With the coach of the nation's No. 1 team handling all of the postgame obligations of clinching a title-game spot, his boss was left out in the open.
In the long delay between Notre Dame's win at USC and Brian Kelly's news conference, athletic director Jack Swarbrick held court in a makeshift tent in a scene quite familiar in the Coliseum.
"This of course reminds me a little bit of being pinned up against the wall four years ago here by you guys," Swarbrick cracked.
Then, in 2008, the Irish had laid another egg against the Trojans, not even gaining a first down until the last play of the third quarter. Then-coach Charlie Weis' job was the source of much speculation, though Swarbrick stuck with him through one more year.
But not even Swarbrick saw Notre Dame's climb back to the top coming so fast, as he admitted that, despite the good vibes he got from Kelly -- whose contract he extended after consecutive 8-5 seasons -- he did not see a national title run before Year 4.
"He told me this summer we're going to be very good this year," Swarbrick said of Kelly, adding: "I just think everything coming together. It's all the pieces. It's not just one thing, but you could see it, too. The coaching staff was really good, great team leadership -- all the pieces were there."
Swarbrick said he didn't finally start to realize his vision Saturday night until Notre Dame's goal-line stand.
And, despite negative incidents big and small in the first two years, he said that Kelly had entered this season on the coolest seat in America, seeing the infrastructure the coach was building along the way.
"He knew how to build a program, and he could explain it," Swarbrick said. "He could articulate every element of it. He could tell me exactly what all those elements were and how he was going to address them, and that's what we were missing -- the program elements.
"As you could see, we had some really talented kids, great leaders. It wasn't our problem with the approach to the game, it was the other stuff. And he knew how to build that stuff. He demonstrated it, and that compelled me."
Swarbrick added that he was most happy about the win for the players who had been through the ups and downs of coaching changes and mediocre seasons.
Midway through Swarbrick's interview, his boss interjected to ensure that everyone received due credit.
"The only thing I would add, if I could: Brian did such a great job, but Jack is the one that put in the structures that allowed us to achieve the best graduation rate in college athletics as well as this great win today," school president Rev. John Jenkins said. "He won't credit himself, but he deserves a lot of credit."