With the victory Saturday versus BYU, Brian Kelly now has 23 wins in his tenure at the University of Notre Dame. This total surpasses the totals of the previous three Notre Dame Head Football coaches in their first three years. However, Kelly still has five (six with the bowl game) more games to show his worth. But, so far he has demonstrated that he is the best coach at Notre Dame since National Championship winning Coach Lou Holtz.
Bob Davie had a tough task in replacing living legend in Lou Holtz. Davie in his first three seasons won 21 games total. In these three years, Davie lost two bowl games: The Independence Bowl (1997) and The Gator Bowl (1998). In 1997, Davie’s first year, the team went 7-6. Davie went 9-3 and 5-7 in his next two years. This is a total of 21 wins and 16 losses. Davie finished after five years with a 35-25 record.
Then Tyrone Willingham took over with much publicity and initial excitement. Willingham started off his first season 8-0 before falling infamously to Boston College. Notre Dame finished that season 10-3. The Fighting Irish fell to the Wolfpack of North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. Willingham was controversially fired after three seasons. In those years, he totaled a 21-15 season and never showed any promise after the first season.
More excitement came to the program when Charlie Weis took Notre Dame to two straight BCS games. Charlie Weis started out with a 9-3 season that ended with a loss to the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. The next season, Notre Dame won 10 games but again lost in their bowl game to Louisiana State Tigers. The third season was when the wheels really came off for Weis. Notre Dame had its worst season ever going 3-9. In three seasons, Weis won 22 games, one less than Brian Kelly’s current total.
Brian Kelly currently trails Lou Holtz by 2 victories. Holtz had 5, 8 and 12 wins respectively for a total of 25 wins. Kelly has three more winnable games this season against Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. These wins would place Kelly higher than the last four coaches. Dan Devine won 28 games in his first three seasons. To beat Devine, Kelly would need to six more games. In other words, Notre Dame would probably have to win the national title. Although it is unlikely, Kelly does have a chance to immortalize himself into Notre Dame’s record book already.
Time will tell with Kelly but so far he is proving that he can coach in South Bend. He has recruited very well for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has finished 14th, 10th and 20th in recruiting according to Rivals.com. Currently, Notre Dame is ranked 4th in the country. He has the Irish undefeated with a chance to play in the National Title game and at worst probably a BCS game.