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Brian Kelly Leaves Notre Dame To Become Head Football Coach At LSU

James Murphy
by in NCAAF on
  • Brian Kelly is the new head football coach at LSU, leaving Notre Dame after 10 seasons.
  • Kelly said he had no plans to leave Notre Dame at the beginning of the season.
  • Kelly has agreed to a 10 year, $95 million USD deal with incentives to take over at the traditional SEC powerhouse.

There’s already been plenty of stunning college football head coaching moves over the past week but this could be the biggest: Brian Kelly has left Notre Dame after twelve seasons to become the new head coach at LSU. In many ways, this is a bigger coup than Lincoln Riley to USC–everyone knew that Riley was the target of significant interest from teams with coaching vacancies. Kelly was certainly held in high regard but there wasn’t much speculation that he would be leaving Notre Dame–long considered to be arguably the most sought after college coaching job in the sport.

That was before LSU came calling with a 10 year, $95 million USD contract plus incentives in hand. Kelly has the most victories of any active college football coach and is one of only five active FBS coaches to have led teams to multiple undefeated seasons since 2009. Notre Dame has qualified for the College Football Playoffs in two of the last three seasons. The LSU Athletic Department press release announcing the Kelly hire called him ‘the most accomplished hire in program history’.

LSU Athletics Director Scott Woodward had this statement about Kelly in the press release:

“Brian Kelly is the epitome of a winner. He has built and sustained success at every program he’s led, from multiple undefeated regular seasons and National Coach of the Year honors to national titles and College Football Playoff berths. His credentials and consistency speak for themselves.”

“Most importantly, Coach Kelly’s players and programs exemplify excellence in all aspects of the student-athlete experience – in competition, in the classroom, and throughout the community – and he shares our values and vision for elevating our university and our state. We’re thrilled to welcome him and his family to Baton Rouge, and we are excited to work with him as we add to the championship legacy of LSU Football.”

It’s hard to argue with Kelly’s coaching accomplishments, which the LSU press release helpfully ran down in announcing his hiring:

In 31 years as a head coach, Kelly has amassed a record of 284-97-2, which ranks him first among all active FBS coaches in career victories, ahead of Alabama’s Nick Saban (272 wins) and North Carolina’s Mack Brown (265 wins). Kelly has only had two teams finish below .500 during his 31-year collegiate career.

For the past 12 years, he has served as the head coach at Notre Dame. He leaves South Bend as the Irish’s all-time winningest coach with 113 victories, moving ahead of legendary Knute Rockne for the top spot in 2021. His 12-year mark at Notre Dame stands at 113-40, which includes a 54-9 mark over the past five seasons.

During his Notre Dame career, Kelly led the Irish to the 2012 BCS national title game as well as College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020. He was named National Coach of the Year by numerous outlets in 2012 and 2018. He’s the only coach to win the Home Depot Coach of the Year Award more than once, and he’s done it three times (2009, 2012, and 2018).

In 12 seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly’s teams won at least 10 games seven times, including this year, as the Irish are 11-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation. Notre Dame’s current streak of five straight seasons with double-digit wins includes a 10-3 record in 2017, followed by a 12-1 mark in 2018, 11-2 in 2019 and 10-2 in 2020.

Nice to get in that ‘dig’ at Nick Saban, head coach of arch rival Alabama. Kelly had this initial comment about his new job in the press release:

“I could not be more excited to join a program with the commitment to excellence, rich traditions, and unrivaled pride and passion of LSU Football. I am fully committed to recruiting, developing, and graduating elite student-athletes, winning championships, and working together with our administration to make Louisiana proud. Our potential is unlimited, and I cannot wait to call Baton Rouge home.”

Last week, Kelly played down the possibility he’d be leaving Notre Dame co-opting a funny line from Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin:

“No. I mean, Mike Tomlin had the best line, right? Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.”

In Kelly’s case, the fairy godmother’s check was $95 million USD but that was enough.

LSU finished the 2021 season with a 6-6 record, beating Texas A&M in former head coach Ed Orgeron’s last game. Orgeron was fired/left by ‘mutual agreement’ with the announcement made in October that he would not be returning for next season. Offensive line coach Brad Davis will coach the team for their forthcoming bowl game.

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