LSU formally announced the hiring of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday, saying they have agreed to a 10-year contract worth more than $95 million.
The recruiting of Kelly — who has led Notre Dame for the past 12 seasons and eclipsed Knut Rockane to career victories with the Fighting Irish — came together in another blockbuster coaching move in college football on Monday night.
“Brian Kelly is the epitome of a winner,” said LSU athletic director Scott Woodward. “He has managed and achieved consistent success in every event, from multiple undefeated regular seasons and National Coach of the Year honors to (Division II) national titles and college football playoff berths. His credentials and consistency speak for itself.”
Kelly replaced Louisiana native Ed Orgeron, who had won the national title at LSU two seasons earlier, with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow leading the Tigers to a 15–0 record. Orgeron has moved on from 11-11 and agreed to a $17 million buyout in October that will see him step down at the end of this season.
Orgeron coached his final game last Saturday, when the Tigers made an upset then-no. 14 to end Texas A&M regular season 6-6.
Like Orgeron, Kelly is 60 years old but the similarities more or less end there. Orgeron is a Cajun raised in the shadow of a shrimp trawler on Bayou LaFourche, southwest of New Orleans. He was raised on LSU football and idolized Tigers stars of the past.
Kelly came from an Irish-Catholic family in the Boston area and is bound to be far more familiar with using nut crackers to pick up the flesh of our lobster claws than sucking the seasoned juices out of steamed crayfish heads.
But he has recruited to Louisiana, where LSU gets its elite domestic talent. In recent history, Louisiana has produced as many NFL talent per capita as any state.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join an event with a commitment to excellence, rich traditions and the unmatched pride and passion of LSU football,” said Kelly. “I am fully committed to working closely with our administration to recruit, develop and graduate elite student-athletes, win championships, and make Louisiana proud.
“Our potential is limitless,” Kelly said. “I can’t wait to call Baton Rouge home.”
LSU scheduled a flight from Kelly to Baton Rouge on Tuesday, invited fans to greet the coach at the airport, and scheduled an introductory media conference for Kelly for Wednesday.
Kelly is 113-40 as head coach, including the current run of the season in five straight double-digit wins.
No previous Notre Dame coach has left the Irish, winner of eight AP national championships, to take a job at another school since the AP poll began in 1936. Rockne’s successor, Hank Anderson, moved from Notre Dame to the state of North Carolina after 3–3. 5-1 in 1933.
Notre Dame (11-1) remains in contention to reach the college football playoffs for the third time in four years.
LSU paid Orgeron nearly $9 million this season, allowing him to join Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fischer, and last month Michigan State’s Mel Tucker and James Franklin in college football. Joined the highest paid coaches. Penn State. That list certainly now includes USC’s Lincoln Riley, who bowled Oklahoma over the weekend in the other big coaching move this week.
Orgeron was expected to earn an average of $7 million over its six-year period running through 2025. Kelly’s full salary at Notre Dame, a private school, is unknown, but it was believed to be over $5 million per year. ,
While Kelly has no personal ties to the South, neither does any of the two previous three national title-winning coaches at LSU. Les Miles, who won a title in the 2007 season, was a Michigan man who coached at Oklahoma State before replacing Saban at Baton Rouge. Saban, who won the BCS championship in the 2003 season, is a West Virginia native who moved to LSU from Michigan State.
Kelly’s national titles have come at Division II Grand Valley State. From there he worked his way up to Central Michigan and then to Cincinnati, always winning more than the coaches before him.
He did the same thing at Notre Dame, but the national championship kicked him out. As good as the Fighting Irish have been, they haven’t won it all since 1988 and have been knocked out in two college football playoff semifinals (against Clemson in the 2018 season and Alabama two years later) and the BCS title game. Crimson Tide in the 2012 season.
Kelly will now see Saban every season at SEC West and try to fill the last remaining hole in his Hall of Fame resume at LSU, a school that has turned three of its previous coaches into national champions.