Brian Kelly, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, had an incredible 2012 season.
He led his team to a 12-0 record and is currently gearing up his squad to face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship Game. Kelly also helped groom linebacker Manti Te’o, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, into a superstar.
For those accolades, Kelly was given the Associated Press’ Coach of the Year award on Wednesday, according to the AP’s Ralph D. Russo.
The Fighting Irish head coach had this to say about the honor (as per Russo):
When you're talking about the coach of the year, there's so many things that go into it. I know it's an individual award and it goes to one guy, but the feelings that I get from it is you're building the right staff, that you've got the right players and to me that is a validation of the program. That you put together the right business plan.
What Kelly has done with the Irish in just three seasons is absolutely incredible. He pulled this historically rich program from the mires of mediocrity and once again has it atop the college football world.
After consecutive 8-5 seasons, in which the Fighting Irish finished unranked, Kelly finally had a breakthrough. He managed to pull off a perfect 12-0 record on the back of his defense, and led the Irish to No. 1 spot in the BCS rankings—despite the overwhelming odds against that feat.
Giving Kelly the COY award wasn’t an easy call for voters, but the unexpected turnaround and national title game appearance likely sealed the deal in the 51-year-old’s favor.
Penn State’s Bill O’Brien finished in second place, followed by Stanford’s David Shaw, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder and Alabama’s Nick Saban, respectively.
Kelly becomes the first Notre Dame coach to win since the AP’s Coach of the Year distinction began being bestowed in 1998.
While it’s a great honor, Kelly has his mind on a crystal football. This award should not deter him from prepping the Irish for an absolute dogfight against the Crimson Tide with the national title on the line this coming January.