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Four Years In Review

Observer Sports Writers | Friday, May 20, 2011

1. Weis fired after five seasons; Kelly hired (December 1, 2009, December 12, 2009)

After leading Notre Dame to the most losses in a three-year span, Charlie Weis was fired on Nov. 30, 2009, and a mere 11 days later, Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick named Brian Kelly as the 29th football coach in Notre Dame history.
Weis held the reins to the football program for five years, accumulating an overall record of 35-27. After going 9-3 in his first season and earning an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, Weis was granted a 10-year contract extension through 2015.
Nonetheless, two home losses to Navy and consecutive Senior Day defeats to Syracuse and Connecticut spelled the end of the Weis’ time leading his alma mater.
A secretive coaching search resulted in the hiring of Kelly, who wasfresh off an undefeated regular season at Cincinnati in his third year with the Bearcats.
Previously, Kelly was the head coach at Central Michigan for three seasons, leading the Chippewas to a Mid-American Conference in 2006. Kelly began his head coaching career at Division II Grand Valley State, tallying a 118-35-2 record over 13 seasons.
Kelly’s first season had its highs and lows. Though the Irish dropped heartbreaking losses to Michigan, Michigan State, and Tulsa, Notre Dame closed the season on a four-game winning streak. The defense led the Irish past No. 15 Utah on Senior Day, Army in Yankee Stadium, USC in Los Angeles and Miami in the Sun Bowl to close the season.
2. Football finally defeats USC (Nov. 27, 2010)
Notre Dame capped a difficult season by snapping an eight-year losing streak to USC with  a 20-16 victory over the Trojans in Los Angeles.
The rivalry win did not come without drama, as senior Harrison Smith intercepted a Mitch Mustain pass on the Irish one-yard line in the last minutes to seal the long-awaited win.
3. Women’s hoops falls just short (April 5, 2011)
After a scintillating tournament run that included a historic Elite Eight victory over Tennessee and a Final Four win over perennial power Connecticut, the Irish fell just short of the national championship. Notre Dame lost to Texas A&M 76-70 in front of thousands of Irish fans who made the short trip to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
4. Women’s soccer wins national title (Dec. 5, 2010)
After four consecutive trips to the College Cup without a title, the Irish finally broke through with a 1-0 victory over previously undefeated Stanford. 
Notre Dame raced through the NCAA tournament on the strength of its freshmen, who scored the last four goals of the season and helped shut down eventual Hermann Trophy winner Christen Press in the title game.
5. Hockey reaches two Frozen Fours (April 10, 2008, April 8, 2011)
The Irish reached the first Frozen Four in program history in 2008, falling in the national title game. The freshmen on that squad were seniors on the team that reached the 2011 Frozen Four; the seniors shepherded an exceptionally young team (loaded with 12 freshmen) to another Frozen Four berth, capping their record-setting careers.
6. Swarbrick takes over AD position (July 16, 2008)
On June 1, 2008, Kevin White, then-director of athletics, announced  that he would be leaving Notre Dame to assume the same position at Duke.
Six weeks later, Swarbrick was hired as the 12th athletic director in the school’s history. He was previously a lawyer instrumental in the Indianapolis sports scene.
7. Men’s lacrosse reaches title game (May 31, 2010)
Despite being unseeded in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame rode a stalwart defense through seeded teams to a berth in the championship game.
The Irish and Blue Devils played the lowest-scoring title game in NCAA history, finishing regulation tied at 5. The Irish gave up an early goal in overtime but were proud of their historic run to the title game.
8. Fencing reclaims national title (March 27, 2010)
After two second-place finishes to Penn State in the past two  years, the Irish overcame the loss of junior foilist and team leader Gerek Meinhardt to earn the program’s first national title since 2005.
The championship was the eighth such title in program history and the third under coach Janusz Bednarski.
9. Men’s hoops earns No. 2 seed (March 17, 2011)
Notre Dame followed up a 2010 tournament appearance with one of the best seasons in program history, highlighted by a 56-51 victory at No. 2 Pittsburgh Jan. 24.
Senior Ben Hansbrough earned Big East Player of the Year honors, and coach Mike Brey earned conference Coach of the Year accolades.
10. New facilities constructed (Oct. 6, 2006)
After hosting Irish athletic events for over 40 years, the south dome of the Joyce Center received a renovation in the summer of 2009 and reopened in October as the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
New facilities for lacrosse, soccer, track, softball and hockey were also completed in the past two years or are currently in the works.