Kelly faces the task of the Irish

Brian Kelly, who leaves Cincinnati after a 12-0 season, will look to turn around the Irish. Brian Kelly, who leaves Cincinnati after a 12-0 season, will look to turn around the Irish. (Frank Polich/Getty Images)
By Tom Coyne
Associated Press / December 12, 2009

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Brian Kelly has his dream job. Now he has to figure out how to turn a Notre Dame program mired in mediocrity back into a national championship contender.


Just as he did when he was introduced as the Cincinnati coach three years ago, Kelly talked at his introductory news conference yesterday about having a five-minute plan, not a five-year plan that reflects the length of his contract.

“When I refer to the challenge, it’s strictly getting to that high bar that’s been set at Notre Dame,’’ he told a standing-room crowd of 200 people. “We’ve got challenges, but we’ll go to work on those right away.’’

Kelly left an undefeated Cincinnati team that is ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, bound for the Sugar Bowl and may have been one second away from playing for the national title. The Irish are nowhere near that close and haven’t won it all in 21 years. Kelly wouldn’t say how far away he thinks his new team is from that level, saying where the team now isn’t important.

“These young men want to win, and that’s why I’m here at Notre Dame,’’ he said. “I want to be around men that are committed, and we can’t trade anybody. There’s no waiver wire. We’re going to develop our players, and they’re going to play their very best for us. That to me has always been the most important principle. Let’s go. Don’t tell me what you don’t have. I don’t want to know about it. Tell me what you can do to help us win.’’

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Kelly, 48, was the first candidate he spoke to and the only one he offered the job to.

Kelly said he was ready to get to work restoring Notre Dame’s traditions. “Those aren’t 8-4 years. Those are national championship years,’’ he said. “So any time you’re talking about restoring a program and the challenges, it’s not about winning the conference championship, it’s about winning championships and being in the BCS and being nationally prominent.’’