Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly named ‘Coach of the Year’

Tom Karol Occasional Political Commentator
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University of Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has been named the recipient of the Football Writers Association of America’s 2012 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. The Eddie Robinson Award is awarded annually to college football’s top head coach in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision; the division’s sports information directors and selected sports writers cast votes annually to decide the winner.

The award is named for Eddie Robinson, the College Football Hall of Fame coach who retired in 1997 after 56 years at Grambling State University. Robinson was the winningest coach in Division I history with 408 victories. His teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships after joining the league in 1959. Grambling claimed nine Black College Football Championships during his career.

Kelly, Notre Dame’s 29th head football coach, began his head coaching career at Division II Grand Valley State in 1991. After winning back-to-back NCAA Division II titles there in 2002 and 2003, he moved on to Central Michigan for three seasons before a highly successful four-year stint at Cincinnati. He guided the Bearcats to back-to-back BCS bowl games (Orange and Sugar) in 2008 and 2009 before taking over at Notre Dame in 2010.

Kelly is the fourth Notre Dame coach to receive the award, following Ara Parseghian in 1964, Lou Holtz in 1988 and Charlie Weis in 2005.

Notre Dame is the top-ranked team in college football and will face Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. The Fighting Irish capped a perfect regular season (12-0) with a victory over arch-rival USC. Linebacker Manti Te’o won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player, and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting.

“Notre Dame, under Coach Kelly, has returned to national prominence in the college football ranks,” FWAA President Lenn Robbins said in a statement. “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.”

Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton praised Kelly for his team’s undefeated record. “Equally as impressive,” he added, “is the fact that his team boasts a 97 percent graduation rate, which is tied for best NCAA APR rate among all Bowl Subdivision schools.”