NOTRE DAME, Ind. - George Kelly, special assistant to the athletic director and a 34-year member of the Notre Dame athletic staff, died at his home tonight following a short illness. He was 75.
Probably best known as a 17-year assistant football coach from 1969-85 for Irish head coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Gerry Faust, Kelly most recently worked as a liaison with athletic director Kevin White's office in terms of football and basketball operations, working particularly in the football scheduling area.
He shifted into the administrative wing beginning in '86 after coaching a long list of All-America inside linebackers since first joining the Irish football staff in 1969. A key figure in molding a long series of top-notch defensive units, he developed 13 linebackers selected to perform at the professional level.
"George understood the fiber of Notre Dame as well as anyone I've met since I've come to South Bend," said White.
"He spanned the decades as far as the University was concerned, and there was hardly anyone connected with Notre Dame, especially from the football standpoint, that George didn't touch. There's no way to measure his love for Notre Dame, much less all the contributions he has made to the University over the years."
After graduating from Notre Dame in 1953, Kelly remained in South Bend and
joined the football staff at St. Joseph's High School. The following year he assumed the head football coaching reins at the school and spent three years in that capacity.
Kelly jumped to the collegiate ranks following the 1956 season, beginning as an assistant coach at Marquette. He moved to Nebraska where he spent eight seasons (1961-1968) as an assistant under Husker head coaches Bill Jennings and Bob Devaney. With Kelly a key member of the Nebraska brain trust, the Huskers led the nation in total defense in 1963 and 1967 and had a combined record of 59-16. He joined the Parseghian staff following the '68 season. Kelly coached under three head coaches who are members of the College Football Hall of Fame -Devaney, Parseghian and Devine.
Among the standout Irish linebackers he coached were all-stars Bob Olson ('69 captain), Greg Collins ('74 captain), Bob Golic ('78 captain) and Bob Crable ('80-'81 captain). The Irish defense ranked among the top 10 nationally six times during his tenure, including 1974 when it ranked first (195.2 yards per game).
Kelly has received numerous awards, including the 1989 Harvey Foster Award, given by the Notre Dame Alumni Association; in 1990, a University of Notre Dame Special Presidential Award; in 1991, the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley Award of the Year; in 1993, the Moose Krause Award from the Notre Dame Club of Chicago and the Edward Krause Distinguished Citizen Award, given by the Notre Dame Quarterback Club; and in 1997 the Moose Krause Award by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club as its member of the year.
Born July 6, 1927 in Rockford, Ill., Kelly and his wife, the former Gloria Haddad, have four children: Barbara Gorbitz, Patti, Lori (Mrs. Ronald Janowczyk) and Kevin (who is married to the former Carrie Reda), who graduated from the University in '85 after earning four monograms as the Irish special-teams center.
Funeral arrangements are pending, with details available through the Notre Dame Sports Information Office (574-631-7516) or on www.und.com.