Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has more experience with national championship games than most of his peers.
He coached in last year’s BCS championship game and won two of his three consecutive appearances in Division II title games at Grand Valley State (2001-03).
After a Thursday tour of the place that will host the first championship game played under the new College Football Playoff umbrella, Kelly said Cowboys Stadium offers “an incredible venue” to crown major-college football’s initial champion of the playoff era.
But he made it clear that the four-team playoff following the 2014 regular season is only the start to something bigger.
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“I don’t know that four is where we’re going to finish this thing. I think it’s a great entry into where we want to go,” said Kelly, who toured the stadium in preparation for his team’s Oct. 5 matchup at Cowboys Stadium against Arizona State. “Moving forward, I think the focus will be on whether it’s eight or 16 [teams] or whatever the number is.”
Although Kelly envisions and supports a larger playoff field in the future, administrators with the College Football Playoff have stressed that they will not expand the bracket beyond the four-team model during the 12 years of its inaugural cycle. The initial title game in that 12-year cycle will be played at Cowboys Stadium on Jan. 12, 2015.
Because the Arlington facility also is the site of the 2014 Final Four and will be the venue when the AT&T Cotton Bowl hosts semifinal games in the new playoff format, Kelly said “all eyes are on this geographic area and, in particular, this venue.” To him, that makes the decision for Notre Dame to move one of its 2013 home games to Cowboys Stadium as part of its “Shamrock Series” a case of excellent timing. And a recruiting coup.
“There’s no question that when you talk about playing in Cowboys Stadium, that gets every recruit’s attention. They know that venue and they want to play here,” said Kelly, whose roster includes three Texans expected to contribute this season: RB/KR Cam McDaniel (Coppell), WR Torii Hunter Jr. (Prosper) and CB Jalen Brown (Irving MacArthur).
Kelly also said defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, a Weatherford High School graduate drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens, has made “really good progress” in rehabilitating a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered Jan. 7 and has not ruled out the possibility of playing as an NFL rookie this season.
He also predicted that San Diego teammates “will respect” former Irish linebacker Manti Te’o, a second-round pick who was at the center of a fake girlfriend scandal that surfaced in January.
“The first couple of couple of weeks, he’s probably going to get ribbed about the situation that he went through,” Kelly said. “But he’s a man of strong character, and that locker room will respect him once they see how he works on a day-to-day basis.”