"We're going to win again next year..."

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had a conference call today to put a bow on the 2012 season -- on and off the field.

If the victor indeed receives the spoils, what happens to the vanquished?

If January 2013 is any indication, they apparently receive the drama, a reality Notre Dame fans learned too well over the last 22 days.

The team's head coach and everyone's coach of the year, Brian Kelly, began this ongoing, unforgiving Irish soap opera with his well-publicized NFL flirtation less than 48 hours after his team's 42-14 humbling at the hands of Alabama on January 7.

Kelly spoke with the media for the first time today via conference call, touching on subjects such as his future, the remarkable Manti Te'o sideshow, and the health of the Irish football team entering winter conditioning.

Philly Fanatic?

You call it an interview. He calls it natural intrigue. Either way, Kelly believes his discussion with Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffery Loria and his leadership team solidified a belief the Irish head coach has held for the better part of two decades.

He belongs in the college game. And his hours spent learning about the NFL proved it.

"The interview so to speak, as people have talked about, was really a discussion that I had with (owner) Jeff Loria of the Philadelphia Eagles and his leadership team," said Kelly. "The discussion was more about intrigue on my part. I've always been in the college game and really did not have a good grasp of the NFL set-up. For me, my head said, 'Let's be more informed as it relates the NFL,' but my heart is more about college football and Notre Dame."

Asked how he approaches potential future pupils following his flirtation, Kelly, who's on the recruiting trail at present, noted:

"To the recruits I tell them up front that I'm committed to Notre Dame. Flattered that the NFL would want me to be one of their coaches. But its not what I want to do. I want to be a college football coach. I was really happy that the Eagles would give me the opportunity to sit down and talk with them.

"(But) More intrigue than an interest on my part."

He added that, despite knowing of the organization's interest a week prior to kickoff, the interview process had no impact on his preparation for Notre Dame's 28-point defeat at the hands of Alabama. It did, however, adversely affect the team's fan base, something Kelly admitted he could have avoided.

"There was contact, I believe and I don't have the specifics, the same day or next there was a change in the coaching staff (Former Eagles coach Andy Reid was fired on January 31).

"Protocol in the NFL is that they reach out to the athletic director; Jack (Swarbrick) reached out to me and we agreed I would not have any contact with the Eagles, if in fact we did (choose to). And that wasn't certain until obviously after the game.

"Subsequently, my agent was involved in talking and setting up meetings with the Eagles on Tuesday when I was in Nashville accepting the American Football Coach of the Year award.

"If there's anything it would be to have closed that timeline relative to my interview and coming out with a statement," said Kelly of an approximate four day spread between his interview and an official statement from the University that he would remain its head football coach.

"I was on vacation with my wife. We weren't aware (of the concern) we weren't watching TV, but I should have been more sensitive to the fact that there was this time period and released a statement much sooner."

Delayed Decision?

Kelly took a moment to answer the question most asked by Irish fans of his dalliance with professional ranks: How could he not have been personally distracted leading up to the BCS championship game?

"Because I wasn't even certain I was going to interview. So it (leaving) wasn't on my radar," Kelly said of his pre-game feelings. "There was never any consideration. It wasn't an option. I think I even said that (at Media Day on January 5). It wasn't an option for me because I wasn't even thinking about it and (had not yet) decided it was the direction I was going to go."

Asked about future NFL inquiries, Kelly indicated that avoiding that inevitable issue in the future was a by-product of his early January intrigue.

"College is all I've been involved in; didn't understand the NFL process, the game, who's involved in the day-to-day operations for selecting the team," he said. "Quite frankly, I wanted to go through it because we're going to win again next year there's probably going to be teams that will have an interest and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college.

"I love Notre Dame. I love the college game…its now easy for me to say 'no."

Embroiled in contract negotiations since December 6, Kelly said of his immediate and long-term future, "Jack (Swarbrick) and I are in lockstep as to how we want to continue to build this program."

Excuse Me, What?

Manti Te'o noted during August media day that "Nothing good happens after 10 p.m."

That includes phone calls to your head coach.

"My first concern…it sounded so crazy that the first thing I wanted to do was make sure we got the right people involved with this immediately," Kelly said.

"Got ahold of (Swarbrick) and our vice president for communications (Dennis Brown). Lets find out what the heck is going on here. You get a phone call in the middle of the night and you find out this young lady is not in fact dead. You don't know what to think. My first thought was to find out what was going on here?"

In what is at best a questionable chain-of-command decision, Kelly later noted he was not involved in the process of when to make public Te'o's bizarre situation, whether it be before or after the championship game with the Crimson Tide.

"I really wasn't involved in that conversation...I was focused on coaching our team."

By no means the only player among the 50-plus Irish that participated inside Sun Life Stadium to play poorly, Te'o was doubtless the most visible.

"Hindsight is 20/20," said Kelly when asked if he thought the situation adversely affected Te'o's performance. "He didn't play his best. Alabama had something to do with that as well, clearly. I don't know. It's a lot to weigh on the shoulders of somebody. We could make a leap that it did (affect him) but I think only Manti could say for sure."

Kelly didn't hesitate to offer a final opinion of the best player he's ever coached.

"I think Manti will be remembered as a great leader on our football team on an undefeated team at Notre Dame. He showed the way for how to be a great teammate. His work ethic, his commitment. For me, he'll be in my eyes, one of the very great teammates I've ever had in my years 20+ years of coaching."

Note: Part II will update Notre Dame's personnel entering winter conditioning.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories