Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick is pleased with Brian Kelly’s progress leading the football program — and the reward adds up to five more years.
Following a pair of 8-5 seasons that both ended with a bowl appearance, Kelly has received a two-year contract extension which will keep him with the Fighting Irish through the 2016 season.
Swarbrick announced the decision Tuesday and says he is pleased with Kelly’s efforts in his first two seasons after being hired to replace Charlie Weis. The Irish, who beat Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl, lost to Florida State 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl last month after blowing a 14-0 lead.
Kelly has pledged the Irish will cut down on the turnovers that hurt them this past season. One of his top priorities will be deciding on a starting quarterback among three candidates: junior Tommy Rees, who took over after the first half of a stunning season-opening loss to South Florida and started the next 12 games; junior Andrew Hendrix, who showed promise as a change-of-pace runner and passer in Kelly’s spread offense; or untested and talented Everett Golson, who did not play last year as a freshman.
Dayne Crist, who was benched after the first half of the loss to South Florida, has transferred to Kansas. Two other players who might have bolted for the NFL decided to return to South Bend for another season: linebacker and leading tackler Manti Te’o and talented tight end Tyler Eifert.
Kelly’s coaching staff will also have a different look next season.
Running backs coach Tim Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner are gone; Chuck Martin, who had been coaching the safeties, takes over at offensive coordinator for Charley Molnar after he left for the head job at Massachusetts; and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was given the title of assistant head coach.
Notre Dame’s 2012 schedule will be more challenging than Kelly’s first two. After opening in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy, the schedule includes Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Southern California and Stanford. There are also matchups against BYU, Oklahoma, Miami, Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest.
The Irish did not reach their stated goal in 2011 of making a BCS Bowl.
”While Coach Kelly and I are focused on the additional work that must be done to reach our goals, I am very pleased with the progress we have made during the past two years,” Swarbrick said in a statement.
”Our football team’s performance on the field, in the classroom, and in the community reflect Coach Kelly’s commitment to building a program that will be able to sustain success in the long run, and to doing so in a manner consistent with Notre Dame’s values and tradition.”