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Brian Kelly has been successful wherever he has coached. Before he joined the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2010, he had success at Cincinnati as well as Grand Valley State, where he won a pair of Division II national titles. In a recent interview with Colin Cowherd, the 59-year-old coach made some interesting, and for Irish fans, somewhat concerning remarks about his future in South Bend.  

Brian Kelly moves up coaching ranks

After starting his coaching career at Assumption College in Massachusetts during the early 1980s, Brian Kelly joined the Grand Valley State coaching staff in 1987. He made his way up the coaching ranks with the Lakers and, in 1991, ascended to head coach. A dozen years later his program held a 118-35-2 record and had captured a couple of Division II national titles. 

Kelly joined the Chippewas at Central Michigan in 2004 and turned the program around in three short years. During his final season in 2006, the team posted a 9-4 record and earned a bid to the Motor City Bowl. 

In 2007, Brian Kelly brought his tried and tested formula with him to Cincinnati. The Bearcats posted a 10-3 record his first season and won the Bowl. Over the next two seasons, he guided Cincinnati to a combined 23-3 record and berths in both the Orange and Sugar Bowl. 

Brian Kelly has done well at Notre Dame

Brian Kelly’s impressive track record understandably drew the attention of numerous top universities. In 2010, he joined Notre Dame. Just two years later, the Fighting Irish finished the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record—all wins were later forfeited due to academic violations—before losing in the BCS National Championship game to Alabama.

It hasn’t been all roses in South Bend as Kelly’s Irish have struggled at times, including 2016, where the team finished with a 4-8 mark. But in the last three seasons, Kelly and his coaching staff have hit their stride compiling an impressive 33-6 record, which has included a pair of postseason victories at the Citrus and Camping World Bowl. 

Kelly has assembled another quality Irish squad this season, led by quarterback Ian Book. After starting the 2020 campaign ranked No. 10, Notre Dame has steadily climbed the rankings. Following an early November win over the then-No. 1-ranked Clemson Tigers, who were without superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence due to COVID-19 protocols, Kelly’s squad moved into the No. 2 position behind Alabama. 

In a recent interview on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Brian Kelly said the 2020 roster is the best team he’s ever had at Notre Dame. 

“If you talk about physicality, and if you talk about the basic premises of putting together a really good football team, it’s o-line, d-line, and speed on defense. And I think those are the three areas that separate this football team.”

Coach sends concerning signals about future with Irish

With Brian Kelly’s success at a pressure-packed place like Notre Dame, Cowherd said he believes Kelly could coach in the NFL. He asked the coach if he had considered it. Without hesitation, the coach acknowledged he had. 

“I’ve always looked at the possibility. But I’m at a point now at Notre Dame where I can control the roster. I have a great understanding of what our process is here. They give me the opportunity to set this program up and make all the decisions, as it relates to how this program runs on a day-to-day basis.”

Kelly followed up his admission with another curious statement about his desire to work with NFL players.

“For me to give up all of that to go into the NFL—as much as you want to be able to coach the best players in the world—this is such a great opportunity at Notre Dame. It’s one that you can’t give up.”

Brian Kelly admitted he’s always thought about coaching at the next level. He also acknowledged a desire to coach the best football players. Clearly, the itch is there. At 59 years old and not getting any younger, Kelly might want to scratch that itch soon, especially if the Irish win the national title this season. However, if he decides to stay in South Bend for another dozen years, he just might be the coach to bring the team its first national title since 1988.


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