Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who has taken the Fighting Irish to their first unbeaten regular season since 1988, has been named the recipient of the 2012 FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, which is sponsored by the Fiesta Bowl.
It's the first time Kelly has won the award. Last week, he was named Home Depot Coach of the Year for the 2nd time.
Kelly, in his third season at Notre Dame, won the award over eight other coaching finalists after a vote of the 1,200-member Football Writers Association of America. He is the fourth Notre Dame coach to receive the award following Ara Parseghian (1964), Lou Holtz (1988) and Charlie Weis (2005).
The Fighting Irish capped a perfect regular season (12-0) with a victory over arch-rival USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Notre Dame is the top-ranked team in college football in all the polls and will face Alabama in the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2013 in South Florida.
The 51-year-old Kelly will be presented the Eddie Robinson Trophy the previous evening during a reception at the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Officials from Notre Dame, the Fiesta Bowl, the FWAA and the namesake coach's son, Eddie Robinson Jr., will be in attendance.
"It is with great pleasure the FWAA presents the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award to Brian Kelly," said 2012 FWAA President Lenn Robbins. "Notre Dame, under Coach Kelly, has returned to national prominence in the college football ranks. This award recognizes that accomplishment for the 2012 season, a season that began with 124 teams vying for an elusive undefeated campaign. Notre Dame was the only bowl-eligible school to accomplish that impressive feat."
"Brian Kelly is a deserving recipient for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award," added Fiesta Bowl Executive Director Robert Shelton. "He led Notre Dame to an undefeated record, earning the top spot in the BCS. Equally as impressive is the fact that his team boasts a 97 percent graduation rate, which is tied for best NCAA APR rate among all Bowl Subdivision schools. He inspires excellence in his players on both the field and in the classroom."
Notre Dame's 2012 season has been highlighted by victories over ranked teams at the time the Fighting Irish played them: Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and Oklahoma. Senior linebacker Manti Te'o won the FWAA's Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's best defensive player, anchoring one of college football's top defensive front sevens.
Kelly, Notre Dame's 29th head football coach, began his head coaching career at Division II Grand Valley State in 1991. After winning back-to-back NCAA Division II titles there in 2002 and '03, he moved on to Central Michigan for three seasons before a highly successful four-year stint at Cincinnati. He guided the Bearcats to back-to-back BCS bowl games (Orange and Sugar) in 2008 and '09 before taking over at Notre Dame in 2010.
The FWAA has given out a Coach of the Year Award since 1957 when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes first claimed the honor. Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University, has been the FWAA's coaching namesake since 1997.