Although Brian Kelly finished first in the AP voting for Coach of the Year, Bill O’Brien is the real story.
But Kelly is due some credit here, as he is the first Notre Dame coach to have won the award since its inception in 1998. The Fighting Irish, mostly irrelevant since that time, finished the season with a perfect record and will play in the SSMNC. Those things give Kelly some pretty strong credentials for this award.
Kelly wound up with 25 votes. O’Brien finished well ahead of all others in the voting with 14 votes. His closest competition was David Shaw of Stanford, with 4.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Notre Dame coaching job is always the hot seat for whoever occupies it, the pressure on O’Brien was beyond imagination. To have stepped into the shoes of one of the greatest college football coaches of all time and quickly received the full support of a demanding army of fans is an amazing accomplishment in itself, but to have managed to field a competitive team following a plethora of high-profile defections is icing on the cake. O’Brien is more than just an emotional favorite for us homeys. He is fully deserving of the votes he received.
Had Penn State been allowed the opportunity to play in the post-season, Kelly still would have won this award, so let’s not blame Emmert, not that I wouldn’t otherwise want to bash him in every article I write.