The Dick Corbett Head Football Coach
2018 Home Depot National Coach of the Year
2018 Associated Press National Coach of the Year
2018 Stallings National Coach of the Year
2012 AP National Coach of the Year
2012 Walter Camp National Coach of the Year
2012 Sporting News National Coach of the Year
2012 Home Depot National Coach of the Year
2012 Liberty Mutual National Coach of the Year
2012 AFCA National Coach of the Year
2009 Home Depot National Coach of the Year
In his 28th season as a collegiate head coach and ninth year at the University of Notre Dame, Dick Corbett Head Football Coach Brian Kelly brings a championship tradition as the school’s 29th head football coach.
Kelly is the winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision. He is the only coach to win The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2009, 2012 and 2018) on more than one occasions. Kelly is the fifth-winningest coach in school history.
His 154 victories as a head coach since 2001 are more than all but four active FBS head coaches — Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Miami, Fla.’s Mark Richt and TCU’s Gary Patterson.
Kelly’s Head Coaching Resume
- Twenty-third college coach to reach 200 career victories with at least five years of service or 50 victories at a school that was classified as a major college at the time
- Second-youngest and fifth-fastest coach to ever reach 200 career victories with at least five years of service or 50 victories at a school that was classified as a major college at the time
- With 10 wins in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Kelly joins Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz as the only Notre Dame coaches to hit the double-digit mark in wins three times
- With 10-win seasons in three of the last four years, Kelly is the first Irish coach to do so since Holtz registered three straight 10-win seasons from 1991-93
- Kelly is 23-17 (.575) in his career against Associated Press Top 25 teams, which ranks fifth among active FBS coach with at least 25 such games
- Ranks first and ninth among active NCAA FBS coaches in career victories (231) and career winning percentage (.718), respectively
- Swept just about every possible coach of the year award in 2012 — Home Depot, Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sporting News, Liberty Mutual and American Football Coaches Association
- Continued focus on academics as Notre Dame won the 2014 American Football Coaches Association Academic Achievement Award with a 100 percent graduation rate for the freshman football student-athlete class of 2007
- Thirteen of Kelly’s last 14 teams have finished the year with a winning record
- Every team of Kelly’s head coaching tenure, except for his first Central Michigan team that went 4-7 in 2004 and Notre Dame in 2016 (4-8), has finished at .500 or better (26 out of 28 years)
- Kelly is one of five active FBS coaches that have guided their respective schools to multiple undefeated regular seasons since 2009
- Three seasons at Cincinnati from 2007-09, including a 34-6 record (.850) and two straight outright BIG EAST Conference title teams that earned BCS appearances in 2008 (FedEx Orange Bowl) and 2009 (Allstate Sugar Bowl)
- Three seasons at Central Michigan University from 2004-06, including a 19-16 overall record (.542) featuring a 9-4 mark and Mid-American Conference title in 2006
- Thirteen seasons at Grand Valley State University from 1991-2003, including a 118-35-2 record (.767) highlighted by NCAA Division II national championships in 2002 (14-0) and 2003 (14-1)
- An overall record of 231-90-2 (.718) in those 28 seasons as a head coach
- A record of 16-7 (.696) record in postseason play as a head coach
Kelly Era At Notre Dame
With 10 wins in 2015, 2017 and 2018, Brian Kelly joins Knute Rockne, Ara Parseghian and Holtz as the only Notre Dame coaches to hit the double-digit mark in wins three times.
The 2018 season marked Notre Dame’s 13th unbeaten, untied regular season in school history and first berth into the College Football Playoff.
The Irish led the nation in FBS victories (12), ranked second in AP top-25 wins (four), ranked second in final CFP top-25 wins (three) and ranked tied for third in Power-5 wins (10).
Notre Dame has now posted back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 1992-93. This season marks the 12th time in school history the Irish have won 10 or more games during the regular season (also 10-1 in 1921, 10-0 in 1930, 10-0 in 1949, 10-0 in 1973, 10-1 in 1977, 11-0 in 1988, 11-1 in 1989, 10-1 in 1993, 10-2 in 2002, 10-2 in 2006 and 10-3 in 2015).
Notre Dame’s 22-3 record and .880 winning percentage over the last two seasons ranks fifth among all Power-5 schools. In fact, the Irish improved to 21-2 (.913) in their past 23 games since a 49-20 win at Boston College on Sept. 16, 2017. The current string matched the most recent stretch of 21 Notre Dame wins in 23 games played that spanned Oct. 24, 1992 through Oct. 1, 1994.
In its 21-win surge over the past 23 games, Notre Dame has earned seven wins against top-25 foes. In the most recent stretch from October of 1992 into the 1994 season, the Irish also managed seven wins against ranked opponents in that span that included downing No. 1 Florida State 31-24 on Nov. 13, 1993, No. 22 Penn State 17-16 in the famous “Snow Bowl” game on Nov. 14, 1992 at Notre Dame Stadium and Texas A&M twice in both the 1993 (No. 4, 28-3) and 1994 (No. 7, 24-21) Cotton Bowl.
Dating back to the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018, against LSU, Notre Dame has fashioned 13 straight wins overall. It is the fourth-longest winning streak in Notre Dame football history.
Notre Dame’s six-game win improvement in 2017 from the year prior was the largest improvement from one year to the next in school history since the Irish improved by seven victories under first-year head coach Ara Parseghian in 1964 (9-1 after going 2-7 in 1963).
Notre Dame defeated four teams last year that finished the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 – a feat unsurpassed by another team in college football. The four victories over teams that finished the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 were the most by an Irish squad since 1990 – when Notre Dame registered five.
Among the 26 FBS teams that finished the season with at least 10 wins in 2017, Notre Dame played four different Power 5 teams with 10 or more wins (second most in the nation) and defeated two different Power 5 teams with 10 or more wins (fourth most in the nation). In fact, among the 36 FBS teams that finished the season with at least nine wins in 2017, Notre Dame played seven different nine or more win teams (the most) and defeated four different nine or more win teams (fourth most).
The Irish used a dominant running game led by the All-American tandem of guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey.
McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson were the 17th set of FBS teammates in the same position group to be named consensus All-Americans in the same season since the adoption of two-platoon football (1964). They were the first FBS teammates in the same position group to be named consensus All-Americans in the same season since Barrett Jones (C) and Chance Warmack (OG) of Alabama in 2012.
Nelson was the 34th unanimous All-American in Notre Dame history, the first since Manti Te’o in 2012, and first offensive lineman to earn such an honor since OT Aaron Taylor in 1993.
McGlinchey and Nelson were the first pair of Notre Dame offensive linemen to garner first-team honors in the same season by the Associated Press since 1931.
The duo spearheaded an offensive line that paved the way for the third-best FBS rushing attack in yards/carry (6.3), seventh-best in rushing offense (269.3 rush yards/game), eighth-best in total rushing yards (3,503) and 15th-best in rushing touchdowns (35). The 3,503 rush yards and 6.3 yards/carry were both single-season school records.
They also helped Notre Dame’s offensive line capture the Joe Moore Award. Presented by the Foundation for Teamwork, the award is given annually the “toughest, most physical offensive line in the country.”
Notre Dame rushed for over 300 yards seven times in 2017 (the Irish eclipsed 300 yards rushing seven times over the previous 17 years combined). The Irish had seven different players that registered a run of at least 30 yards, four different players that rushed for at least 100 yards in a game, 13 separate 100-yard rushing games and 22 carries that netted at least 35 yards.
Notre Dame ranked in the top three nationally in runs of at least 20 yards (3rd, 42), 30 yards (1st, 28), 40 yards (3rd, 15), 50 yards (3rd, 11), 60 yards (1st, nine) and 70 yards (2nd, four).
Josh Adams ranked among the top 20 nationally in rushing yards per game (16th at 115.5), total rushing yards (13th at 1,386) and yards per rush (17th at 7.26). He led the nation with a 5.20 yards per carry after contact (total 994).
No FBS player since 1996 other than Adams in 2017 broke a TD run of at least 70 yards in four consecutive games. He passed four players since ‘96 who had TD runs of 70-plus in three straight games, including Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams.
Brandon Wimbush set the quarrterback school record for single-game rushing yards (207) and single-season rushing touchdowns (14). He was the third QB in school history to eclipse both 500 rushing yards and 1,000 passing yards in the same season. He joined Tony Rice (1988 and ‘89) and DeShone Kizer (2015).
Notre Dame set the modern single-game record for rush yards per carry vs. Boston College on Sept. 16, 2017. The Irish averaged 10.1 yards per rush and totaled 515 yards against the Eagles. The previous record of 10.0 yards per rush had stood for 75 years.
The Boston College game was the first time in school history that the Irish had a pair of runners eclipse 200 yards rushing in the same game. Adams went for 229 yards on 18 carries, while Wimbush picked-up 207 yards and ran for four scores.
Notre Dame set the single-season record for rush yards per carry in 2017. The Irish averaged 6.3 yards per rush, which not only bested the previous modern-day mark of 5.63 – set just two years ago in 2015 – but also topped the previous school record of 6.2, which was set in 1921 (96 years ago).
Notre Dame rushed for 35 touchdowns in 2017, which is the most by the Irish since 1993.
Notre Dame ranked 27th in the FBS in total offense. The Irish have not ranked higher in the FBS since 2009, when they ranked ninth.
Notre Dame ranked seventh in the FBS in rushing offense (269.3 yards per game). The Irish have not ranked higher in the FBS since 1995 (sixth) and have not registered a higher per game average since 1996 (269.5).
Notre Dame ranked 24th in the FBS in scoring offense (34.2 points per game). The Irish have not ranked higher in the FBS since 2006 (16th) and have not registered a higher scoring average since 2005 (36.7).
With nine runs of at least 60 yards in 2017, the Irish were tied for the national lead in that category. Six of those runs came against Power 5 teams, making Notre Dame one of just four teams in FBS to have broken six runs of 60 yards or more against power conference teams this year.
The Irish also experienced a resurgence on the defensive side of the ball.
Notre Dame improved by at least 20 spots in the FBS rankings in third down conversion percentage, interceptions, rushing defense, scoring defense, passing efficiency defense, sacks, tackles for loss and turnovers gained.
The Irish were the last team in the FBS to surrender more than 20 points in a game in 2017. Notre Dame allowed 20 points or less over each of their first eight games.
The Irish allowed only four plays of 40 yards or longer in 2017 – the second-fewest of any team in the FBS. By comparison, Notre Dame yielded 12 in 2016 and 15 in 2015.
The Irish allowed only one play of 50 yards or longer in 2017 – the second-fewest of any team in the FBS. By comparison, Notre Dame yielded 10 in 2016 and nine in 2015.
The Irish ranked first or second in the FBS in fewest completions allowed of at least 30 yards (second, nine), 40 yards (first, one) and 50 yards (first, zero).
Notre Dame was the only FBS school to yield one or fewer pass plays of 40 yards or longer in 2017. By comparison, Notre Dame allowed eight completions of 40 yards or longer and seven of 50 yards or longer in 2016.
Notre Dame’s defensive line combined for 16.5 sacks in 2017. The Irish defensive line in 2016 accounted for a total of 3.0 sacks (and both of the players that combined for those 3.0 sacks graduated).
Notre Dame’s linebacker unit (which included Te’von Coney, Drue Tranquill, Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini) all registered at least 75 tackles – a first in school history.
Despite starting just seven games in 2017, Coney led Notre Dame in tackles (116), tackles for loss (13.5) and finished second on the Irish in sacks (3.0). Coney recorded a career-best 17 tackles in the 21-17 victory over LSU in the 2018 Overton Citrus Bowl. The 17 stops were the most by any player in a bowl game last season.
Tranquill, in his first season at linebacker after converting from safety, totaled 85 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, four passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble. Morgan and Martini registered 92 and 75 stops, respectively, and Morgan collected 7.0 tackles for loss.
Julian Love became the eighth Irish player in school history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a season. He finished second in the FBS in pass breakups (20), passes defended (23) and passes defended/gm (1.77). Love is the first FBS underclassman (freshman or sophomore) to average more than 1.77 passes defended/game since Aqib Talib, Kansas, 2006 (2.8).
The 2015 regular season did not exactly start as many within the program might have hoped. The Irish lost projected defensive front-line standout Jarron Jones and likely freshman secondary contributor Shaun Crawford in preseason camp.
Then take a look at the depth chart for the Notre Dame opener against Texas: It included starting quarterback Malik Zaire, starting running back Tarean Folston, backup running back C.J. Prosise, starting tight end Durham Smythe, rookie wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, starting linebacker James Onwualu, starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell, experienced safeties Drue Tranquill and Avery Sebastian, none of whom would be in uniform for the finale at Stanford.
Along the way, the Irish were forced to use 38 different players in the starting lineup, yet still won 10 games (10-3) against a schedule that featured five teams ranked in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The three losses all came against teams that were ranked in the top five of the final AP poll — vs. No. 4 Ohio State, at No. 2 Clemson and at No. 3 Stanford — and two came by two points and, for all intents and purposes, decided on the game’s final play.
In 2015 Notre Dame featured one of the most explosive offenses in college football. The Irish averaged 34.2 points per game, not far off of the school record for points per game of 37.6 set in 1968 and its best average since 2005 when Notre Dame posted 36.7 points per game. Notre Dame averaged 466.4 yards of total offense per game, including three outings with over 500 yards of total offense (Texas, UMass and Stanford). The Irish have averaged more yards of total offense per game just once (2005) since setting the school record of 510.5 yards of total offense per game.
Following the season-ending injury to Zaire in just the second game, Kelly turned the offense over to sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer. Despite having minimal playing experience, Kizer proved to be one of the better first-year signal callers in school history. He threw for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns (in 13 games and 11 starts). Kizer added 520 yards rushing and a then quarterback school record 10 TDs on the ground. He registered 3,404 yards of total offense. In single-season school history, Kizer ranked fourth in completion percentage (63.0), seventh in passing efficiency (150.0), seventh in TD passes, seventh in passing yards, tied for seventh in 300-yard passing games (two), eighth in completions (211), ninth in pass attempts (335) and 10th in passing yards per game (221.8).
Kizer benefited from a dominant offensive line, punishing running game and dynamic passing attack. Senior LT Ronnie Stanley became the first Irish offensive lineman to earn consensus All-America honors since Aaron Taylor in 1993. Senior RB C.J. Prosise ran for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year at the position. Prosise eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier faster than all but one previous player in Notre Dame history (Reggie Brooks, 1992). While Prosise and freshman Josh Adams (835 yards on 117 carries) did the damage on the ground, junior Will Fuller took advantage through the air. The All-American and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist backed up a record-setting sophomore campaign in 2014 with another incredible season in 2015. Fuller caught 62 passes for 1,258 yards and 14 TDs. His 29 TDs and 2,352 receiving yards over the 2014-15 seasons combined rank first and second, respectively, among Irish wideouts over any two-year span in school history.
Junior LB Jaylon Smith and senior DL Sheldon Day led the Irish defense with All-America caliber campaigns.
Smith, the Butkus Award recipient as well as a consensus All-American, led Notre Dame in total tackles (114), solo tackles (69), assisted tackles (45), pass breakups (five) and fumble recoveries (two). He ranked third on the team with his nine tackles for loss. Smith was the first Notre Dame player with at least 113 tackles, nine tackles for loss and five passes defended since Courtney Watson in 2003. He was one of just three players at a contract bowl eligible school in 2015 with at least 113 tackles, nine TFLs and five passes defended.
Smith turned in some of his best individual performances late in the season, recording at least 10 tackles in five of Notre Dame’s last seven games, including a career-high 15 at No. 9 Stanford on Nov. 28. In that game, the Irish held Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey to just 94 yards rushing and 113 offensive yards, both his lowest totals over the Cardinal’s final 12 games of the season.
Day registered 45 tackles, 33 solo stops, 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, 13 quarterback hurries, four passes defended, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He led the Irish in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. His 15.5 tackles for loss were the most by an Irish player since 2006. He had at least one TFL in 11 different games and recorded multiple TFLs in four games.
The Irish saw an offensive renaissance in 2014, with Notre Dame averaging 32.8 points per game, its best mark since 2005. The Irish improved by an average of over 39 yards per game from their 2013 total offense mark, running an average of 6.1 more snaps per contest. Notre Dame’s 444.9 yards per game of total offense are also the highest average of Kelly’s tenure.
Notre Dame scored at least 27 points a school-record 11 times in 2014. In fact, the Irish accomplished the feat in 10 of their first 11 games, which had not happened since 2005 and has never been eclipsed in school history. The Irish were particularly hot at the start of the 2014 season. Notre Dame scored at least 30 points in each of its first four games for the first time since 1943. Meanwhile, the Irish defense allowed just 46 points over those first four games, all victories by at least 16 points. It marked the first time since 1972 that Notre Dame started a season 4-0 with each win coming by 16 points or more.
The highlight of the dominant early season run came under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 6, when Notre Dame shut out Michigan, 31-0. The Wolverines saw an NCAA-record streak of 365 games without being shut out snapped that night. In addition to being Michigan’s first time being shut out since 1984, it was the school’s most lopsided shutout loss since 1967 and its first non-conference shutout loss since 1926.
Notre Dame started 20 different players on defense in 2014 with only three (CB Cole Luke, DL Isaac Rochell and LB Jaylon Smith) starting all 13 games. Of the 20 defensive starters, 12 were making their first career start on defense and three others had just a single start prior to last year.
A Butkus Award finalist, Smith led the unit with 112 tackles in 2014, the most by a Notre Dame player since Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o stopped 113 ball-carriers in 2012. The Irish proved potent in the secondary, recording 16 interceptions on the season, ranking tied for 15th in the nation. Notre Dame intercepted a pass in each of its first 11 games and held a national-best active streak of 14 consecutive games with an interception before seeing it halted at USC.
Kelly’s ideal of well-rounded student-athlete values were on display when sophomore Corey Robinson became the first sophomore since 2008, and just the fourth since 2002, to earn first-team Capital One Academic All-America honors. The wide receiver caught 40 passes on the year for 539 yards and five touchdowns. Robinson boasts a 3.83 cumulative grade-point average and has an extensive record of community service work, including holding leadership positions on the University’s Student Government Executive Cabinet and the school’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The 2013 defense saw an unusually high number of players gain valuable experience. Twenty-six different Notre Dame players made at least 10 tackles. The Irish last had at least 26 different players reach double digits when 29 different Irish tacklers reached that milestone in 1962. Over that 51-year span, Notre Dame has seen no more than 23 double-digit tacklers, a sum reached four other times (1977, 1991, 2003 and 2011). Eleven different Notre Dame defensive players that opened 2013 in the two-deep depth chart missed at least three games due to injury, and 19 different Notre Dame defensive players started a game in 2013.
The 2012 defense led the nation in two different categories and ranked among the top 10 in 10 more, including total rushing touchdowns allowed (four, 1st), red-zone rushing touchdowns allowed (four, t-1st), scoring defense (12.77, 2nd), points allowed per red-zone trip (3.4, 2nd), passing yards/completion (9.95, 2nd), red-zone touchdowns allowed percentage (34.21%, 3rd), total red-zone touchdowns allowed (13, t-3rd), red-zone points allowed (130, 4th), total passing touchdowns (10, t-6th), total defense (305.46, 7th), red-zone defense (68.4%, t-7th) and first downs allowed (17.00, t-8th).
Notre Dame allowed just 12.77 points per game in ‘12 and was one of only three FBS top-10 scoring defenses to exclusively face FBS competition. The Irish allowed only 16 touchdowns (15 offensive) – four touchdowns fewer than any other FBS school – and allowed just 166 points over their 13 games, the fewest points surrendered over such a stretch in school history. In fact, they allowed just 12 offensive touchdowns over their last 11 games, holding six opponents without an offensive touchdown and nine to one or fewer offensive touchdowns.
The 2012 offense averaged 189.4 yards rushing (2,462 yards in 13 games) and 222.8 yards passing (2,896). Notre Dame nearly became the third team in school history to average 200-yards in both categories. The two teams to accomplish the feat were the 1977 national champions (231.9 rushing and 208.1 passing), and the 1970 squad that finished No. 2 (257.8 rushing and 252.7 passing). Notre Dame was one of 26 teams in the FBS to average at least 189 yards on the ground and 200 yards in the air. The Irish averaged 4.9 yards/rush, their highest per carry average over the previous 16 years. The 189.4 rushing yards/game was the third-highest per game average over the previous 15 years. Only the 2000 (213.5) and 1998 (212.5) Irish squads averaged more per game. Notre Dame ran for at least 200 yards seven times, including six of the year’s last nine contests. The Irish had not posted more 200+ yard rushing games in a single season since 1996.
In 2012, Te’o became the 32nd unanimous All-American in Notre Dame history, and the first Irish defensive player to earn such an honor since cornerback Shane Walton in 2002. Te’o was named a first-team All-American as the Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press selected him to their respective All-America squads.
Te’o qualified as Notre Dame’s fourth unanimous All-America linebacker and first since Michael Stonebreaker in 1990 – also joining the likes of Jim Lynch (1966) and Bob Golic (1978).
Te’o became Notre Dame’s first Heisman Trophy finalist since quarterback Brady Quinn in 2006. He finished second with 321 first-place votes and 1,706 points – the most by a defensive player in college football history. Te’o nearly became the third player to be named a first-team Academic All-American and win the Heisman Trophy in the same year, joining Pete Dawkins (Army) in 1958 and Danny Wuerffel (Florida) in 1996.
Te’o captured the Lott Trophy, Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award. He became the first player in college football history to sweep the aforementioned seven awards. In fact, no other player in college football history had ever captured more than five major awards in one season.
Tyler Eifert finished his career as the most prolific tight end in Notre Dame history. The 2012 John Mackey Award winner, Eifert holds the school record for career receptions (140) and career receiving yards (1,840) by an Irish tight end. He bested Ken MacAfee’s school records in both career categories that had stood since 1977. Eifert also holds single-season school records for receptions (63) and receiving yards (803) by a Notre Dame tight end.
Eifert was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly and second-team All-American by the Associated Press, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and CBSSports.com.
Te’o and Mike Golic Jr. were selected as first-team members an the 2012 Capital One Academic All-America® Football Team which is selected annually by CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America). The last time Notre Dame had two football players earn first-team academic honors in the same year was in 1987 (Ted Gradel and Vince Phelan).
The 2011 defense ranked 30th in the nation in yards allowed per game, a vast improvement from the defense Kelly inherited that ranked 86th in that category in 2009. The Irish ranked in the top 50 nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing defense in 2011, marking just the second time in the last nine seasons Notre Dame had ranked that high in all four categories.
Notre Dame was one of 24 schools that opened 2011 with a 0-2 record, but was one of only three teams (Georgia and Western Kentucky being the others) to rebound and have a winning season. In the 11 years from 2001-11, 275 FBS teams started 0-2 and Notre Dame became one of only 27 schools that won at least eight of its next 10 games. The Irish offense that Kelly directed eclipsed 500 yards of offense in five games, equal to the combined number of 500-yard games Notre Dame tallied in the previous five seasons. Notre Dame scored at least 45 points in three games in 2011, the most by an Irish offense since 1996.
The Irish were led on offense by wide receiver Michael Floyd’s school-record 100 receptions and the running back duo of Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray, who combined for 1,893 yards and 21 touchdowns. Floyd capped his career by breaking former teammate Golden Tate’s two-year-old school record of single-season receptions. Wood and Gray formed a potent one-two punch out of the backfield. The tandem was one of only three running back duos in the FBS that featured each player having at least nine rushing TDs in the 2011 regular season. The other two running back teammates played on the high-octane offenses at Oregon and Oklahoma State.
Defensively, Notre Dame held 12 of 13 teams below their season scoring average and held 11 of 13 schools below their season rushing average. When Kelly arrived at Notre Dame, the Irish were coming off a season where the defense ranked 86th in the nation in total defense at 397.8 yards per game. Two years later, Notre Dame’s defense ranked 30th in yards allowed per game at 344.7 and was 25th in scoring defense.
Te’o was named a finalist for the 2011 Butkus Award and Lott Trophy after leading Notre Dame with 128 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Safety and team captain Harrison Smith paced the secondary with 90 tackles and 10 pass breakups.
Following the season, Floyd and Smith both were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Floyd was chosen 13th overall by Arizona, while Minnesota tabbed Smith with the 29th selection. It marked the first time since 1994 that Notre Dame had multiple first-round NFL draft picks. Combined with Kyle Rudolph being drafted 43rd overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Kelly became the first Notre Dame coach in 17 seasons to produce three players selected in the first 43 picks of consecutive NFL drafts.
Despite enduring a slew of injuries at key positions, Kelly’s first Irish squad in 2010 came on strong to play perfectly in November. In addition to a convincing 28-3 victory over once-beaten and 15th-ranked Utah (Notre Dame’s widest margin over an Associated Press Top 20 opponent in 14 years), the Irish defeated Army in the first football game played at the new Yankee Stadium — then ended an eight-game losing streak to arch-rival USC with a come-from-behind win at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Then, in the convincing 33-17 Hyundai Sun Bowl triumph against Miami, the Irish charged to a 30-3 lead after three periods, as Kelly became the first Notre Dame football coach to record a bowl victory in his first season on the Notre Dame sidelines.
The Irish success down the stretch came mainly because of their defense, as Notre Dame went 13 consecutive periods over one late four-game stretch without allowing an offensive touchdown (the best sequence in that category in 30 years). In those final four wins Notre Dame’s defense limited the Utes, Black Knights, Trojans and Hurricanes to combined averages of 9.8 points (best stretch for an Irish team since 1989), 91.8 yards on the ground and 276.5 total yards. In the last four contests, the Irish defense faced teams that were averaging 38 (Tulsa), 41 (Utah), 31 (Army) and 32 (USC) points per game, yet yielded only two offensive touchdowns, combined, to that quartet. Among individual defensive leaders was Te’o, Notre Dame’s top tackler in 2010 with 133 and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Butkus Award. Each of those four victories came in the first four career starts by Tommy Rees, following a season-ending injury to Dayne Crist. Among the pacesetters for Kelly’s spread offense was Floyd who caught 79 balls in 2010 for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns and was named the MVP of the Hyundai Sun Bowl (six catches for 109 yards and two TDs in that contest).
Meanwhile, the Irish kicking game also sparkled in 2010, thanks to placekicker David Ruffer, who successfully converted his first 18 field-goal attempts (18-of-19 overall in 2010 and 23-of-24 in his career). Ruffer became one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award as the top placekicker in the nation.
Kelly’s debut season in South Bend saw the 2010 Irish play arguably the most difficult schedule in the country, as all but one of the Notre Dame opponents finished .500 or better — something no other team could claim. Notre Dame’s agenda ranked first nationally in the official NCAA schedule strength standings at the end of the regular season, with Irish opponents playing at a .652 clip (79-42).
On the academic side, Kelly’s first season at Notre Dame featured a first-team Academic All-America honor for Ruffer, an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship for offensive lineman Chris Stewart (he attended law school at Notre Dame during the 2010 season) as a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete selection – and a first-place finish by Notre Dame among all FBS programs in the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate standings with a 96 mark. In 2011, Te’o was named a second-team Academic All-American, and Notre Dame, once again, led all FBS programs in NCAA Graduation Success Rate standings with a 97 score.
Kelly Era At Cincinnati
Architect of two consecutive BCS appearances at the University of Cincinnati, including a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2009 that earned him national-coach-of-the-year honors. Kelly earned the ESPN/Home Depot National Coach of the Year Award in 2009, was the BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009 (the first time a BIG EAST football coach won the award three straight years) — and received the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year Award in both 2002 and 2003. He was also a finalist for four other national awards in 2009 — the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award (Football Writers Association of America), the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award (National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association), the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award and the George Munger Coach of the Year Award (Maxwell Football Club).
He boasted a 2-1 record at Cincinnati in postseason bowl games — including a 27-24 win over Western Michigan in the International Bowl after the 2006 season (he coached in that game immediately after taking the job at Cincinnati), a 31-21 win over Southern Mississippi in the Papajohns.com Bowl after the ’07 season and a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl after the ’08 campaign. Kelly’s ’06 Central Michigan team finished 9-4 and qualified for the Motor City Bowl (Central Michigan defeated Middle Tennessee 31-14, though he did not coach after accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati) — and his 12-0 team in ’09 earned an Allstate Sugar Bowl assignment against once-beaten Florida.
In six NCAA Division II playoff appearances at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams combined for an 11-4 (.733) postseason record — including four straight victories in winning both the ’02 and ’03 NCAA titles. His ’01 Grand Valley State team fell 17-14 to North Dakota in the Division II national title game.
Kelly’s ’09 team at Cincinnati finished third in the final BCS standings and fourth in both the final regular-season Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls. His ’08 team ended up 11-3 and 17th in both polls — and his ‘07 Bearcat squad finished 10-3 and 17th (AP) and 20th (USA Today/ESPN) in the final polls.
Through the end of the 2009 regular season, his Cincinnati team won all 12 of its games, led the nation in passing efficiency (166.19), ranked second in kickoff returns (29.2 each) and sixth in total offense (464.25 yards per game), passing yardage (320.33) and scoring (39.83 points). Meanwhile, Kelly’s Bearcat defense rated third nationally in tackles for losses (8.42 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92). The ’09 Cincinnati squad set Bearcat single-season records for points (495), passing yards (3,844), fewest fumbles (10), fewest fumbles lost (two) and fewest turnovers (10). Cincinnati concluded the ’09 campaign with a record 18 straight regular-season victories.
Among the standouts Kelly coached on the ’09 Bearcat roster were first-team All-America receiver Mardy Gilyard (he ranked second nationally in all-purpose yards at 203.5 per game at the end of the regular season) and quarterback Tony Pike (ninth in passing efficiency at 155.36). Eleven Cincinnati players merited all-BIG EAST honors for ’09 (five first-team selections), including Gilyard, the league’s Special Teams Player of the Year for the second straight season.
In three years at the helm of the program, Kelly put together a 34-6 record and led the Bearcats to their first two BIG EAST championships in 2008 and ‘09. Cincinnati achieved a then-school-record 11 victories in 2008, followed that up with a dozen wins in ’09 and had back-to-back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Kelly’s Bearcats in ’08 won the school’s first outright conference championship since 1964 and earned the school’s first berth in a BCS game, playing against Virginia Tech in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl. In ’08, Cincinnati achieved its then-highest ranking to close the regular season — 12th in the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls and the BCS standings entering the Orange Bowl. The Bearcats held a postseason ranking of 17th in both polls, tying the top postseason ranking in school history.
Following the close of the ’08 regular season, Kelly was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year for the second straight season. He also was named the American Football Monthly Schutt Sports FBS Coach of the Year, earned AFCA Region 1 Coach of the Year honors and was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year by Sporting News.
Cincinnati placed 10 players on the 2008 all-BIG EAST teams (including first-team selection Connor Barwin) — with kick returner Gilyard named the BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and punter Kevin Huber earning the first AFCA All-America nod in program history. Huber became the first two-time AP first-team All-America selection in Bearcat football history.
The Bearcats’ 27-24 bowl victory over Western Michigan in 2006 came just 34 days after Kelly was hired. Then, in his first full season at the helm in ‘07, he put Cincinnati on the national radar by jumping out to a 6-0 start and earning the Bearcats their first appearance in the polls in more than 30 years. By winning 10 games for the first time since 1951, Cincinnati earned its 10th bowl appearance in program history and sixth bowl appearance in eight years. The Bearcats finished 17th in the AP poll and 20th in the USA Today/ESPN rankings, earning their first appearances in the final polls.
Along the way to the 2007 Papajohns.com Bowl victory, the Bearcats’ third straight bowl win, Kelly earned BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors. Cincinnati listed seven individuals on the all-BIG EAST teams, including BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and consensus All-America punter Huber. The national leader in punting, Huber was one of three Bearcats to be named to an All-America team. Cincinnati ranked second in the BIG EAST and 24th nationally in passing offense (254.1), and also was second in the league and 27th nationally in passing efficiency (139.4). At the same time, the Bearcat defense led the BIG EAST in sacks (2.9) and tackles for a loss (6.5). Kelly’s Bearcats led the FBS in net punting (41.5 yards per punt), and Cincinnati also paced the BIG EAST in kickoff returns (24.2).
Kelly Era At Central Michigan
During his three years at Central Michigan, he transformed a Chippewa program that had won more than three games only once in the past four seasons into a conference champion. Central Michigan posted a 9-4 regular-season record in 2006 en route to winning the MAC title and qualifying for its first bowl game in 12 years. Kelly inherited a program that had produced a mere 12 wins over its previous four seasons when he took the helm at Central Michigan in 2004. He guided the Chippewas to a 4-7 record in 2004 and a 6-5 slate — the school’s first winning season in seven years — in 2005.
The Chippewas in 2005 defeated both defending MAC divisional champions, Miami and Toledo, and also knocked off eventual ‘05 league champ Akron. Central Michigan ranked first nationally in fewest turnovers (10) and fewest fumbles lost (four), while the team’s rushing defense ranked 20th and led the MAC at 113.7 yards per game (compared to 245.8 in ’03 — the year before Kelly arrived).
In 2006, Central Michigan rolled to a 7-1 record in conference play to win the MAC West and then dominated Ohio, 31-10, in the league championship game. Central Michigan boasted the 19th-most prolific passing attack in the nation, averaging 252.4 yards per game, set a Chippewa season mark with 28 TD passes and led the MAC in total offense (375.3 yards per game) and scoring (29.7 points). MAC Freshman of the Year Dan LeFevour passed for 2,869 yards and 25 TDs to rank 20th nationally in passing efficiency and 14th in total offense.
Kelly had 12 of his players achieve first-team all-conference honors over his three years at Central Michigan (including ’05 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Bazuin) — and three advanced to the NFL (including 2005 draftees Eric Ghiacuic and Adam Kieft and free agent Tory Humphrey). Bazuin, who led the nation in ’05 in tackles for losses, also was a ’06 first-team Academic All-American.
Kelly Era At Grand Valley State
Kelly arrived at Central Michigan after winning back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan. The all-time winningest program in NCAA Division II history, the Lakers were 41-2 in Kelly’s final three seasons, at one point winning 32 consecutive games. Grand Valley State went 14-0 in 2002 en route to its first national title and was 14-1 in 2003 when it claimed its second crown. Kelly was named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year after both seasons.
Kelly led the Lakers to five conference titles (1992-97-98-2001-02) and six Division II playoff appearances in his 13 seasons at Grand Valley. The Lakers never finished lower than third in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference.
Kelly mentored a pair of finalists for the Harlon Hill Award, presented annually to the top player in Division II. Quarterback Curt Anes won the award in 2002 after finishing as runner-up in 2001. He threw for 10,581 career yards and 114 TD passes — 48 in ’01 and 47 in ‘02 (12 games with at least five TD passes). Anes still holds the NCAA Division II single-season passing efficiency record for ’01 at 221.6 (189 for 271 for 3,086 yards, with 21 TDs, three interceptions). Quarterback Jeff Fox was third in the balloting in 1998, as he became the first Laker quarterback to throw for more than 2,000 yards in multiple seasons. Kelly’s Grand Valley State players earned 77 All-America awards (11 in 2002 alone). Four players moved on to the NFL and another three to the Canadian Football League.
His 2001 national runner-up squad set 77 NCAA, GLIAC and school records, including the Division II scoring record by averaging 58.4 points per game (and an average victory margin of 48.0 points). The 2001 team also became the first Division II unit in 53 years to average more than 600 yards per game in total offense (600.8), leading the nation in that category.
Grand Valley State followed its record-shattering 2001 season by averaging 497.5 yards and a nation-leading 46.7 points during its undefeated 2002 national championship run in which Kelly’s squad went wire-to-wire as the top-rated Division II squad. That ’02 campaign ended with a 31-24 championship game win over second-ranked and unbeaten Valdosta State — as All-America receiver David Kircus caught 11 passes for 270 yards and three TDs. Kircus holds the NCAA Division II season record for TD receptions with 35 in ’02, catching at least one TD pass in 24 straight games in 2001-02. He ended his career with 4,142 receiving yards and 76 TD catches and led the nation (Division II) in scoring in both ’01 and ’02.
The 2003 team, meanwhile, became more noted for its defense, leading the country in rushing defense at 62.0 yards per game. The Lakers defeated North Dakota 10-3 in the 2003 national title game (played annually in Florence, Alabama). In 10 of his 13 seasons at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s teams won eight or more games — and he finished with a 103-22-2 mark in GLIAC contests. The seniors on his final team in ’03 won 47 of their final 49 games (and finished 34-4 in four seasons of GLIAC play) and won 20 straight games in 2002-03. Kicker David Hendrix led the nation in ’03 with 25 field goals.
Kelly Off The Gridiron
Born in Everett, Massachusetts, and raised in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Kelly attended St. John’s Prep School in Danvers, Massachusetts. He was a four-year letter-winner at Assumption College (Worcester, Massachusetts) as a linebacker, captaining the squad in both ’81 and ’82 under coach Paul Cantiani on teams that finished 8-3 and 7-1-1. After graduating from Assumption in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he served as linebacker coach and defensive coordinator (as well as softball coach) from 1983-86 at Assumption under head football coach Bernie Gaughan.
Kelly was invited back to Assumption in 2012 where he served as commencement speaker and received an honorary degree from his alma mater. Kelly also endowed a $250,000 scholarship for Assumption football players.
Kelly joined the Grand Valley State staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. He became the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 1989 and took over (at age 28) as head coach in 1991 (replacing Tom Beck, who left to become running backs coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz). His first Laker team finished 9-3 and qualified for the NCAA playoffs. In 2009, Kelly was inducted into the Grand Valley State Athletics Hall of Fame and in 2011, Grand Valley State renamed its Laker Turf Building the Kelly Family Sports Center. The Kelly Family Sports Center is a 138,000 square-foot building that houses a regulation football field, a six-lane, 300-meter track, all of the amenities for field events, batting cages that drop from the ceiling, an athletic training room, locker rooms, multi-purpose rooms, classrooms, bleacher seating for 800 in the grandstand and bleachers on the field level for another 260 spectators. In addition to intercollegiate athletics, the movement science department, campus recreation/intramurals and club sports also use the facility.
Kelly was announced as the Notre Dame head coach on Dec. 10, 2009. He signed a five-year contract to coach the Irish. On Jan. 10, 2012, the University announced it extended Kelly’s contract two seasons through the 2016 campaign. Kelly received another contract extension, this one extending through 2017, following the 2013 season-opening victory over Temple.
Considering his wife Paqui is a two-time breast cancer survivor, it’s hardly surprising that Kelly and his wife have collaborated to fully embrace the fight against cancer.
In June 2010, Brian and Paqui made a $250,000 gift to the University of Notre Dame in support of endeavors in research, academics and community engagement. The benefaction directly supports three Notre Dame initiatives — cancer research, the Hesburgh Libraries and the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC). In the area of cancer research — the fight against breast cancer is a deeply personal cause for the Kelly family — the gift benefits the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute that opened in 2011 in Notre Dame’s new Harper Hall. The institute brings together scientists from Notre Dame and Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend to collaborate to advance basic and clinical research as it pertains to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer.
The Kelly Cares Foundation, now in its ninth year, has established itself as a “Playbook for Hope.” The Foundation’s mission strengthens communities and inspires hope by investing resources to improve health and education. The communities touched by the Foundation are a model of educational success and wellness that provide hope and inspiration to all.
Since its founding in 2008, the Kelly Cares Foundation has donated nearly $4.2 million to support causes locally, nationally and globally. Some notable organizations that have received contributions from the Foundation include the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Paqui and Brian Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center, The University of Notre Dame, Breezy Point Disaster Relief Fund, Andean Health Global, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Memorial Children’s Hospital, Boys & Girls Club, and the YMCA.
The Kelly Cares Foundation hosts a series of events throughout the year. Starting with its largest fundraiser, the Irish Eyes Gala, held annually in New York City, followed by Football 101, a ladies only clinic held at the Notre Dame football facilities, a golf invitational, Game Day Chase 5K/10K held on a Notre Dame home football weekend, and Paqui’s Playbook—October series of events focusing on breast cancer research and patient advocacy.
In 2014 Saint Joseph Health System announced the creation of the new Paqui and Brian Kelly Comprehensive Breast Center (CBC), which offers a team of dedicated professionals and state-of-the-art services, and was advanced by a generous gift from the Kelly Cares Foundation.
The Paqui and Brian Kelly CBC delivers specialized care for all aspects of breast health, setting the standard of care in Michiana. The Paqui and Brian Kelly CBC allows women access to:
- Evaluation/treatment for a variety of benign breast diseases, as well as breast cancer
- The highest quality screening, detection and diagnostic technology, including 3D mammography and molecular breast imaging
- A peaceful, comfortable patient-centered environment
- Access to forward-thinking clinical trials and research
- Comprehensive genetic screening, genetic testing and genetic counseling services
- Individualized patient consultation, education, treatment and community support resources
- A multidisciplinary team approach to breast cancer that ensures all patient cases are reviewed by a team of experts who work closely with the patient to create an individualized treatment plan
- Reconstructive surgery, survivorship and rehabilitation
In 2016 the Kelly Cares Foundation donated $100,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Michiana. RMHC of Michiana started construction of a new Ronald McDonald House, a home- away-from home for families of seriously ill and injured children. The new 20-bedroom house will be located in the Skyway Building across from Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Kelly and his wife Francisca (Paqui) are parents of three children — Patrick, Grace and Kenzel.
Kelly’s Overall Record
Grand Valley State Totals (13 seasons)
Central Michigan Totals (3 seasons)
Cincinnati Totals (3 seasons)
Notre Dame Totals (9 seasons)
Overall Totals (27 seasons)
* Kelly’s actual career record 252-91-2 (.733) and Notre Dame record 81-34 (.704). Excludes 20 regular-season wins and two postseason appearances later vacated under discretionary NCAA penalty; actual records were 12-1 in 2012 and 9-4 in 2013. See Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. statement (https://president.nd.edu/writings-addresses/2018-writings/a-letter-from-the-president-on-the-ncaa-infractions-case/).