Brian Kelly says 'everything is on the table' for Irish after 4-8 season

LOS ANGELES -- Despite finishing with the school's worst record in nearly a decade, Brian Kelly said he expects to be back as Notre Dame's head football coach next season.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," Kelly said Saturday night. "There was some discussion as to why I'm coming back [to campus] early, and I don't believe I'm coming back early because I'm getting fired. [Notre Dame athletic director] Jack [Swarbrick] and I always meet at the end of the year, and I wanted to do some exit interviews with our players because I hadn't been able to do that.

"I always stay on the West Coast for the week and then we get into bowl practice, but obviously we don't have bowl practice, and then they get into exams, so I'm going to use next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to do exit interviews so I can spend a little time and get feedback from our players in terms of some of the things we may need to adjust within our program."

A source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy, however, that Kelly, through his representatives, is exploring options to possibly leave the Fighting Irish program.

Notre Dame wrapped up a 4-8 regular season with a 45-27 loss to USC on Saturday night. It was the Fighting Irish's worst regular season since going 3-9 under Charlie Weis in 2007 and Kelly's worst season since his first year at Central Michigan in 2004.

Despite leading the Irish to bowl games in each of his first six seasons at the school, Kelly said he understands the talk about his job status after a subpar year.

"When you've been in this business a long time, you think you've got a track record of what you've done, but you're also at a high-profile institution like Notre Dame, where the expectations are really high," Kelly said. "You're going to have to answer those questions when you have a year like this. One side of you says, 'Look, this is my 25th year, I know what I'm doing,' but the other side of you understands you can't be surprised when you go 4-8. You're going to get those questions asked."

Kelly didn't rule out making changes to his coaching staff in the offseason after conducting his exit interviews and talking to Swarbrick.

"Everything is on the table," Kelly said. "I think I have to evaluate a lot of things within the program. There are some really good things in place, but I've always felt the blend of continuity and change is the sweet spot. We need to clearly look where that is, because it was off, and so I have to clearly look where that mix of continuity and change is. I'll get to work on it immediately, starting on Monday."

One of the players Kelly said he would speak with is Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, who kicked USC running back Aca'Cedric Ware in the head while he was down and then stomped on the foot of USC offensive lineman Zach Banner while he was on the ground in the fourth quarter. Officials saw only the second incident and flagged Tillery for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"I did not [see the plays]," Kelly said. "I know he got a personal foul penalty, and I subsequently took him out of the game. I had a conversation with him. Anytime a player has a personal foul penalty, I pull them out and have a conversation with them. I did that with Jerry, but I did not see [the plays].

"Accountability is built within any program. Jerry has to be accountable for his actions every single day. Jerry is a good kid, and if he made a mistake we'll hold him accountable for that mistake. We'll take a look at it."

Tillery was not made available to the media after the game.

Kelly held his players from going into the locker room at halftime and huddled them up in the rain on the visiting sideline at the Coliseum. Kelly said the meeting had more to do with the cramped quarters of the Coliseum's visiting locker room and not the fact that USC had scored two touchdowns in a span of 17 seconds to take a 24-7 lead at the break.

"It's a very difficult place to talk," Kelly said. "It's broken up, and I can't see their eyes. I can't see them and talk to them. I needed to make a couple of important points, and I had already thought about this prior to the game. If I needed to make a couple of points to the team, I wanted to do it out on the field regardless of what other people thought."

Earlier this week, the NCAA ordered Notre Dame to vacate all of its wins from the 2012 and '13 football seasons in an academic misconduct case. Notre Dame announced it would appeal the decision. Kelly said the decision had no impact on preparations for Saturday's game.

"I've got thick skin," Kelly said. "I knew what the situation was relative to the academic investigation because in 2014 I was the point person. I was asked every day what was going on. I felt like I had been there and done that. It really wasn't much for me. My focus was on the football team."