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CINCINNATI — Coach Brian Kelly is so accustomed to hearing rumors about him leaving Cincinnati that he pays little attention to what he calls the "silly season" of college football.
Kelly said on Tuesday the speculation he will be up for other coaching jobs doesn't affect his undefeated team or its recruiting. The fifth-ranked Bearcats (10-0) are fifth in the BCS standings heading into their final home game Friday against Illinois (3-7).
A week later, they play at Pittsburgh, a game that will determine the Big East championship.
In each of his three years in Cincinnati, Kelly has been mentioned as a candidate for various openings. This year it's as a possible candidate if Notre Dame fires Charlie Weis after the season.
Kelly's players have been good at ignoring the talk, too.
"This is the silly season, you know?" Kelly said. "This is where it happens every year. We've been having this conversation for the last two years, so this isn't new ground for our players.
"The truth is, this happens every year. It will continue to happen while I'm at the University of Cincinnati because nobody thinks that Cincinnati is a destination job, so it just happens this way."
Kelly has been trying to turn it into more than a steppingstone job. He has persuaded the university to spend millions of dollars to improve the practice facilities and give better pay to the coaches. The Bearcats won 10 games in his first year and the Big East title in 2008. This year, they've kept themselves in the discussion of national title contenders by getting off to the best start in school history.
Last December, Kelly tried to dampen speculation by saying he was happy in Cincinnati and had no intention of leaving, so long as the school is committed to doing what it takes to turn the program into the nation's best. He expects more interest in his future after the season.
"The process is after the season," he said. "It's always about looking at what's the best opportunities for you and your family and your program. Again, it comes back to the same thing: Cincinnati is a great place to be."
Kelly said the speculation about him leaving Cincinnati hasn't hurt recruiting. He said coaches who are under fire at their schools might have more problems getting players to commit to them.
"I guess it's better than being on the other side of that," Kelly said. "They're talking about, let's see: Charlie Weis, (Kansas') Mark Mangino, (LSU's) Les Miles. To give due respect to all the coaches that are supposedly on the hot seat - there's like 10 coaches. I don't want to be one of them because that really hurts your recruiting."
Mardy Gilyard, the Big East's leading receiver, said Tuesday that Kelly seems to be content coaching a team that's viewed as one of the nation's best.
"(Kelly) is a straight shooter, and he's enjoying it," Gilyard said. "You can see him out there at practice, and he's enjoying himself and enjoying himself week-in and week-out with us. He's establishing so much stuff in the community. He's just building it."
Gilyard said when speculation about Kelly's came up in the past, the coach reassured him he wasn't leaving.
"He said, 'Don't worry about nothing, I'm not going anywhere. I love the city. This is a good place. What better place to be than Cincinnati now?"' Gilyard said.