Notre Dame's most successful football coach since Lou Holtz isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
On Friday, Notre Dame announced a six-year contract extension for coach Brian Kelly that will keep the 54-year-old in South Bend through 2021. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Kelly's 226 wins are the most among active college football coaches, and he owns a 55-23 record over his six seasons in South Bend.
“I want to thank Father Jenkins (University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.) and the leadership of Notre Dame for their confidence in me,” Kelly said. “I coach football because I believe there are few better avenues for impacting the lives of young men, and I am certain that there is no better place to do that than the University of Notre Dame. During the next six years I look forward to continuing to lead a championship caliber program, but more importantly I look forward to continuing to help the student-athletes I coach to achieve greatness as football players, as students and as men who will make a difference in families, communities and organizations they will someday lead.”
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Kelly just wrapped up his sixth year at Notre Dame this past fall, steering an injury-plagued Irish side to a 10-3 season and berth in the Fiesta Bowl. He's taken all six of his teams to a bowl game -- becoming the first coach in program history to accomplish that feat -- including the 2013 BCS Championship, which followed an undefeated regular season.
The on-and-off-the-field successes Notre Dame has seen under Kelly have kept the program relevant at a time when college football's elite continue to separate from the rest of the pack. Notre Dame consistently has brought in highly-ranked recruiting classes, and is vying to add a few five-star players to a 2016 class currently ranked fifth by Rivals.com.
And Kelly has not only landed those players, but developed them: Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas were second-round picks in 2013, while Zack Martin (a Charlie Weis recruit) stayed all five years to become a first-round pick in 2014. Two former Irish players are expected to be first-round picks in 2016 (Ronnie Stanley and Jaylon Smith), while a handful of others (Sheldon Day, KeiVarae Russell, C.J. Prosise, Will Fuller) could be selected in the first round rounds as well. Twenty of Kelly's players have gone on to become NFL Draft picks.
"It’s not about this game or that game, it’s about, where’s your program," athletic director Jack Swarbrick said after the Fiesta Bowl. "Have you got all the elements in place you need to build a great program: Player development, recruiting, nutrition, strength and conditioning, scheme. And I don’t see any holes right now. We gotta do better. That’s the only way you’re going to win a national championship. But I don’t see program holes that existed before."
Kelly's contract extension, coupled with a dearth of rumors connecting him to this year's slate of pro job openings, should put to rest any speculation he'll bolt for the NFL in the near future. Kelly has maintained for years he's happy with his situation in South Bend and has no desire to coach in the NFL, though his flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 meant those questions were fair to be asked.
The foundation built by Kelly and his coaching staff -- which includes offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, a key hire for Kelly a year ago -- has Notre Dame positioned to be annually competitive going forward. Only a select few coaches have lasted longer than six years at Notre Dame: Knute Rockne (13 years), Holtz (11 years), Frank Leahy (11 years), Ara Parseghian (11 years) and Elmer Layden (seven years). If Kelly coaches through the end of his contract, he'll be the second longest-tenured coach in program history.
"In the classroom, in the community and on the playing field, Brian has built the foundation of a great Notre Dame football program -- one that reflects this University's values and its unique relationship to the game of football,” Swarbrick said Friday. “I could not be more excited about the future of our football program under Brian's leadership, and I am especially thankful that our student-athletes will continue to have the benefit of that leadership in the years to come."