SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly has his dream job. Now he has to figure out how to turn Notre Dame back into a national championship contender.
The former Cincinnati coach was introduced Friday as the new coach of the Fighting Irish, a storied program that hasn't won a title in 21 years. With his family watching nearby, Kelly said he knows there are challenges and he's ready for them.
"When I refer to the challenge, it's strictly getting to that high bar that's been set at Notre Dame," said Kelly, who signed a five-year deal with the Irish. "We've got challenges, but we'll go to work on those right away."
Asked how long that would take, Kelly demurred.
"We don't get a five-year plan. This is a five-minute plan," he said. "We expect our football players to play at a high level immediately. Timetables, we don't want to get into those — those are a setup."
Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Kelly was the first candidate he spoke to and the only one he offered the job to. Kelly wisecracked that he didn't "doodle the ND diagram" at his other jobs, but hoped he could one day run the Irish and called the job the "culmination" of 19 years of coaching.
Kelly met with his players for 25 minutes Friday. He said he didn't have firm impressions of the team built by Charlie Weis, save for watching some film of a single game earlier this season.
"It's not just about getting bigger, stronger, faster," he said. "It's getting your players to trust, to be accountable on a daily basis, it's about developing them as young men. ... To get people to do things that they would not normally do on their own."
Afterward, linebacker Brian Smith wrote on his Twitter account: "good guy. i wanna play now."
The 47-year-old Kelly officially takes over Monday, starting the job he has always wanted. As a sign of his eagerness, his Twitter page got a complete makeover after the announcement. The background featured Notre Dame's stadium, and the biography listed South Bend as his location along with a brief statement.
"Thrilled to be the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish," the bio said. "Committed to stirring People with PASSION and PURPOSE."
He won't have a difficult time stirring the Irish faithful. The question is whether he can succeed where his predecessors failed, returning Notre Dame to BCS prominence and keeping those fans on his side.
He headed to South Bend with slightly less job security than previous coaches. The last three Notre Dame coaches started with six-year deals — Weis, Tyrone Willingham and George O'Leary, who resigned five days after his hiring. The last coach to get a five-year deal was Bob Davie, who took the job after the 1996 season.
Notre Dame has gone 16-21 over the past three seasons and is losing two of its best offensive players. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen and his favorite receiver, Golden Tate, announced Monday they will enter the NFL draft.
Kelly grew up in Chelsea, Mass., and went to Assumption College, a Catholic school in Worcester where he played linebacker. He got a degree in political science and later worked on Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign in the Boston area.
He was a head coach at Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan, where he won back-to-back national titles. He built Central Michigan into a winning program in three years, and then in 2006 took over at Cincinnati for Mark Dantonio.
Kelly built the Bearcats into a Big East powerhouse and his departure comes as the undefeated Bearcats are preparing to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Some players, notably receiver Mardy Gilyard, said they felt Kelly had abandoned them for a bigger paycheck.
"I handled myself in a manner that was upfront and honest," he said. "When I had the opportunity to inform our team, I certainly did that. I'm forever grateful to the players at Cincinnati for what they gave me. They gave me this opportunity."
He added: "You would always want it to end with the best story. The best story would be that I get to coach in the Sugar Bowl. But I'm at Notre Dame now, and this is where I want to be."