all kneel and pray."
The Irish will take on Akron at the United Center at 12:40 on Friday.
(Chicago Tough is an Chicago sports-based comedy blog. If you thought the above story was true, then you might want to get evaluated.)