Under the Dome: Kelly exit rumors make sense. Kelly exit doesn't.

Analyze this: Despite reports that representatives of Brian Kelly are exploring other coaching options, the embattled coach is ``fully committed’’ to returning to Notre Dame.

Gould Headshot square

OK, here goes: If Kelly can find a coaching option that makes good sense, he’ll move on. If he can’t, he’ll roll up his sleeves and coach the daylights out of ND next season.

What’s happening here is that Kelly, who dealt himself a tough (youthful) hand this fall and didn’t handle it well, is subject to mounting unrest within Notre Dame’s fan and alumni base.

And that will only add to the hurdles Kelly will need to clear to guide ND back into the hunt for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that the Fighting Irish faithful believe is their birthright.

If Kelly wants to move on, who could blame him? And who could blame ND for holding the door open?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Coaching Notre Dame is a delicate balancing act in the best of times. Kelly showed that he’s aware of that when he had dalliances with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles after coaching the Irish into the 2012 national-championship game against Alabama.

But coaches who have enjoyed the kind of success he has known also are confident enough to believe they can acomplish great things in the future.

And so, if he has to dig himself out of the rubble of a 4-8 season that included seven losses by a mere 32 points, he’ll take on that challenge willingly—and determined to show everyone that he still has it.

While Kelly may still be a pretty good coach, he did not show it this fall. And at unblinking Notre Dame, that doesn’t cut it.

When Don Criqui and Allen Pinkett, ND’s radio team, are questioning the coach’s decision to keep kicking to USC return whiz Adoree Jackson in no uncertain terms, that’s not a good thing. Imagine what the people who aren't on the payroll are saying.

That said, the school gave Kelly a six-year extension last January. It doesn’t want to go through another lengthy and expensive buyout like the one it just completed with Charlie Weis. It believes Kelly can right the ship. And it knows there are no guarantees that the next coach will be better.

For all of Notre Dame’s attractive qualities as a uniquely successful independent football program, that’s an increasingly difficult path to navigate in the modern world. That’s especially true when Notre Dame wants to maintain its high standards, if not make them even more noble.

Tha harsh sanctions tha NCAA handed down for academic negligence last week cast a shadow over those optics at an especially awkward time. And given the unrest over Kelly’s coaching, the scandal could not have come at a worse time.

If athletic director Jack Swarbrick isn’t working hard on a next-coach list, he would be remiss. Then again, every AD should have one of those lists, and keep it current. Because you never know. . .

Meanwhile, it’s difficult to envision an attractive landing place for Kelly, whether college or pro. A Kelly exit would give him and Notre Dame a fresh start. But you never know about that, either.

In short, that’s why it wouldn’t be surprising if reports that his ``representatives’’ are making job inquiries are true. And that’s why it won’t be surprising if he ends up staying put.[/membership]