Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly Deserves More Credit for Fighting Irish Success

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 22: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches along with his team as the Irish take on the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 22, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Notre Dame's undefeated start and coinciding rise up the polls has returned the college football spotlight to South Bend. One person who isn't getting the attention he deserves for the team's success is head coach Brian Kelly.

Defensive stars Manti Te'o and Stephon Tuitt have hogged most of the national attention with breakout quarterback Everett Golson and the team's dynamic group of running backs attracting the rest.

Kelly has gotten lost in the shuffle for the most part.

However, he's played a crucial role in helping the team get to 6-0. It's a start that has put the Fighting Irish in a promising position heading into the season's second half, as they sit No. 5 in the BCS rankings thanks in part to three wins over ranked opponents.

Perhaps the main reason Kelly has remained a secondary character in the story is the fact that he didn't make any radical changes when he arrived to Notre Dame. He knew the tradition that was already in place and has built off it.

He's still recruiting high-character players, even though there's constant pressure from the outside to change that, and he hasn't tried to completely overhaul the offense into some type of spread attack like so many other coaches around the nation.

Every Saturday when Notre Dame fans from around the country tune in to watch the games, they can associate the current squad with successful ones from the past.

That's not to say there haven't been some rocky moments since he took over the program prior to the 2010 season, but he's never overreacted. Instead of letting the marquee coaching position get the better of him, he's embraced it like his most recent predecessors never did.

Slowly, the results have started to match his hard work, putting the program back in the national title conversation. Fans can't ask for much more than that given the inconsistencies of years past.

Nobody knows how the season will turn out for the Irish. They still have two gigantic road games on the schedule against Oklahoma and USC, both with the potential to derail the team's undefeated season should it get that far.

If Notre Dame's stout defense is unable to slow down those dangerous attacks or the offense slips up at some point along the way, its national championship hopes for this season will fade away.

And Kelly will probably take plenty of blame if that does happen.

At that point, the progress that's been made this season will probably get overlooked just like Kelly has been for the first six games. But regardless of what happens, Kelly has made sure Notre Dame football is on the rise again.

He deserves credit for that no matter what happens between now and the USC game.