Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame departure dusts off tale of free labor from Matt LaFleur, Robert Saleh


With Brian Kelly abruptly bolting Notre Dame for LSU, it’s open season on Kelly. As if it’s the first time a college football coach has left his team in a lurch in the name of getting a better job. As if it’s the first time Kelly left his team in a lurch in the name of getting a better job.

As a result, plenty of people are bringing back plenty of anecdotes and criticisms of Kelly. And there are a few of them. From his past habit of purple-faced eruptions at players to the avoidable death of Declan Sullivan to Kelly’s botched homage to John McKay and more, there are plenty of ways for those who are currently upset with Kelly to point a finger.

Here’s one that’s making the rounds on Twitter. It directly relates to a pair of current NFL head coaches, from a story written by Rob Demovsky of when Matt LaFleur became the new coach of the Packers in 2019.

While working as graduate assistants for Kelly at Central Michigan, LaFleur and Jets coach Robert Saleh received invitations to a party at Kelly’s home. When they arrived, they learned that they were invited not to party, but to work.

“We shoveled the snow and parked all the cars,” Saleh said at the time. “Then, at the end of the night, we had to go get the cars again.”

After the evening ended, LaFleur and Saleh made a pact.

“We decided that when we’re in that position, we’re never going to treat people the way we got treated,” Saleh said. “And Matty’s lived up to it.”

Apart from Kelly’s decision to leverage the employer-employee relationship into free labor, Kelly apparently did a good job of spotting and/or developing coaching talent, given that his two unpaid valets and snow shovelers ended up becoming NFL head coaches. Crappy treatment notwithstanding, there’s a chance they learned something from Kelly that helped them get to where they are.

Let’s face it. Plenty of football coaches are assholes. For many, it’s one of the reasons they’re successful. While that doesn’t excuse bad behavior, it’s a reality of the profession and of the sport.

And it’s a basic reality of college football that coaches who have success will want more money and power, either from the school they’re with or from a new one. And they won’t hesitate to employ a double standard the commands loyalty from the players while at all time reserving the right to display none of it.