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Story of the Year: Swarbrick fires Weis, looks to Brian Kelly to turn team around

Matt Gamber | Thursday, May 13, 2010

After failing to post a winning regular-season record in three tries after guiding Notre Dame to back-to-back Bowl Championship Series (BCS) berths in his first two seasons, former Irish coach Charlie Weis was fired on Nov. 30, 2009. His replacement, Brian Kelly, was hired away from Cincinnati and introduced as Notre Dame’s 29th head football coach less than two weeks later.

“Nobody does it like Notre Dame,” Kelly said in his introductory press conference on Dec. 11, 2009. “There’s a chapel in every dorm, and there’s a leader around every corner, and we will cultivate that leadership here at Notre Dame, and we will continue to move towards excellence both in the classroom and on the football field.”

A veteran with 19 years of head coaching experience, Kelly spent three years at Cincinnati, leading the Bearcats to new heights, including a 12-0 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl in 2009. He previously held the top jobs at Central Michigan and Grand Valley State.

“You do not come to the University of Notre Dame because you want to be average,” Kelly said on Dec. 11. “You want to be the best of the best. And that’s why I’m here. It inspires me to be around young men like I had in front of me today.”

Kelly has since assembled his coaching staff, completed a solid 2010 recruiting class and led the Irish through spring practice. The staff is now hitting the recruiting trail and has already secured nine verbal commitments from the Class of 2011.

Kelly has received praise from members of the Notre Dame community, including director of athletics Jack Swarbrick, for his energy and his accessibility as the head coach. Kelly has made it a priority that he and his players become more involved on campus.

“We need to care about Our Lady. We need to care about Notre Dame,” Kelly told The Observer in an exclusive interview on April 15. “When I got here, our guys thought about themselves first, then their family, then their teammates, then Notre Dame. I want them to flip that. They’re here for Notre Dame, first and foremost, and that’s really the paradigm shift for our players. They’ve got to care about each other and understand why they’re here.”

After five years at Notre Dame, Weis became the offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 8. Notre Dame started 6-2 in 2009 but dropped its final four games — including home losses to Navy and Connecticut — to finish the regular season 6-6 for the second straight year after a 3-9 showing in 2007.

“For many of you who may have thought that was a foregone conclusion, I would say to you that the decision was harder than you might have thought, principally because of the man it involved,” Swarbrick said on Nov. 30, 2009. “I hope we can find somebody who loves this University as much as he did, does, and who cared as much about his student athletes as he does.”