Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has opted to return to the Fighting Irish next season after mulling a leap to the NFL to fill the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching vacancy.
The Eagles and Kelly met on Tuesday, the day after the Irish lost 42-14 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the BCS National Championship game. ESPN reported that there was mutual interest between the parties before Kelly left the country on vacation.
“This week, I had an incredible opportunity to speak with one of the premier organizations in sports about becoming their head coach,” Kelly said in a statement released through Notre Dame on Saturday.
“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.”
The 51-year-old Kelly credited his love for the university, the Fighting Irish community, his players and willingness to continue to add to the Notre Dame tradition as reasons for his decision.
“We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead.”
In Kelly’s third season, he led the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular-season record, which resulted in the Discover BCS National Championship berth. Monday’s national title game was Notre Dame’s first since 1988.
“I was always confident that Brian would continue to lead our football program,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “I am very happy to have that confirmed and share Brian’s excitement about what lies ahead for our program.”
Kelly, who is 28-11 in three seasons at Notre Dame, is expected to receive a raise and contract extension with his return. Swarbrick said that negotiations about an extension began with Kelly in early December and were put on hold during preparations for the BCS game.
Kelly signed a five-year deal in 2009 for a reported $2.5 million a year and signed a two-year extension a year ago.
The Eagles are left to continue their coaching search. They also interviewed Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and Oregon’s Chip Kelly, but both decided to remain at their programs. The Eagles felt the three coaches were the best available collegiate candidates, but did not want to leave any stone unturned in their search.
“We have no regrets about the effort we made in that direction and we will continue to proceed as planned in our search,” that statement said.
The Eagles met with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Saturday. They also plan to meet with Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is in the running as well.