The Fighting Irish topped the Spartans 17-13 for their 10th straight home victory.
Brian Kelly, a veteran of 23 seasons as a collegiate head coach, is in his fifth year as the 29th head football coach at the University of Notre Dame.
Currently the third-winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, Kelly has guided the Irish to 37 wins over his tenure. No Notre Dame football coach has ever collected more victories over his first four seasons.
His 131 victories as a head coach since 2001 are more than all but one active FBS head coach - Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.
Kelly's head coaching resume
Among college coaches with at least five years of service or 50 victories at a school that was classified as a major college at the time, Kelly was the 23rd to reach 200 career victories. He was the second-youngest and fifth-fastest to ever reach 200 career victories.
Kelly is the first coach in Notre Dame history to lead the Irish to bowl games during each of his first four seasons. He is the first coach to take Notre Dame to bowl games in four straight seasons at any stage of their career since Lou Holtz (1987-95).
Kelly has led Notre Dame to at least eight victories over each of his first four seasons. He is the second coach in school history to accomplish the feat (Dan Devine).
Since 2006, Kelly is tied for the fourth-most wins of any active NCAA FBS coach. Kelly has won 80 contests (80-25) over that span.
Kelly's .769 winning percentage since 2007 ranks as the sixth-best among active NCAA FBS coaches.
Kelly ranks third and fifth among active NCAA FBS coach in both victories (208) and winning percentage (.741), respectively.
In 2012, Kelly led Notre Dame to its first undefeated regular season in 24 years (1988), a spot in the BCS title game and the highest national ranking (No. 4/3) to close a season since 1993 (No. 2/2).
The only two-time winner of The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (2009, 2012).
Kelly swept just about every possible coach of the year award in 2012. He earned the nod from the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Sporting News, Liberty Mutual and American Football Coaches Association.
Kelly became only the second Irish coach to win 12 games in a season (Lou Holtz also did it in 1988).
Kelly guided Notre Dame to a number-one ranking among all FBS programs in the most recent NCAA Graduation Success Rate figures released in October. In 2012, the Irish became the first team to be ranked number one in the football polls and first in graduation rates while also playing for the BCS title.
Four seasons at Notre Dame where he has fashioned a 37-15 record that has included six losses by a combined 19 points. He has helped the Irish win 29 of their last 37 games dating back to 2011.
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). At the time he accepted the position at Notre Dame, he qualified as the winningest active BIG EAST football coach and the only league coach with more than 150 wins.
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 208-72-2 (.741) in those 23 seasons as a head coach.
When Kelly was hired at Notre Dame he said two things needed to be addressed and done quickly. The defense needed drastic improvement and the players needed to mature both mentally and physically in order to compete for all four quarters of all 13 games.
The Irish defense was one of six in the FBS that allowed fewer than 21 points per game the three-year stretch of 2010-12. In fact, only 12 programs have allowed fewer than 20 points/game over the last four seasons combined (2010-14). Notre Dame has allowed an average of 19.02 points/game over the same span, which ranks as the ninth-best average over 2010-13 of any team in the FBS.
Notre Dame's defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns or less in 30 of its last 43 games. The Irish have actually allowed one offensive touchdown or less in 21 of those outings, including 15 of the last 26 games.
The 2013 defense saw an unusally high number of players gain valuable experience. A total of 26 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 the year 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.
Notre Dame underwent all this turnover against arguably the most challenging schedule in the nation. The Irish were the only team to defeat Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Michigan State. Notre Dame played five teams that won 10 games (Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC and Stanford). Eleven of Notre Dame's 13 opponents in 2013 played in bowl games, including three BCS bowl participants (Michigan State-Rose, Stanford-Rose, Oklahoma-Sugar). The Irish were the only team in the country to play three different BCS bowl participants during the 2013 regular season. Notre Dame played the champions of both the Big Ten (Michigan State) and Pac-12 (Stanford), and was the only team to defeat two different teams that played in championship games of BCS AQ conferences. Irish foes collected 86 wins last season, which using the NCAA strength of schedule metric, was third best in the nation.
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. The Irish were one of only three FBS top-10 scoring defenses to exclusively face FBS competition. Notre Dame allowed only 16 touchdowns (15 offensive) - four touchdowns fewer than any other FBS school. The Irish allowed a total of 166 points over their 13 games. Notre Dame has never surrendered fewer points over a 13-game season in school history. The Irish allowed 12 offensive touchdowns over their last 11 games. In fact, the Irish held six opponents without an offensive touchdown and nine foes to one or fewer offensive touchdowns.
Notre Dame won all five of its games decided by a touchdown or less in '12 - one shy of the single-season school record of six (1939). Notre Dame has gone undefeated in at least four games decided by seven points or less in the same season on just two previous occasions in school history (1929 and 1974; both went 4-0). The Irish have never had a larger fourth-quarter comeback victory in Notre Dame Stadium's 82-year history than last season's 14-point deficit against Pittsburgh. Notre Dame rallied from halftime deficits in back-to-back weeks against Stanford and against BYU. The Irish had not recorded comeback victories when trailing at the half in consecutive weeks since Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, 1920 (nearly 92 years to the day).
Notre Dame also won all six of its regular-season games away from Notre Dame Stadium by at least nine points. The Irish had not won six games away from Notre Dame Stadium by at least a touchdown since 1949. Notre Dame's closest margin of victory in '49 was a seven-point triumph over SMU (27-20).
The month of November had not been kind to Notre Dame in the three years that preceded Kelly's arrival in South Bend. The Irish had won only three of 13 games in the final month of the regular season. Through rigorous strength and conditioning workouts and Kelly's coaching style, Notre Dame has posted a 12-3 combined record in November games since 2010. The Irish also had a hard time hanging onto leads prior to Kelly's arrival. Notre Dame was a combined 9-6 when leading at halftime in 2008 and 2009 but improved under Kelly to 31-4 when taking an advantage into the halftime locker room.
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 ever average 200-200 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 last 16 years. The 189.4 rushing yards/game is the third-highest per game average over the last 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 last nine contests. The Irish have not posted more 200+ yard rushing games in a single season since 1996. Notre Dame has rushed for at least 200 yards 10 different times over the last two seasons--more than the previous five years combined (2006-10).
In 2012, Manti Te'o became the 33rd unanimous All-American in Notre Dame history. He was 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 by the Football Writers Association of America, American Football Coaches Association, The Sporting News, The Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press selected him to their respective All-America squads.
Te'o was Notre Dame's fourth-ever 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 was 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 ever by a defensive player in college football history. Te'o nearly became the third player to ever 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 Player of the Year. 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, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, The Walter Camp Football Foundation and CBSSports.com.
Following the season, Eifert was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was taken with the 21st overall pick by Cincinnati. Eifert was the first Notre Dame tight end to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since Irv Smith in 1993 (20th overall by the New Orleans Saints).
Te'o was selected with the 38th overall pick by San Diego. He was the highest-drafted linebacker from Notre Dame since Demetrius DuBose was the 34th overall selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1993 draft. Te'o is the fourth-highest drafted Irish linebacker since 1960. Bob Crable was chosen with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft, while Myron Pottios was the 19th overall selection of the 1961 NFL draft (second round).
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 eleven 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 that 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 to each have 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 were 25th in scoring defense.
Linebacker Manti 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. Senior 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 taken with the 13th overall pick 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 combined 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 historic first football game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium - then ended an eight-game losing streak at the hands of archrival 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 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 in the country 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 ESPN Academic All-America honor for Ruffer, an $18,000 post-graduate 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 ESPN Academic All-American and Notre Dame, once again, led all FBS programs in NCAA Graduation Success Rate standings with a 97 score.
Te'o and Mike Golic, Jr., were selected as first team members to 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 honors in the same year was in 1987 (Ted Gradel and Vince Phelan).
Architect of two consecutive Bowl Championship Series 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), Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award (National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association), 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).
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 up a 7-1 record in conference play to win the MAC West, 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 arrived at Central Michigan after winning back-to-back NCAA Division II national titles at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich. 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 all-time 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 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, Ala.). 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.
Born in Everett, Mass., and raised in Chelsea, Mass., Kelly attended St. John's Prep School in Danvers, Mass. He was a four-year letter-winner at Assumption College (Worcester, Mass.) 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.
In June 2010, Kelly and his wife 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 gift also provides financial support for the Hesburgh Libraries, which consist of the main Hesburgh Library and 11 subject branches across campus. The funding enables senior library personnel to identify and purchase the learning and teaching materials most in demand by Notre Dame scholars. At the RCLC, the gift underwrites innovative tutoring, violence-prevention, youth entrepreneurship and performing arts projects for adults and children in South Bend's Northeast Neighborhood. Sponsored by Notre Dame in partnership with local residents, the RCLC serves an estimated 500 youths and adults each week, in addition to another 8,000 children annually through its outreach programs. In conjunction with the gift, Kelly launched the "Coach Kelly Challenge," an effort aimed to encourage all members of the Notre Dame family to offer financial support to the University through one of its annual giving programs: the Notre Dame Annual Fund, the MBA and Law School annual funds, and the Rockne Heritage Fund.
Notre Dame's head football coach and his wife play host to a series of events benefitting the Kelly Cares Foundation, established by Brian and Paqui Kelly to support organizations, initiatives and programs that closely align with the goals and values of the Kelly family in three main areas: personal involvement, with emphasis on breast cancer research, prevention, education and awareness; education and institutional advancement; and community involvement in selected initiatives and projects. In addition to several charity golf events, Kelly co-hosts the annual Irish Legends Golf Classic with former Notre Dame coaches Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz. Proceeds from that event are split evenly between the charities of the three coaches. Football 101 has become a must-attend event as more than 1,200 women have had the opportunity to meet the Notre Dame football coaching staff, learn fun facts about Fighting Irish football and enjoy an upscale taste of South Bend. The participants also get a behind-the-scenes look at the Notre Dame football facilities - with proceeds benefitting breast cancer prevention, awareness and early detection initiatives.
Kelly and his wife Francisca (Paqui) are parents of three children - Patrick, Grace and Kenzel.