University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish leader Brian Kelly wins the first of what should be numerous coach of the year awards

Brian Kelly is a true coaching great.

While the top-ranked University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish waits to compete against No. 2 Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game on January 7 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, it was announced today that Brian Kelly will become the first two-time winner of the Home Depot Coach of the Year.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who is 81-32 since debuting on the sideline with Central Michigan in 2004, initially earned the award in 2009 while coaching the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

Kelly, a three-time Big East Coach of the Year who mercifully replaced the hideously obese Charlie Weis as Notre Dame’s leader in December 2009, will formally accept the accolade tomorrow at the Home Depot College Football Awards.

Despite staring at a preseason schedule that seemed overwhelmingly difficult, one of the primary reasons the Irish (12-0) flourished on the gridiron was due to the play of All-American linebacker Manti Te’o, standout nose guard Louis Nix, dominant defensive end Stephon Tuitt and the rest of one of the more formidable front sevens in recent memory.

However, as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick aptly noted, the fiery Kelly deserves as much credit as anyone for halting the Irish’s descent into college football’s version of redheaded stepchildren.

“I always thought it [would be] next year,” Swarbrick said of his anticipated timetable for Kelly’s restoration. “So it’s cool to be ahead of schedule.”

Without a close peer, Kelly, whose 28 wins in South Bend equal the most of any Fighting Irish boss in such a timeline, is the preeminent college football coach today.

Provided spineless weasels don’t mar the voting, Kelly should also easily capture the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award in a landslide reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s thrashing of Walter F. Mondale in the 1984 United States presidential election.

It’s evident that Brian Kelly is South Bend’s undisputed leader and a man who will always “be ahead of schedule” with the Irish.

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