Strong Move: ND unveils new strength coach

Notre Dame made the hire of Matt Balis as Director of Football Performance official on Thursday, moving the weight room forward from longtime Brian Kelly aide Paul Longo.

Notre Dame’s off-season started in earnest on Monday when the roster reassembled in South Bend.

Now the Irish officially have their man to lead winter conditioning, unveiling new Director of Football Performance Matt Balis on Thursday after making the decision to hire him more than two weeks ago.

“Matt comes to Notre Dame with impeccable credentials and incredibly high praise from the likes of Urban Meyer, Mickey Marotti, Dan Mullen, Bob Diaco and Al Groh,” said head coach Brian Kelly in a statement. “He’s already instituted a strength program built with a foundation that focuses on hard work, discipline and top-notch competition.

“Matt will demand the best from our players, not only in the weight room, but in many other areas within our program. I couldn’t be more excited to have him in place moving forward.”

Balis, who arrived at Notre Dame after three years at Connecticut under former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, replaces trusted Brian Kelly confidant Paul Longo in overseeing the football program’s strength initiative.

“It’s an honor and dream come true to be part of the Notre Dame football program,” Balis said. “I’m humbled by this opportunity and I’ll work hard everyday to give our players and program my absolute best.”

According to a source, Longo will transition to the role of Special Assistant to the Head Coach, a title currently held by former Irish assistant Bob Elliott. Elliott was on the recruiting trail for Notre Dame this week until the Irish could make the hire of receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander official. That happened earlier today.

Notre Dame’s press release on Balis announced that Longo was “taking a leave of absence from his role with the football program” but offered no other details.

While Balis has some incoming familiarity with Kelly via Diaco, his real strength roots cut closer to Meyer.

Balis, a Chicago native, spent two years on Meyer’s strength staff at Utah (2003-04) and two seasons with the current Ohio State head coach at Florida (2005-06), where he worked as assistant director of strength and conditioning under Marotti.

From there, Balis spent two years running Virginia’s strength program before ultimately landing at Mississippi State (2009-13) under Mullen, also a Meyer disciple. Balis ran the strength program for football in Starkville.

Assistant strength coach Jake Flint will remain on staff in a support role.

Two weeks ago Irish Illustrated reported that Notre Dame’s weight room would likely add Dave Ballou, the Physical Conditioning Coach at IMG Academy, a stop preceded by 15 seasons at Avon High School outside Indianapolis. Working at IMG put Ballou in contact with offensive lineman Robert Hainsey, who enrolled early in South Bend earlier this week.

The Irish landed running back Tony Jones Jr. and safety Spencer Perry out of IMG last recruiting cycle.

However, potential NCAA legislation could make this role as Co-Director of Strength and Conditioning for football a non-starter. In April, a new rule will be put to a vote preventing college programs from hiring coaches from high school programs to their support staffs unless they are fulltime assistant coaches.

If that legislation passes and Notre Dame hires Ballou it could prevent the Irish from recruiting IMG Academy for two years while also complicating the eligibility of those three recent signees.

It is unclear how Notre Dame plans to round out its strength staff at this time.

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