Brian Kelly, the head coach of LSU football, spoke with The Advocate one-on-one on Thursday as he got ready for his third season leading Louisiana’s top collegiate football team. He discussed NIL, recruiting, and scheduling for the SEC as well as a possible first-ever LSU game in Ireland.

Tell us about your recent commitment to play defensive lineman for Grand Valley State, Jay’viar Suggs.

“We’re thrilled with him. He’s physically fit. He possesses every quality we were searching for in that role. He will be capable of consuming reps on our behalf. He’s a physically mature 23-year-old boy who will soon turn 24. That’s the exact thing we searched for. We now have a little bit more depth thanks to him and Gio Paez (transfer from Wisconsin). We will need to play a number of people at that position and provide them with every chance. Yet, they are not required to perform thirty or forty plays. The best thing about it is that.

“We had three good players (Jordan Jefferson, Mekhi Wingo, and Mason Smith) selected at defensive tackle in the draft. With three defensive tackles selected in the draft, our defense wasn’t very good. It’s a myth that you need to play NFL football to be a great defensive player. Fundamentally sound players who are dedicated to your work are what you need. Bo Davis, the new defensive line coach, will see to that for us. All we had to do was give him more boys. That was the goal, and I believe we succeeded.

Before Saturday’s game versus Georgia State at Tiger Stadium, Nov. 18, 2023, LSU coach Brian Kelly peers out the bus window.

Indeed. The positive aspect is that we were able to thoroughly assess each person’s character, fit in the locker room, work ethic, and willingness to contribute to the solution. That undoubtedly had a significant impact on it. As they played together in high school, Garrett Dellinger was also acquainted with him and was aware of his upbringing and character. It’s a huge advantage for us to have that kind of knowledge and understanding about a player who will mesh well with our culture.

What is your opinion on the current location of your defensive tackle room?

“The numbers determine how the room is put up. Now, the summer is basically being used to develop those guys.

You get 83 scholarship players from Suggs. Is there anyone else on the gateway that you could go after?

“Yes, we are currently considering a few other options, but for different positions.”

Despite adding Texas and Oklahoma, the SEC maintained an eight-game schedule for 2024 and just reversed it for 2025. Do you still anticipate a nine-game schedule? The SEC threw in the towel quite a while ago.

To put it bluntly, I believe that ABC/ESPN is being given the boot. We (the SEC) must get payment when a contractual agreement is reached for nine games.

“How are we going to support NIL? That is the issue that everyone is most worried about right now. Revenue is going to play a major role when this case concludes here in the near future. We can make more money with one extra game to cover those expenses. What, the coaches don’t even want to talk about this because they fear losing one more game? ADs may need to decide whether to drop sports. I know whose side will prevail there if playing nine games has a financial benefit that will counteract the millions of dollars that will undoubtedly need to be transferred from your athletic department to somewhere else.

What do you think about the two major offseason rule changes—the two-minute warning and helmet communications—that have been made?

The communication on the helmet eliminates many of the offensive signaling concerns. Because there are several players in and out of the lineup in college, it doesn’t address the defensive problems with signaling. I doubt you could name one man who possesses that kind of responsibility. Therefore, I believe that it obviously swings toward being an offensive advantage without necessarily resolving the sign-stealing problems that were the main causes of this play’s passing the goal line.

The challenge with defense is that you have to coordinate with both the front and rear ends of the defense. I understand the defense, then: “4-3, Cover 2.” How am I communicating with security? “Hey!” Cover 2 is here! Most likely, you still need to signal in order to be protective.

The two-minute warning, too?

“I did not support it. I simply thought it was another needless pause in the action. I’ve never believed that controlling the time had anything to do with the college game. This occurs in the NFL as a result of the way the game is officiated. Another TV time out has begun. Here’s another way to insert advertisements. The idea, I believe, was to reduce the number of timeouts that are doubled up following kickoffs.

You had possibilities to coach in the NFL, but you have been a college head coach since 1991. When did you determine that the college game was the ideal fit for your coaching style?

“Midway through my time at Notre Dame, probably in 2016.” In 2012, I looked at a job in the NFL. In 2015, I was a candidate. That’s when I came to the conclusion that coaching was not really about player development in the NFL, and that’s really why I coached. For me, that truly was the turning point.

On the other hand, a lot of seasoned instructors have recently retired. Nick Saban attributed a significant portion of his decision to retire on the several recent developments in collegiate athletics. How have you been able to say, “I want to keep doing this,” despite the changes?

“I believe that I kind of thrive in chaos by nature. In these kinds of situations, I tend to search for opportunities. I’ve always seen times like these as chances for personal development.

Indeed, these are trying times. It becomes quite untenable at times when there are no regulations. You have to strike a balance between thinking things through and saying things like, “This is really ridiculous,” or, “This is a great opportunity for us to grow.” I enjoy contributing to the discussion that will ultimately lead to a solution, which is now, for the first time in a few years, in the works.

What shape does it appear to take?

“Once this lawsuit is resolved out of court, the colleges will handle a clear revenue-sharing opportunity for the student-athletes. It is also obvious that this will be an out-of-court settlement because, in the event that it isn’t, the NCAA schools won’t be able to absorb the loss due to the enormously high numbers.

Therefore, a negotiated settlement will enable this to proceed with the student-athletes receiving a portion of the earnings going ahead. Once you reach that point, there is a pay cap of some kind. You’re returning to an even playing field now. We implemented a clearinghouse of some kind for fair-market NIL, and now we’ve returned the genie to the bottle. Next, there are donors who would prefer to be a part of that rather than a group. You are removing the intermediaries. The decision of what the institutions can afford and how to arrive at that figure then rests with them.

“I assume that a computation based on the significant income share that is allocated to NIL will be used. Is that twenty percent? Is that twenty-five percent? What can you then afford? Let’s assume that it is 25% and that $20 million must be invested in NIL. What is the amount of football? What is the amount of baseball? What is the amount of volleyball? How does your athletic department handle that? What effect does that have on other sports if you have to take $20 million out of the income share? to the size of the roster?

“A lot of items are available at the moment. But for the first time, I can clearly see a solution to a very complicated problem that didn’t exist.

Are you sanguine about LSU and college football in general?

“It’s something we can handle, and we’re in a good position to overcome it,” the speaker said. At LSU, we’re in a great spot. From a financial perspective, college football is in a wonderful spot because of its widespread popularity. The student-athletes will, in my opinion, receive competitive pay. The factors that made this unacceptable, including $1 million contracts and irrational demands and needs, won’t be an issue for us.

It appears to me that, rightly or wrongly, fans will believe that, if a team makes the playoffs, their season was good, and if not, their season was awful, as the CFP expands to 12 teams. Do you agree with that?

“I believe it’s a reasonable evaluation of where your program ought to be at LSU. Then, in my opinion, there will be an additional level to that: you have to go all the way if you make the playoffs. In men’s basketball, you have to advance to the Sweet 16 at the very least when you reach the NCAA tournament, correct?

I asked you informally about LSU playing a game in Ireland about this time last year. You expressed your desire to see that through. Any new information?

Anthony Travel will be joining us in July as a new travel agency. They contributed to the arrangements’ creation in Ireland. They have spoken to us about it. Although we’re just getting started, it’s something we’d like to do. It’s a wonderful encounter.


When you’re not viewing recruitment highlights or game tapes these days, what are you watching?

“It was referred to as Full Contact (Six Nations).” It concerns the rugby competition known as the European Championship, which was conducted in a brutal manner. You saw England, Wales, and Ireland, and you were given an exclusive peek at their World Cup preparations. How they train, how they recover, how they go about their daily lives, and how they inspire me all strike me as fascinating. That kind of thing takes time from me. watching a nine-part series about mysteries and crime. I simply don’t have time for such things.