Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

IMG trip out, IMG hire in

Pending legislation weighed on Brian Kelly’s off-season reboot. On the one hand, Notre Dame bucked a pending rule change to hire strength coach Dave Ballou from IMG. On the other, the Irish nixed spring practice plans to go there.

If Notre Dame wanted to push the envelope with plans to relocate part of spring practice to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., it could have. And if Notre Dame wanted to push the envelope by hiring Dave Ballou as an assistant strength coach from that same recruiting hotbed, it could have done that too.

In the end, the Irish split that difference.

Notre Dame has officially hired Dave Ballou away from IMG Academy, which Irish Illustrated first reported as a possibility nearly one month ago. However, that kind of coaching transaction figures to be banned later this spring when a vote is taken to implement the Individual Associated With a Prospect rule, which would bar hiring a high school coach for a non-fulltime assistant post without penalty.

If that rule expectedly passed and Notre Dame hired Ballou after the fact, the Irish would be barred from recruiting IMG Academy for two years, an untenable outcome. That’s the same program that produced freshmen Spencer Perry and Tony Jones Jr. in addition to early enrollee Robert Hainsey. Top junior defensive back target Houston Griffith transferred into IMG last year.

Kelly said Notre Dame was advised that because Ballou was officially hired before the IAWP rule went on the books that the program would be in the clear.

“We needed to get some clarification on the hiring before we moved on Dave, which we believe we've got the clarification on the new legislation,” Kelly said. “Gives us another really talented strength and conditioning coach on our team.”

Ballou joins the support staff under Director of Football Performance Matt Balis.

The strength staff will continue to include Jake Flint and David Grimes.

Longtime Kelly aide Jeff Quinn, who served as an assistant strength coach last year, will return to an analyst’s role. The Irish plan to hire one more assistant strength coach to round out that staff.

“So we'll have a team of five down there that I think will be as good as any strength team in the country,” Kelly said. “I'll put them up against anybody.”

The flipside of the Ballou hire was Notre Dame’s decision not to follow through with plans to travel to IMG Academy during spring break for spring practice. As with the IAWP rule, there is pending legislation (similar to the 10th fulltime assistant coach rule) that will ban off-site spring practices in the wake of Michigan heading to IMG last off-season.

However, that legislation won’t take effect until August, meaning the Irish could have pushed for the IMG trip if it wanted. Instead, the players will be turned loose like normal college students on spring break.

“Because of the new legislation, we decided not to go to IMG for our spring training,” Kelly said. “I just feel like with that rule now officially on the books, it doesn't make any sense for us to do something that they have now legislated out. I don't want to be that team, you know, that jumps in there just before they change the legislation.”


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