Why is Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame? LSU reportedly hiring Fighting Irish coach to SEC

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Notre Dame’s current coach Brian Kelly’s name has been tossed in the hat to fill LSU’s coaching position next fall, sources told The Athletic.

Indeed, multiple reports indicate the Tigers will announce Kelly as their next head coach as early as Tuesday,

The news dropped on Monday evening after sources claimed that LSU is making an “aggressive push” to hire Kelly. LSU fired former coach Ed Orgeron in October. He will not coach in the Tigers’ bowl game.

MORE: College football picks, predictions against the spread for every conference championship game

Kelly, on the other hand, became Notre Dame’s winningest coach in history this season. Kelly has coached at Notre Dame since 2010, and he has two College Football Playoff appearances, and could add another one this year (if he stays on through the remainder of the season).

LSU’s previous three coaches, Orgeron, Les Miles and Nick Saban, all won national titles for the school. So, the stakes are high. Kelly has not won a national title at Notre Dame.

With that, here’s everything you need to know about Kelly’s reported jump from Notre Dame to LSU:

MORE: Is there a viable path for Notre Dame to the College Football Playoff?

Why is Brian Kelly leaving for LSU?

Kelly’s reported move from Notre Dame to LSU has to do with one thing: challenging for a national championship. More specifically, it has to do with improved recruiting. That may seem counter-intuitive considering Kelly has seven wins of 10 or more wins with the Fighting Irish, including five straight. They also have made the College Football Playoff twice, in 2018 and ’20 and, before that, were a participant in the 2013 BCS championship game.

But the Fighting Irish were manhandled in each of those appearances, losing to Alabama (2012 and 2020) and Clemson (2018) by a combined score of 103-31 — an average of 24 points per game. They have not won the equivalent of a New Year’s Day 6 bowl game since a 24-21 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M on Jan. 1, 1994.

Moreover, Kelly is 1-8 against top-10 opponents since arriving at Notre Dame in 2010, and 3-9 against top-10 opponents.

At LSU, Kelly would have access to Louisiana’s rich recruiting grounds, which produces some of the top talent around the country on an annual basis. Kelly is no stranger to recruiting, having produced a top-20 class in every season since he took over at Notre Dame in 2010. But, in that time, LSU has had a better class than him in all but two years.

It may be more difficult for Kelly in the SEC — where he’ll have to play Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Oklahoma and Texas, among others — but with the College Football Playoff expanding, it leaves open the opportunity that Kelly will be able to get LSU into a 12-team playoff more often than not.

Kelly reached out to the Notre Dame team on Monday night following the breaking news. Here’s the full message:

Brian Kelly just sent this out to Notre Dame’s roster, per source: pic.twitter.com/7xOae8eE5x

— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) November 30, 2021

Brian Kelly’s record at Notre Dame

Kelly became Notre Dame’s winningest coach in history after grabbing his 106th win on Sept. 25, which surpassed Knute Rockne’s record of 105 wins. His overall record at Notre Dame is 113-40.

Notre Dame finished the 2021 regular season with an 11-1 record. This marks his seventh season with 10 or more wins.

Year Record Final rank (AP) Bowl outcome
2010 8-5 Sun Bowl (win)
2011 8-5 Champs Sports Bowl (loss)
2012 12-1 4 BCS championship (loss)
2013 9-4 20 Pinstripe Bowl (win)
2014 8-5 Music City Bowl (win)
2015 10-3 11 Fiesta Bowl (loss)
2016 4-8
2017 10-3 11 Citrus Bowl (win)
2018 12-1 5 Cotton Bowl (loss)
2019 11-2 12 Camping World Bowl (win)
2020 10-2 5 Rose Bowl semifinal (loss)
2021 11-1 5 (current) TBD

MORE: Why did LSU fire Ed Orgeron? Tigers make surprising coaching change two years after championship

Brian Kelly contract details

The Athletic reported that LSU is offering Kelly a 10-year deal that’s worth around $100 million, and it includes incentives. CBS Sports reported that Kelly’s contract will be about $15 million a year, meaning his full contract is worth $115 million. The exact amount is still to be determined.

Kelly signed an extension to his contract in 2020, according to Sports Illustrated, which is currently believed to be set at $2.67 million annually. Since Notre Dame is a private school, the details of his contract are not made public. With the extension, he is expected to coach at Notre Dame until the 2024 season, marking his 15th season in South Bend, Ind. He will be 63 years old when his contract expires.

Kelly doesn’t make as nearly as much as his fellow coaches in college football (for example, Saban makes around $9.7 million per season at Alabama). Seven coaches make more than $7 million, 21 make at least $5 million and 37 others earn around $4 million. The 50 top paid coaches make at least $3 million. So, assuming the details of Kelly’s current contract are accurate, he just barely misses that list.

Who replaces Kelly at Notre Dame?

Notre Dame is in position to hire some of college football’s top active — and inactive — coaches, should Kelly leave the program. Chief among them is current Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, who has led the Bearcats to a 47-14 record in five seasons, including three seasons of at least 11 wins in 2018, ’19 and ’21. Should he take over for Kelly, he would become the second coach to leave the program for Notre Dame (the first being Kelly).

Another potential coach is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Urban Meyer. A devout catholic, Meyer — who served as receivers coach for the program from 1996-2000 before taking his first head coaching job at Bowling Green — has described the opening as his “dream job.” He is currently 2-9 and in last place in the AFC South in his first year as an NFL coach.

Zac Al-Khateeb contributed to this report.

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