Coach Kelly, who led Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish through a perfect season (up until the BCS championship game), was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) on December 13.
Kelly is the fourth Fighting Irish coach to win the award, following in the footsteps of Ara Parseghian (1964), Lou Holtz (1988) and Charlie Weis (2005).
Lenn Robbins, the FWAA president, commended Kelly for his work with the team. “Notre Dame, under Coach Kelly, has returned to national prominence in the college football ranks. This award recognizes that accomplishment for the 2012 season, a season that began with 124 teams vying for an elusive undefeated campaign. Notre Dame was the only bowl-eligible school to accomplish that impressive feat,” he commented.
Kelly was selected as the winner among eight finalists: Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, UCLA’s Jim Mora, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, Georgia’s Mark Richt, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
Kelly’s Fighting Irish went head-to-head with Saban’s Alabama team in the BCS championship in Miami on January 7, where they encountered an unceremonious end to an otherwise perfect season, losing 14-42. Kelly maintained that despite the disappointment in Miami, the team had come a long way this season, and promised that this was only the beginning.
A third-generation Irish American with Boston roots, Kelly worked at Grand Valley State from 1991-2003, Central Michigan from 2004-2006 and Cincinnati from 2007-2009. He was previously named Big East Coach of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the American Football Coaches Association Division II Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2003.