Brian Kelly will stand across from the most lauded coach in college football when his Fighting Irish take on Alabama this January. Nick Saban has become a living legend in college football coaching as he leads the Crimson Tide to a second straight national title appearance.
This is the first trip for Notre Dame to a title game in the BCS era, and more title runs appear to be coming in the future with Kelly leading the Irish. If he can get Notre Dame to another title in the next few seasons, he will be climbing close to Saban status.
The level of excellence that Saban has achieved at every stop is nothing short of amazing, but it can be matched.
Brian Kelly is 199-66-2 overall as a head coach. Nick Saban is 153-55-1. Both coaches have led four different collegiate teams as head coaches, and they have lifted each one to new heights.
Look at what Kelly did in the past for an idea of what is possible at Notre Dame.
In his first stint as a head coach, Kelly took Grand Valley State to six playoff runs in Division II. Three of those runs ended in title-game appearances, with two national titles and consecutive 14-win seasons ending his tenure with the Lakers.
After leaving Grand Valley State, Kelly took over a reeling Central Michigan program and turned out a 19-16 record in three years. His final season brought a berth in the Motor City Bowl. The team had two bowl appearances prior to 2006, with the last coming in 1994.
Kelly then moved to Cincinnati, where he won 10 games or more in every year with the Bearcats. His final season led to a Sugar Bowl berth and a 12-0 record.
Since taking over at Notre Dame, Kelly is 28-10. He has led the Irish to three bowl appearances, with this season bringing a BCS National Championship Game berth.
Saban has put together a similar history of success, never having a losing record at the collegiate level. He turned around a Michigan State program and guided LSU to a BCS title.
The story of the Alabama program under his leadership is well documented, as Saban now has the Tide battling for a second consecutive national title.
Both coaches lead strong programs, and both have a bright future at their current positions.
Brian Kelly stepped into one of the most storied programs in college football history when he took over the Notre Dame program in 2010.
Notre Dame has a history winning championships, and in only his third season, Kelly has the Irish playing for national titles again. Notre Dame brings a national fanbase and recruiting territory.
Before the craze of national recruiting began, the Irish were already traveling the country finding the best stars. The draw to be an Irish player has always been strong for any kid playing front-yard football.
The same can be said for Alabama, where a lot of kids don No. 12 jerseys during yard football attempting to become the next star quarterback for the Crimson Tide. The winning tradition at the Capstone has led to a national draw, helping the Tide pull the best players from around the country.
Recruits want to go where they can win, but they also want to go somewhere where the name matters. Wearing the crimson helmet with white numbers or the golden dome is a dream for some and an honor for those who are able to strap up in either uniform.
The winning tradition at Notre Dame has returned with Brian Kelly. Winning now mixed with rich tradition will bring a lot of future wins.
Can Kelly Reach Saban Status?
Nick Saban is thought to be in a league of his own in the college football coaching world, but Brian Kelly is leading a charge to join Saban on top of college football.
These coaches bring winning tradition to wherever they land.
Both coaches go to programs and turn them into winners. They leave title-contending teams to build new ones, but at this point they have landed at football Meccas and are sure to stay as long as they win.
Brian Kelly has a better overall record, but a lot of his time came at the Division II level. While national titles at any level are impressive, FBS level football is a different animal.
Kelly has proven that he can win in FBS as well, but until he matches titles with Saban, he won’t be considered to be at the same mark as the Alabama head coach. He could gather steam in January with a win in Miami.