Notre Dame's Brian Kelly wins Home Depot Coach of the Year

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was named the Home Depot Coach of the Year for the third time on Wednesday. He will be honored at the awards show in Atlanta, which airs on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET Thursday.

Kelly is the only coach to win the award, which began in 1994, more than once. He received the award in 2009 at Cincinnati and 2012 at ND — both of which were also 12-0 regular seasons.

Kelly was told on Sunday that Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, who will coach against him in the Dec. 29 College Football Playoff semifinal, suggested he should win coach of the year honors.

“Dabo is good at deflecting all of that,” Kelly said. “I think Dabo should get it. Look, there’s so many candidates. Coach Clark at UAB, there’s a program that for two years was not playing football two years ago. So there’s a lot of deserving candidates.

“I didn’t get into this business to get Coach of the Year, you know, so that’s great that he said that. I think he’s done an incredible job. I think Nick Saban has done an incredible job.

“It’s like our players, right? If they came in here and said, ‘I’m only in it to get the Heisman,’ we would be like, ‘OK, well, what about team awards?’ I’m more interested in our guys winning a national championship.”

The No. 3 Irish finished 12-0 with regular season victories over three teams in the CFP rankings — No. 7 Michigan, No. 20 Syracuse and No. 22 Northwestern. ND has been 22-3 since finishing 4-8 in 2016.

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush started the first three games of 2018 before Kelly made a change, elevating backup Ian Book. The junior shined, throwing for 2,468 yards and 19 touchdowns with six interceptions. His 70.4 completion percentage on 197-of-280 passing ranks fifth nationally.

Kelly also was named one of eight finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. He was joined on the list by UAB’s Bill Clark, UCF’s Josh Heupel, Army’s Jeff Monken, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford. The winner will be announced Jan. 5, 2019 in San Jose, Calif.

The Dodd Trophy, which was established in 1976, also named Kelly as a finalist. Syracuse coach Dino Babers, Georgia coach Kirby Smart, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, Riley, Saban and Swinney are the other finalists. The winner will be announced in Atlanta during Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl week.

Kelly’s also a finalist for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on Dec. 28.

Notre Dame had coach Brian Kelly yells out to an official during the Irish victory over Navy on Oct. 27 in San Diego.