Why Brian Kelly Won’t Leave LSU For Michigan
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Brian Kelly of the LSU Tigers stands with his team as they waits to take to the field prior to a game against the Missouri Tigers at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium on October 07, 2023 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Adapted from “Crain & Co.,” January 24, 2024. 

Jake Crain: Brian Kelly would be clinically insane to leave LSU for Michigan. Why? Not because Michigan isn’t a fantastic job or that there’s anything wrong with Ann Arbor, but because he’s already at a place where, believe it or not (at least in my opinion), it’s easier to establish dominance than at Michigan.

Brian Kelly left Notre Dame, which is an established brand in college football, to go down to Baton Rouge. He saw what Bama looked like in the tunnel before they got run over in the National Championship when he was the head coach of the Fighting Irish. He wanted to be able to recruit and sign the best of the best, a true even playing field. Louisiana is a state filled with talent every year to the brim from the top to the bottom, from the east to the west. And LSU is the only power in that state. There is no Sparty and nobody’s spurning LSU to go to Louisiana Tech. (Sorry guys.) But Kelly has already found success there, and he’s building a monster in a place where the biggest monsters roam. He’s compiled an elite staff around him, and he just had the Heisman winner. Why would you leave Baton Rouge where you have all of this momentum to go follow the greatest season ever in Michigan history? There’s nowhere to go but down.

Michigan’s going to remain relevant regardless of what Harbaugh does, but the best chance to win bigger for longer is at LSU. Some will say the SEC is the toughest conference in the country. That is true, but the Big Ten just added Oregon, Washington, USC, and UCLA. It’s not getting any easier, and there’s no division, which will create more division. Ryan Day is trying to put the new Justice League together at Ohio State through the transfer portal, and Brian Kelly has already shown that he can succeed in the SEC. He won the West in year one and the emperor Nick Saban just left Tuscaloosa. 

The fact of the matter is you can’t make work-place decisions based purely on emotion and fandom. And though Kelly’s accent may be fake, his chance to dominate is not. While some may believe the smoke if Harbaugh does leave to go to the Chargers or the Falcons, it smells like a Jimmy Sexton special to me, which is always a good play.

Harbaugh hasn’t gone anywhere yet, but we keep hearing that for Brian Kelly, it’s a dream job. Michigan is an incredible place. They just won the National Championship. Nobody’s saying that Michigan is a bad job. But when LSU gets hot, they can get hotter than just about anyone. For Brian Kelly, he’s already there. He’s already established. He’s gotten the hard part out of the way. He won early, he won the West. Yes, he lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship game, but he beat Alabama’s Nick Saban. Then in year two, his defense got run through like a finish line, but he had the Heisman winner. He has an elite staff, he’s recruited really well, and it seems like a pretty good fit.

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David Cone: Brian Kelly is not leaving LSU. No way. I agree that this feels like a Jimmy Sexton special to try and get a bigger contract or a new extension. It’s not because I view LSU as that much better of a job than Michigan. I see them both as the top six or seven jobs in the country.

I do find a couple of things interesting though. First, Brian Kelly is the winningest coach in Notre Dame history. He left and gave that up to go to LSU for a lot of the reasons we always talk about; you can put a fence around that state and the high school recruiting is better there in that state. Also, from a historical and traditional perspective, Notre Dame and Michigan are very similar. So I think it’s interesting Brian Kelly had to watch Michigan go undefeated and win the National Championship. That is what Jim Harbaugh was able to do at a very similar Midwestern school that Kelly was not able to accomplish while he was at Notre Dame. Then, two of the last three coaches at LSU have been rumored to be leaving LSU. The Les Miles thing was a caveat, and I think it’s a completely different situation.

Ultimately, we still don’t even know if Jim Harbaugh is going to leave. Harbaugh may remain at Michigan — even though the news could break any minute that he’s going to be the next coach of the Chargers. So we’ll have to see. But from my perspective, Kelly has gotten the hard part out of the way. He already built the foundation at his new place, he took the risk which paid off early, he won the SEC West, and he just landed the number one quarterback in the 2025 class. I don’t see Brian Kelly going anywhere.

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Jake Crain is co-host of “Crain & Company” the Daily Wire’s sports show hosted by former athletes and coaches Jake Crain, Blain Crain, and David Cone. Follow him: @JakeCrain_

David Cone is a co-host and producer of the Daily Wire’s sports show Crain & Company, as well as a contributor to Morning Wire. David is also a former quarterback for the University of Michigan. You can follow him on Twitter/X and Instagram at @davidadamcone

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