LSU has found its next football coach.
The school is set to hire Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly in one of the most unprecedented moves in college football history, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
Kelly, 60, has 263 career wins, making him the one of the winningest active coaches in college football and the winningest coach in Notre Dame history. He passed the school’s legendary Knute Rockne earlier this season.
Notre Dame finished the regular season Saturday night with an 11-1 record after a 45-14 win over Stanford. The Fighting Irish are No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings entering the conference championship games this weekend. Notre Dame has a chance at making the playoff semifinals, which is part of what made hiring Kelly such an impressive move for athletic director Scott Woodward.
During his 12-year tenure at Notre Dame, Kelly went 113-40. He led Notre Dame to the BCS title game after the 2012 season and College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020. The Fighting Irish fell short of a championship each time, but the program consistently competed for titles.
Turns out LSU is getting a coach who likes to wear visors. Just not that coach who likes to wear visors.
Over the last five years, Notre Dame was 54-9 with five straight 10-win seasons, giving it the fifth-best winning percentage in the country behind Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia.
Several news organizations first reported Monday night that LSU had pursued Kelly, who will arrive with the strongest résumé of any incoming football coach in LSU history. While others, such as Nick Saban, built their reputations at LSU, Kelly has already established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the sport today.
Kelly, whose .742 winning percentage trails only Saban (.802) among active FBS coaches, had never publicly expressed a desire to leave Notre Dame. Last year, he said in an interview with Stadium that he and his wife were building a house with a view of the golden dome on campus. He said he would finish his career there.
“This is where I want to be,” Kelly said at the time.
Asked Nov. 22 whether he would ever leave Notre Dame for another job, Kelly told reporters, “No. I mean, (Pittsburgh Steelers coach) Mike Tomlin had the best line, right? Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.”
At the end of a search that lasted nearly two months, LSU has found its new coach.
Sources said LSU offered Kelly a 10-year deal worth more than $100 million with incentives, which would make him the highest-paid coach in college football. Full terms of the deal were not immediately known. Kelly’s contract at Notre Dame, a private institution, was unclear.
“We’re excited for LSU,” said former LSU quarterback Jamie Howard, the father of five-star quarterback Walker Howard, an LSU commitment. “We think it’s a great hire. He’s professional and all business. I think this is an incredible thing for LSU.”
LSU’s job opened after the school reached a separation agreement Oct. 17 with coach Ed Orgeron, who accepted a $16.9 million buyout with four years left on his contract. Orgeron led LSU to the 2019 national championship, but the program declined over the last two seasons.
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The Tigers are 11-11 since the championship. They upset Texas A&M in the regular-season finale Saturday night to reach bowl eligibility in Orgeron’s final game. Offensive line coach Brad Davis will be the interim coach in a bowl game.
At this stage, how many current staff members Kelly keeps at LSU is unclear. Cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond, running backs coach Kevin Faulk and wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph are all Louisiana natives, as is offensive line coach Brad Davis, who will serve as interim coach for LSU's bowl game.
Prying Kelly away from Notre Dame bucked a trend that had developed in this historic coaching cycle as multiple potential candidates stayed at their current schools. James Franklin signed an extension at Penn State. Mel Tucker received a new deal from Michigan State. Dave Aranda reportedly committed to a new contract at Baylor, and Jimbo Fisher was adamant he wouldn’t leave Texas A&M.
But LSU’s hire made the past two days some of the most unprecedented in modern college football history after Southern Cal hired Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma on Sunday afternoon. People close to the program believed Riley was an LSU target over the weekend — reports were never substantiated, and Riley himself denied he would be the next LSU coach — but Woodward held his intentions close to the vest throughout his search.
The hire supported Woodward’s reputation for luring successful coaches. Before becoming LSU’s athletic director in 2019, he hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State and longtime friend Fisher away from Florida State.
Now at LSU, he has hired three coaches from Power Five schools this year alone: women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who won three national championships at Baylor; baseball coach Jay Johnson, who reached the College World Series with Arizona; and now Kelly.
Throughout his career, Kelly has won at every stop. He led Grand Valley State to two Division II national championships. Then he turned around Central Michigan, going from 4-7 to 9-4 in three years. At Cincinnati, Kelly went 34-6 and won the Sugar Bowl before going to Notre Dame in 2010, where he revived a once dominant program.
A winner of multiple national coach of the year awards, Kelly beat LSU twice in bowl games during his Notre Dame tenure. He will become the second coach LSU has hired from Notre Dame, joining former baseball coach Paul Mainieri, though Mainieri viewed his move as a promotion because of LSU’s rich baseball history.
The move from Kelly came as much more of a surprise as he left a perennial contender to coach in the South for the first time. Coaches of his caliber rarely leave their schools. So much like Riley’s decision Sunday, the hire reverberated throughout college football and re-centered national focus on LSU at the end of Woodward’s search.
Six weeks after parting ways with Orgeron, Woodward made his next landmark hire.
The Brian Kelly era is set to begin at LSU.
Leah Vann contributed to this report.