Brian Kelly has won national titles before, but that was Division II: now, the coach looks to lead Notre Dame to their first national championship since 1982 and cap off a perfect season for the Fighting Irish.
Brian Kelly has a chance to become the first Notre Dame head coach since Lou Holtz to win a national championship Monday night, as the 51-year-old leads the Fighting Irish into the National Championship game against Alabama.
Kelly's career started at Assumption College: you might not have heard of it, which is why Tim Casey profiled Kelly's time at Assumption as part of SB Nation's Longform series. This technically wouldn't be Kelly's first national title: he won two Division II national championships at Grand Valley State, earning him a job at Central Michigan. That was the first of three programs he quickly turned around: Central Michigan went from 4-7 his first year in 2004 to MAC Champions in 2006, Cincinnati would appear in back-to-back BCS bowls in 2008 and 2009, and then, he took the job at Notre Dame.
The Irish had famously sputtered under Charlie Weis, going just 6-6 his final year and electing as a team not to go to a bowl game. Kelly rebooted the program, winning eight games in each of his first two seasons as head coach before going 12-0 this year.
The path to the 2012 National Championship game hasn't been easy: Kelly's team lost a pair of first-rounders in Michael Floyd and Harrison Floyd and switched starting quarterbacks, putting Everett Golson under center instead of Tommy Rees, whose appearances in relief were less and less frequent as the year went on. The points have been few and far between Notre Dame had the top scoring defense in the country, allowing only 10.3 points per game, thanks in large part to the strong play of Manti Te'o at linebacker. Twice, Notre Dame needed extra sessions to win - a controversial lack of a touchdown call in overtime gave the Irish the win against eventual PAC-12 champions Stanford, while they needed triple OT to beat lowly Pittsburgh, but they still came away 12-0.
This would be Kelly's 200th career win, all levels considered. The postseason has been kind to Kelly, with his two D-II national championships and three bowl wins in four tries - he left Central Michigan and Cincinnati before his respective bowl games at those schools, but did win a bowl game for Cincinnati just weeks after assuming the job. Here's a full look at his resume:
Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (third year)
FBS record: 81-31
Notre Dame record: 28-10
Bowl record: 3-1