Kelly set to return to Notre Dame next season
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will be trying for his first BCS championship, instead of a Super Bowl title, next season.
The third-year Fighting Irish coach, who interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in the week a day after the Irish were beaten 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS title game, says his interest with the NFL is over for now.
"Like every kid who has ever put on a pair of football cleats, I have had thoughts about being a part of the NFL. However, after much reflection and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to remain at Notre Dame," Kelly said in a statement released by the university Saturday evening.
"This decision was motivated purely by my love for Notre Dame and the entire Fighting Irish community, the young men I have the great fortune to coach, and my desire to continue to build the best football program in the country," he said.
The remarks were the first comments by Kelly since news broke late Wednesday that he had interviewed with the Eagles.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday night that he believes Kelly interviewing for an NFL job and deciding to stay in South Bend is a positive.
"I think what you get to say to young men is you're going to be coached by somebody who is recognized by the NFL as a really excellent NFL coach," Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick said he was confident all along that Kelly would be back, said he continued to negotiate a contract extension with Kelly's agent during the past week.
Swarbrick said those talks began in early December and were put on hold as the BCS game approached because Kelly wanted to be focused on the game.
Swarbrick said Kelly's talks with the Eagles didn't affect contract negotiations.
"There is nothing about either the dynamic or the substance which was changed by the past week," he said. "Somewhere down the road we're both confident it will result in a revised agreement."
Kelly originally signed a five-year contract three years ago at a reported $2.5 million a year and was given a two-year extension a year ago
Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports said it was too early to tell whether Kelly's talk with the Eagles will hurt what was expected to be Kelly's best recruiting class at Notre Dame and possibly the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
"The key thing now is to call all the top players and assure them he's never going to leave while he's there, even if you lie, you've got to say it, and convince them it was just a thing," Lemming said. "If they believe it, they'll stay."
Lemming said the Irish already lost one recruit, linebacker Alex Anzalone, who is expected to enroll at Florida.
Kelly led the Irish to a 12-1 record this past season and a No. 4 ranking, their best finish since they were No. 2 with an 11-1 record after the 1993 season, which is the last season the Irish won a major bowl game.
The Irish haven't won a national championship since 1988. He failed to join Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as Irish coaches who won national titles in their third seasons at the school.
"We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead," Kelly said.
The Eagles, who also interviewed Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien, said in a statement saying they spent a lot of time and effort looking at coaches they believed were the best collegiate candidates.
"We did so knowing that there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts. We understood that going into the process, but we wanted to leave no stone unturned while trying to find the best head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles," the statement said.
"We have no regrets about the effort we made in that direction and we will continue to proceed as planned in our search."