Notre Dame rewards Brian Kelly with contract extension through 2024 season
SOUTH BEND — Four years after getting a midseason vote of confidence in a humbling season from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, Brian Kelly on Saturday was able to share receiving something far more substantial.
A contract extension — and one that had been incubating for months..
Notre Dame finally announced at the end of the first quarter of the season opener with Duke, that the 11th-year Irish head coach had three years added onto his current deal that ran through 2021. He is now signed through 2024.
“We are pleased to be able to have Brian lead our football program for the foreseeable future,” Swarbrick said in a statement. “These terms were agreed upon in December, and we planned the subsequent announcement for the Blue-Gold Game in April.
“When the university transitioned to remote learning in March, we decided to wait to make this announcement until we were able to return our attention to football being back in action. And I am happy to share this great news today.”
Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, but the historical implications were clear to see. Should Kelly coach at ND until the end of the contract, he would break coaching icon Knute Rockne’s record for coaching longevity at the school of 13 years (1918-30).
As it stands, 13 months from now, Kelly will turn 60 and become the first at ND to coach at the school into his 60s. Lou Holtz was 59 when his 11-year run ended in 1996.
Ara Parseghian was 51, and Frank Leahy 45.
“The biggest challenge for Brian moving forward may be his own success,” Parseghian told the Tribune after Kelly received his last contract extension, on Jan. 29, 2016.
“A lot of people overlook that. The more success he has, the more people are going to want to get a hold on him. That’s something you can’t see from the outside until you’re sitting in that seat.
“But it’s real. And you have to learn how to deal with it. I sure hope he does coach 12 years at Notre Dame, because I think he’s done a great job.”
Now he has a chance to coach 15 years at Notre Dame.
Kelly came into the first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference game, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, with a 92-27 record with the Irish and 263-94-2 in his 30th year as a college head coach overall.
Almost a third of Kelly’s losses with the Irish came during a 4-8 season in 2016, which included a 38-35 home loss to Duke. He fired his defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, the next day and then continued with more seismic changes during the offseason that included a reboot of his own coaching philosophy.
"His focus has been really laser sharp, his relationship with this team is probably as strong as any that I've seen with him at Notre Dame, and those are all positives,” Swarbrick said of Kelly after the Irish started 2-5 in 2016.
“Neither of us are satisfied with 2-5, but I'm at most of the practices. I'm at training table. I have an office at the Gug in addition to my other office.
“I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program."
Swarbrick’s confidence was rewarded with a 33-6 Irish run collectively in the three seasons that followed, which included the team’s first-ever playoff appearance in 2018.