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Notre Dame

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Brian Kelly
Born: Oct. 25, 1962
Hometown: Chelsea, Mass.
College: Assumption, Worcester, Mass.
Coaching record: 53-22 Division I; 171-57-2 overall
Previous stops: Cincinnati (2006-09); Central Michigan (2004-06); Grand Valley State, Division II (1991-2003)
The skinny: Cincinnati will play in second consecutive BCS bowl game when Bearcats play Florida in Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1. … Led Bearcats to 27-24 International Bowl win over Western Michigan 34 days after being hired in 2006. … Led Central Michigan to MAC title in 2006. … Won back-to-back Division II national titles (2002, ’03) with Grand Valley State.

Notre Dame hires Kelly

Cincinnati coach chosen to rebuild football program

Kelly

Notre Dame’s search for its next football coach ended after 11 days and two private football banquets.

Notre Dame announced Brian Kelly as the program’s 29th coach in a news release Thursday night. An introductory news conference will be held at 1:30 p.m. today. Kelly got a five-year deal.

“I think it’s a great pick,” said Greg Eifert, whose son Tyler plays tight end for the Irish and was a standout at Bishop Dwenger.

“Of the guys out there, he was by far the prime candidate to be the next coach.”

Greg Eifert said Tyler’s response to the news was a text message that said, “Wow.”

Kelly informed his team he was leaving Thursday after the Bearcats’ football banquet, which was closed to the public, and on the same night he accepted the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award.

Notre Dame, which closed its football banquet to the public last Friday, fired Charlie Weis on Nov. 30 after a 6-6 season.

“I am very pleased that a thorough and extensive search has led us to a new head coach in Brian Kelly, who I am confident will help us accomplish our goal of competing for national championships,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement.

Notre Dame is hiring its fifth coach since Lou Holtz, the last Irish coach to win a national championship, stepped down after the 1996 season.

Tom Skiba, the treasurer of the Notre Dame Club of Fort Wayne, said he thought it was important Notre Dame moved fast to name a new coach.

“There are too many recruits at risk,” Skiba said. “Plus, you have to hire assistant coaches.”

Kelly, 47, appears to fit the bill that Swarbrick said the university would look for first in the next Irish coach, namely an ability to build and sustain a Division I program.

Kelly went 34-6 in three seasons at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to a 12-0 record and a spot opposite Florida in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 this season.

Cincinnati athletic director Mike Thomas told the Associated Press that offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn will coach the Bearcats against the Gators.

Kelly won his first game with the Bearcats 34 days after he was hired Dec. 4, 2006, as Cincinnati defeated Western Michigan 27-24 in the International Bowl.

In 2007, Cincinnati went 10-3 and won the PapaJohns.com Bowl. In 2008, the Bearcats went 11-3 and lost to Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

“I think he is going to be good for Notre Dame,” said Andy Goodman, whose son John is a receiver at Notre Dame and former Dwenger standout.

“I like his offensive philosophy. He is going to spread the field out and throw the ball. I think he is going to be good.”

Kelly entered the Division I ranks in 2004 taking over a Central Michigan team that hadn’t won more than three games in a season in the four years before he arrived.

In three seasons, Kelly went 19-16 at Central Michigan. In his final season with the Chippewas, they went 9-4 and won the Mid-American Conference championship.

Kelly’s head coaching career began at Grand Valley State, a Division II program in Michigan. He went 118-35-2 and won Division II national titles in 2002 and 2003.

“He was the hottest commodity out there that was available,” said Phil Houk, who hosts an Irish football preview show on 1380 AM in Fort Wayne.

“I’m very pleased, and I’m very impressed with the way Jack Swarbrick ran the process.”

Kelly could find it harder to turn around a Notre Dame program that has struggled to sustain success since Holtz left.

Weis went 35-27 in five seasons and 16-21 in the last three. Notre Dame went 21-15 under Tyrone Willingham from 2002-04 and was 35-25 under Bob Davie from 1997 to 2001.

Kelly will also have to try to bring Notre Dame back to BCS bowl contention without quarterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Golden Tate, the winner of this year’s Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

The juniors announced Monday they will not return to the Irish and enter the NFL draft.

“Congratulations to him and I think he will do well,” Tate said during the award show on ESPN.

Offensive lineman Christian Lombard, a high school senior from Palatine, Ill., who has committed to play for the Irish next season, said he was excited about the hire.

“I’m really optimistic. He’s got a great track record so hopefully he’s going to get things turned around,” Lombard told The Associated Press.

“From the time coach Weis got fired, he was the guy I wanted.”

Kelly will also have to find a new recruiting coordinator. Rob Ianello, the receivers and recruiting coordinator the last five seasons, left to become Akron’s coach.

Ianello had been overseeing Notre Dame’s program during the coaching search.

“I was disappointed to see Ianello go because I thought that would have made the transition process a little easier,” Houk said. “But recruiting is recruiting. I have a feeling (Kelly) will do just fine. He’ll have people on his staff setting up for that national process.”

Kelly and Thomas talked to Cincinnati’s players behind closed doors after the Bearcats’ banquet, and receiver Mardy Gilyard exited the meeting unhappy, according to The Associated Press.

“I heard everything I needed to know: ‘I accepted the Notre Dame job,’ ” Gilyard told reporters. “He went for the money. I’m fairly disgusted with the situation, that they let it last this long.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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