Brian Kelly (American football coach)

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Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly 2012.jpg
Kelly in 2012
Current position
TitleHead coach
TeamNotre Dame
Record71–36[n 1]
Biographical details
Born (1961-10-25) October 25, 1961 (age 58)
Everett, Massachusetts
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1983–1986Assumption (DC/LB)
1987–1988Grand Valley State (GA/DB)
1989–1990Grand Valley State (DC/RC)
1991–2003Grand Valley State
2004–2006Central Michigan
2010–presentNotre Dame
Head coaching record
Overall242–93–2[n 1]
Bowls6–5[n 1]
Tournaments11–4 (NCAA D-II playoffs)
0–1 (CFP)
Accomplishments and honors
2 NCAA Division II (2002–2003)
3 MIFC (1992, 1997–1998)
3 GLIAC (2001–2003)
1 MAC (2006)
2 Big East (2008–2009)
AFCA Division II Coach of the Year (2002–2003)
AP College Football Coach of the Year (2012, 2018)
Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (2012)
Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2009, 2012, 2018)
SN Coach of the Year (2012)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year (2012)
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award (2018)
GLIAC Coach of the Year (2001)
Big East Coach of the Year (2007–2009)

Brian Keith Kelly (born October 25, 1961) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, a position he has held since December 2009. Kelly was previously head coach at Grand Valley State University (1991–2003), Central Michigan University (2004–2006), and the University of Cincinnati (2006–2009). He led the Grand Valley State Lakers to consecutive NCAA Division II Football Championships in 2002 and 2003. Kelly's 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team reached the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

Early years[edit]

Kelly was born in Everett, Massachusetts, and was raised in a Catholic Irish-American family in Chelsea, Massachusetts.[2] He attended St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts. His father was a Boston politician.[3] He was a four-year letter winner at Assumption College as a linebacker. After graduating from Assumption in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in political science he served as linebackers coach, defensive coordinator, and softball coach from 1983 to 1986.

Grand Valley State[edit]

Kelly joined the Grand Valley State University staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant and defensive backs coach for Tom Beck and became the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator in 1989. Kelly took over as head coach in 1991. In his final three seasons the Lakers went 41–2, at one point winning 20 consecutive games. The Lakers went 14–0 in 2002 en route to their first national title and went 14–1 in 2003 when they claimed their second National Championship. Kelly was named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year after each of these championship years.

In his 13 years as head coach at Grand Valley State, the Lakers won five conference titles and made six Division II Playoff appearances. Only in 1999 did Grand Valley State finish lower than third in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference under Kelly.

The 2001 team set 77 NCAA, GLIAC, and school records, including setting the all-time Division II scoring record, averaging 58.4 points per game.

His record in 13 years at Grand Valley State was 118–35–2.[4]

Central Michigan[edit]

Kelly became the 24th head coach at Central Michigan University after the departure of Mike DeBord following the 2003 season.[5] Kelly inherited a team with limited success. Central Michigan had won more than three games only once in the previous four seasons. CMU finished with a 4–7 record in 2004. In Kelly's second year at Central Michigan, he coached the team to a 6–5 record—the first winning season in seven years for the Chippewas. In his third season, the Chippewas posted a 9–4 record under Kelly en route to winning the MAC Championship and qualifying for the Motor City Bowl. At the end of the 2006 season, Kelly left to accept the Cincinnati coaching vacancy three days after CMU won the 2006 MAC Championship. Jeff Quinn was named the interim for Central Michigan's contest in the Motor City Bowl against Middle Tennessee. Kelly's record at Central Michigan in three seasons was 19–16.


Kelly was named Cincinnati's head coach on December 3, 2006, following the departure of Mark Dantonio. In an unusual move, Cincinnati elected not to appoint an interim coach and asked Kelly to assume his duties immediately by coaching the Bearcats in their bowl game. Central Michigan was also preparing for a bowl appearance, so while Kelly was in Cincinnati preparing the Bearcats, much of his staff remained at Central Michigan to coach the Chippewas. Following Central Michigan's 31–14 win in the Motor City Bowl on December 26, most of his staff joined him in Cincinnati, where they went on to coach Cincinnati to a 27–24 victory over Western Michigan University in that year's International Bowl on January 6. Cincinnati's victory gave Kelly the unique distinction of having defeated the same team twice in a season as coach of two different teams (Central Michigan had defeated Western Michigan 31–7 earlier that season).

In his first full season, Kelly led Cincinnati to a competitive position in the Big East; the Bearcats' second ever 10-win season (its first since 1949); and a Top 25 ranking. On December 5, 2007, Kelly was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bearcats to a 9–3 record.[6] Coach Kelly later led the Bearcats to a 31–21 victory in the Bowl over Southern Miss.

In 2008, Kelly led Cincinnati to its first ever outright Big East title with key wins over West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The Bearcats had never defeated either team in Big East conference play. Kelly also became the first coach to win all three of the Bearcats' traveling trophies—[citation needed] the Victory Bell (Miami [OH]), the Keg of Nails (Louisville), and the River City Rivalry Trophy (Pitt). The Bearcats played in the Orange Bowl versus the ACC champion, Virginia Tech on January 1, 2009 but lost 20–7.

After beginning the 2009 season unranked in all polls, Kelly's Bearcats reeled off 12 straight victories and finished the regular season undefeated. Going into the bowl season, they were ranked #3 in the BCS Standings and faced the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. Kelly did not coach the team in the 51–24 loss to the Florida Gators because of his departure to Notre Dame.

Among the honors that Cincinnati football achieved in 2009 was the highest academic rating among teams in the top 10 of the current BCS standings, according to the 2009 Graduation Success Rates, released Wednesday, November 18, by the NCAA.[citation needed] Cincinnati, which was fifth in the BCS standings, checked in with a 75 percent NCAA graduation rate and a 71 percent federal government rate, the only team in the BCS top 10 to surpass the 70 percent plateau in both.[citation needed]

Kelly finished his tenure at Cincinnati with a 34–6 record.

Notre Dame[edit]

Pepsi display setup in August 2010 at the Martin's Supermarket in Granger, Indiana in anticipation of Kelly's first home game with Notre Dame.

In December 2009, Kelly agreed to replace Charlie Weis as Notre Dame's head coach. On December 10, Kelly announced that he had taken the position at Notre Dame.[7] He made the decision not to coach the Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 2010, which the Bearcats lost in a blowout to the University of Florida Gators.

2010 season[edit]

In 2010, Kelly beat Purdue 23–12 in his first game at Notre Dame but lost to Michigan 28–24 the following week and then the following week on a fake field goal in overtime against Michigan State 34–31. His team lost again at home against Stanford before beating Boston College to put the Irish at 2–3. On October 9, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to a 23–17 win over Pitt, snapping Notre Dame's 2-game losing streak to the Panthers taking the Irish to a 3–3 record on the season. Kelly led Notre Dame to a 44–20 win over Western Michigan to extend the Irish's winning streak to three games. The next week they faced Navy, losing 35–17 to drop to 4–4 overall.

When the Irish faced Tulsa, they were upset 28–27. They sent out second string QB Tommy Rees who threw an interception with 30 seconds left in the game as the Irish had driven to the Tulsa 28 yard line and a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Two weeks later Notre Dame played against No. 14 Utah, who was heavily favored. Utah was leading 3–0 early, but a special teams touchdown after a deflected punt and three Rees TD passes lifted the Notre Dame lead to 28–3. The victory over Utah gave Kelly a 5–5 record. Notre Dame followed that win up with a 27–3 victory over Army to make Kelly and Irish bowl eligible. In the final game of the season, Notre Dame snapped an 8-game losing streak against its rival USC, winning 20–16 on strong defense and despite 4 Irish turnovers.[8] Kelly's first Irish team was invited to play in the Sun Bowl, where they beat Miami 33–17.[9]

2011 season[edit]

In 2011, Notre Dame returned 21 of its 24 starters from the previous year and was thought to be in contention for a BCS bowl bid. However, in the opening game against South Florida, Notre Dame outgained its opponent 508–254 in yardage but lost 23–20 due to five turnovers (most within scoring range). The next week the Irish built a 24–7 lead against its rival Michigan, but lost yet again, 35–31, due to five turnovers.

The following week the Irish beat Michigan State 31–13; The one-sided victory over the Spartans was the first of four wins in a row, until the USC Trojans came to South Bend. The Irish were behind early in the game but were driving toward an apparent tie when Dayne Crist fumbled the snap on the Trojan three-yard line. The fumble was returned by the USC for a touchdown and Notre Dame never recovered. The Irish turned the ball over three times in the loss.

Notre Dame then went on its second four-game win streak until losing to Stanford 28–14 in the regular season finale. The Irish, at 8–4, secured a bid to the Champs Sports Bowl, where they played Florida State. Against Florida State, Notre Dame again built a lead (14–3, after three quarters), but lost 18–14 (with three turnovers) and ended the season with an 8–5 record.

2012 season[edit]

Kelly during a game in 2012

Notre Dame opened their 2012 season with a special season opener in Dublin, Ireland. There they beat Navy 50–10, as the new starting QB, Everett Golson, passed for 188 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Notre Dame won their week 2 game against Purdue at home, winning 20–17, on a field goal by sophomore Kyle Brindza. In week 3, Notre Dame defeated #10 Michigan State by a score of 20–3. In week 4, #11 Notre Dame defeated #18 Michigan by a score of 13–6, recovering 6 turnovers in the process. The Irish would go on to defeat Miami, #17 Stanford, and BYU before playing Oklahoma. At 7–0, Notre Dame traveled to Norman and defeated #8 Oklahoma 30–13, only the fifth home loss for the Sooners under Bob Stoops. On November 3, the Irish narrowly avoided an upset by beating Pittsburgh 29–26 in three overtimes. Notre Dame had rallied from a fourth quarter deficit of 14 points to tie the game late in regulation time. On November 10, 4 ranked Notre Dame traveled to Boston College and faced a team known for spoiling Notre Dame perfect seasons. Notre Dame won 21–6, not allowing Boston College to score a touchdown and improving to 10–0. On November 17, Notre Dame went undefeated at home for the first time since 1998 with a 38–0 victory over Wake Forest. On November 18, following the losses of #1 Kansas State and #2 Oregon, Notre Dame was voted the #1 team in the nation for the first time since 1993 and was #1 in the BCS rankings for the first time ever. With a 22–13 defeat of USC, Notre Dame finished the regular season 12–0. On December 5, 2012, Kelly was named coach of the year for a second time, the first since guiding Cincinnati to a 12–0 record back in 2009.[10] On Monday, January 7, 2013, Kelly and the Fighting Irish lost, 42–14, to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.[11] Kelly's Irish finished the season ranked #3 in the USA Today Coaches poll and #4 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.[12] Due to academic violations, Notre Dame was forced to forfeit all of their 2012 victories, finishing the season with an adjusted record of 0–1.[13]

2013 season[edit]

The Spring of the 2013 season saw Notre Dame lose its starting quarterback Everett Golson due to poor academic judgment,[14] leading Brian Kelly to name Tommy Rees as the starting quarterback.[15] Notre Dame opened the season playing Temple and won 28–6. The following week was against Michigan in Ann Arbor[16][17] with Notre Dame losing 30–41. Due to academic violations, Notre Dame was forced to forfeit all of their 2013 victories, finishing the season with an adjusted record of 0–4.[18]

2014 season[edit]

In 2014, Notre Dame defeated the Michigan Wolverines by a score of 31–0. This was the high point of new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's term at Notre Dame[citation needed] and brought Notre Dame to a #11 ranking. The team improved its record to 5–1, but the Irish closed the season with 2 wins against 5 losses for an overall 8–5 record, including an upset bowl win over LSU.[19]

2015 season[edit]

Notre Dame opened their 2015 season vs Texas with a 38–3 win. During the game, starting running back Tarean Folston sustained an injury to his right knee ending his season.[20] In the following week vs Virginia, starting Quarterback Malik Zaire, suffered a broken ankle [21] leading to DeShone Kizer finishing the game for Notre Dame. Kizer remained the Notre Dame quarterback for the rest of the season, a campaign in which the Irish won 10 games against 3 losses, the latter including a hard-fought loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

2016 season[edit]

In 2016, Notre Dame finished 4–8, which was its worst record in a decade. Kelly's Irish lost three games in which they held a double-digit first half lead, while also losing three games to teams who were not bowl-eligible in 2016.[22] In particular, Kelly faced criticism after a 10–3 loss to NC State. In this game, Kelly called 31 passing plays in Hurricane Matthew, resulting in 17 incompletions, 5 sacks, and only 113 yards of total offense. After the game, Kelly blamed "atrocious" snapping by Center Sam Mustipher.[23] Notre Dame brought about a change in their defense by firing their defensive coordinator Brian van Gorder after a 38–35 home loss to the Duke Blue Devils.[24]

2017 season[edit]

In 2017, the Irish bounced back from a 4–8 season by going 10–3, including a win over the LSU Tigers in the Citrus Bowl. The Irish were seen as playoff contenders the majority of the season despite a 20–19 loss against the Georgia Bulldogs, who went on to win the SEC Championship. The Irish continued to do well on the back of running back Josh Adams, who was seen as a Heisman Trophy hopeful. The Irish were 8–1, before dropping 2 of their last 3 games to Miami, and Stanford. The Irish had two players drafted in the top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Quenton Nelson to the Indianapolis Colts, and Mike McGlinchey to the San Francisco 49ers

2018 season[edit]

The Irish opened the 2018 season at home against Michigan and won, 24–17. The Irish then won the remainder of their regular season games, including victories over Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, and Northwestern.[25] This led to Notre Dame's first undefeated regular season since 2012. They were ranked #3 in the nation by the College Football Playoff committee as of December 2, 2018 and selected to play in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic against Clemson on December 29, 2018. Notre Dame's undefeated streak came to an end after losing to Clemson 30–3 to finish the season at 12–1. Clemson would go on to defeat Alabama 44–16 in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Coaching tree[edit]

Notable assistant coaches under Kelly who have become NCAA or NFL head coaches:

Personal life[edit]

Kelly has a wife, Paqui, and three children, Patrick, Grace, and Kenzel. Paqui, after surviving breast cancer, went on to start the Kelly Cares Foundation.

Awards and honors[edit]

Head coaching record[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Grand Valley State Lakers (Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference) (1991–1998)
1991 Grand Valley State 9–3 8–2 T–2nd L NCAA Division II First Round
1992 Grand Valley State 8–3 8–2 T–1st
1993 Grand Valley State 6–3–2 6–2–2 3rd
1994 Grand Valley State 8–4 8–2 2nd L NCAA Division II First Round
1995 Grand Valley State 8–3 8–2 2nd
1996 Grand Valley State 8–3 8–2 2nd
1997 Grand Valley State 9–2 9–1 T–1st
1998 Grand Valley State 9–3 9–1 1st L NCAA Division II First Round
Grand Valley State Lakers (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1999–2003)
1999 Grand Valley State 5–5 5–4 7th
2000 Grand Valley State 7–4 7–3 3rd
2001 Grand Valley State 13–1 9–0 1st L NCAA Division II Championship 2
2002 Grand Valley State 14–0 9–0 1st W NCAA Division II Championship 1
2003 Grand Valley State 14–1 9–1 2nd W NCAA Division II Championship 1
Grand Valley State: 118–35–2 103–22–2
Central Michigan Chippewas (Mid-American Conference) (2004–2006)
2004 Central Michigan 4–7 3–5 5th (West)
2005 Central Michigan 6–5 5–3 4th (West)
2006 Central Michigan 9–4[n 2] 7–1 1st (West) Motor City[n 2]
Central Michigan: 19–16 15–9
Cincinnati Bearcats (Big East Conference) (2006–2009)
2006 Cincinnati 1–0 0–0 W International
2007 Cincinnati 10–3 4–3 3rd W 20 17
2008 Cincinnati 11–3 6–1 1st L Orange 17 17
2009 Cincinnati 12–0[n 3] 7–0 1st Sugar[n 3] 4 4
Cincinnati: 34–6 17–4
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA Division I FBS independent) (2010–2019)
2010 Notre Dame 8–5 W Sun
2011 Notre Dame 8–5 L Champs Sports
2012 Notre Dame 0–0[n 1] L[n 1] BCS NCG 3 4
2013 Notre Dame 0–4[n 1] W[n 1] Pinstripe 24 20
2014 Notre Dame 8–5 W Music City
2015 Notre Dame 10–3 L Fiesta 12 11
2016 Notre Dame 4–8
2017 Notre Dame 10–3 W Citrus 11 11
2018 Notre Dame 12–1 L Cotton 5 5
2019 Notre Dame 11–2 W Camping World 11 12
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Atlantic Coast Conference) (2020–present)
2020 Notre Dame 0–0
Notre Dame: 71–36[n 1]
Total: 242–93–2[n 1]
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i In 2018, Notre Dame was forced to vacate all 12 wins from the 2012 season, their loss in the BCS National Championship Game that season, and all 9 wins from the 2013 season, including their victory in the Pinstripe Bowl.[1]
  2. ^ a b Kelly left Central Michigan for Cincinnati before the bowl game; Jeff Quinn was appointed as interim head coach and led Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl.
  3. ^ a b Kelly left Cincinnati for Notre Dame before the bowl game; Jeff Quinn was appointed as interim head coach and led Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.


  1. ^ Gartland, Dan (February 13, 2018). "Notre Dame Forced to Vacate Wins From National Runner-Up Season". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  2. ^ Keown, Tim (December 8, 2009). "Irish coach: the weirdest job in sports". Archived from the original on December 6, 2010.
  3. ^ Starkey, Joe (October 2, 2007). "Bearcats' success met with excitement in Cincinnati".
  4. ^ Kelly Named Head Football Coach :: Press conference scheduled for Monday afternoon Archived January 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  5. ^ " CMU Chippewas". September 27, 2007. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  6. ^ GoBEARCATS.COM Kelly Named BIG EAST Coach of the Year; Huber Special Teams Player of the Year – University Of Cincinnati Official Athletic Site University Of Cincinnati Archived December 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  7. ^ Whiteside, Kelly (August 29, 2010). "New Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly getting an Irish education". USA Today. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
  8. ^ "ESPN Schedule results".
  9. ^ "Notre Dame Bowl Results". Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  10. ^ "Kelly named Coach of Year". December 5, 2012. Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  11. ^ Alabama dominates Notre Dame to claim third BCS national championship in four years. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  12. ^ 2015 NCAA College Football Polls and Rankings for Week 8 – ESPN. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  13. ^ "Football Coaching Records" (PDF). Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  14. ^ Aarthun, Sarah (May 27, 2013). "Notre Dame quarterback suspended for 'poor academic judgment'". Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  15. ^ "Rees gets keys to Notre Dame offense". NY Daily News. June 6, 2013. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  16. ^ Michael Rosenberg (September 4, 2014). "Michigan bitter going into final rivalry game with Notre Dame". Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  17. ^ Viera, Mark (September 6, 2014). "Notre Dame Gives Michigan a Powerful Parting Shot". Retrieved February 23, 2017 – via
  18. ^ "Football Coaching Records" (PDF). Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "2014 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Schedule and Results | College Football at". January 1, 1970. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  20. ^ Final (September 6, 2015). "Texas vs. Notre Dame - Game Recap - September 5, 2015". ESPN. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  21. ^ [1] Irish QB Malik Zaire suffers broken ankle in win, out for season – ESPN.
  22. ^ "Notre Dame blows another lead as 2016 will end without a bowl game". November 19, 2016.
  23. ^ "Notre Dame coach catches heat for blaming center for snap woes during hurricane".
  24. ^ [2] Brian Kelly says 'everything is on the table' for Irish after 4–8 season – ESPN. Retrieved on December 6, 2016
  25. ^ "2018 Football Schedule". University of Notre Dame. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  26. ^ Gators Sports Scene | Florida Today's Gators Blog. (December 8, 2009). Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  27. ^ Krausz, Tony (December 5, 2012). "Kelly named coach of the year". Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  28. ^ AP Coach of the Year 2012. (December 19, 2012). Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  29. ^ Glaspie, Akeem (December 5, 2018). "Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly wins Coach of the Year award". Indianapolis Star.
  30. ^ a b Kelly Named 2012 Walter Camp Coach Of The Year :: Notre Dame Football :: UND.COM :: The Official Site of Notre Dame Athletics Archived August 15, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Und.Com. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  31. ^ "Big East Announces 2009 Postseason Football Honors". Archived from the original on December 23, 2009. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  32. ^ Brian Kelly headlines GVSU Hall of Fame class. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  33. ^ Brian Kelly '83 Inducted in Assumption College Alumni-Athletics Hall of Fame – Assumption. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.
  34. ^ a b AFCA Div II COTY awardees Archived August 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on October 18, 2015.

External links[edit]