SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish yells at Carlo Calabrese #44 after a penalty during a game against the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 22, 2011…
CINCINNATI - If the name Brian Kelly puts a bad taste in your mouth, you're not alone, and you're probably from Cincinnati.
Despite his high-profile departure from the Cincinnati Bearcats football team three years ago, his success as a head coach is undeniable, and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are living proof of that fact as they play for the BCS National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide Monday night.
And Monday night's national championship is no routine football game; it's one of the highest-profile championships of the last 20 years, which means millions, many of whom are right here along the Ohio River, will be watching.
As with any sporting event, you've got to have a favorite; a team to cheer on. So who's it going to be Tri-State?
"I handled myself in a manner that was upfront and honest," Kelly said after the dust had cleared on the Notre Dame deal back in 2009.
Remembrance of that quote likely gives football fans from this region incentive to cheer for Alabama, with many Cincinnati residents well aware of the media mess that spilled the beans on Kelly's "staying at UC, wait, no, he's not, but he won't admit it" act at the end of the Bearcats' 12-0, No. 3 ranked, Sugar Bowl appearance-highlighted season.
Not to mention Kelly didn't make a single reference to the Bearcats football squad as his stepping stone to glory in his introduction speech at Notre Dame.
But time heals all wounds... right?
If time hasn't done its job, maybe the local high school football stars that have also found their glory at Notre Dame will.
The Fighting Irish boast seven players from right here in the Greater Cincinnati area on their official roster. They are as follows:
Austin Collinsworth, Junior Safety, Fort Thomas, KY/Highlands
Charlie Fiessinger, Sophomore Quarterback, Mason, OH/Moeller
Jarrett Grace, Sophomore Inside Linebacker, Cincinnati, OH/Colerain (accumulated 12 total tackles during 2012 regular season as backup to Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o)
Andrew Hendrix, Junior Quarterback, Cincinnati, OH/Moeller (completed 5 of 7 passes for 55 yards and had eight carries for 41 yards this season)
Luke Massa, Junior Wide Receiver, Cincinnati, OH/St. Xavier
Tate Nichols, Junior Offensive Tackle, Walton, KY/Ryle
Alex Welch, Junior Tight End, Cincinnati, OH/Elder
That's seven reasons to be an Irish fan on Monday night.
Alabama's roster is less plentiful of locally-grown talent, with just one Tri-State resident on the team in the form of Ryan Kelly, a Freshman Offensive Lineman from West Chester, Ohio (Lakota West), who came off the bench to play in nine games en route to being named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
That's one reason to be a Crimson Tide fan.
Whatever the reason you're cheering for either team, be it a family member's attendance, the preference of mascot, or the placement of a leisurely bet, don't let that reason be Brian Kelly.
Sure, Kelly handled the situation a little sheepishly and it could have been a much smoother departure. But even in the smoothest of departures, like Butch Jones' recent ship jump, will still leave a "here we go again" feeling.
Instead, cheer for the students who make up the teams, for the kids of this region who made it that far, who are dedicated to higher learning and who make the plays and score the points. Just being accepted to Notre Dame is an accomplishment in itself; playing on the football team? Now that's glory. Same can be said about Alabama's fine program.
Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Casey Weldon contributed to this report.
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