Brian Kelly’s record at Notre Dame compared to Knute Rockne and other Irish coaches



Brian Kelly can pass Knute Rockne become the winningest coach in Notre Dame history with a victory on Saturday.

That’s quite the honor for Kelly, who will get that chance when No. 12 Notre Dame takes on No. 18 Wisconsin at 12 p.m. on Saturday in the Big Noon Kickoff game at Soldier Field. 

Kelly is 105-39 since taking over at Notre Dame in 2010, and he is poised to take over that record in his 12th season with the program. 

How significant of an accomplishment is it? 

Sporting News takes a closer look: 

Who is Knute Rockne? 

Rockne won three national championships from 1918-30. He had a 105-12-5 record in those seasons, and that .881 winning percentage is the highest all time among coaches with at least 100 victories.  

Rockne died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931, but he remains the Irish’s most-iconic coach. That mystique was popularized in movies ranging from “Knute Rockne, All-American” starring Ronald Reagan. Sean Astin re-enacted the same speech in “Rudy.” 

How many Notre Dame coaches have 100 wins? 

Three. Kelly is the third coach to reach 100 victories with the Irish. Joining Rockne and Kelly is Lou Holtz, who finished 100-30-2 from 1986-96 and led Notre Dame to its last national championship in 1988, a winning percentage of .765. 

What are Brian Kelly’s best accomplishments? 

Kelly has not won a national championship, but he’s been a successful coach at Notre Dame since 2010.

The Irish have had six seasons of 10 wins or more. Notre Dame finished 12-0 in the regular season in 2012 before losing 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS championship game. 

Notre Dame went 33-5 from 2018-20 with a pair of unbeaten regular seasons in 2018 and 2020. The Irish made the College Football Playoff in both of those seasons. In 2018, Notre Dame lost 30-3 to Clemson in the CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl Classic. 

In 2020, Notre Dame played in the ACC for one year as a result of scheduling issues created by COVID-19. The Irish beat No. 1 Clemson in the regular season but lost to the Tigers in the ACC championship game. Alabama beat Notre Dame 31-14 in the Rose Bowl, which was the CFP semifinal relocated to AT&T Stadium. 

Should there be an asterisk? 

Kelly’s record is for games on the field. The NCAA vacated 21 Notre Dame victories from 2012-13 as part of sanctions because of academic misconduct during Kelly’s tenure. Notre Dame filed for an appeal, but was denied in 2018. 

What is Brian Kelly’s winning percentage? 

Kelly ranks 10th among Notre Dame coaches with a .729 winning percentage, but he’s fifth among coaches with at least 100 games coached at the school. 

Frank Leahy (1941-53) finished with an 87-11-9 record for an .855 winning percentage, and Ara Parseghian had a 95-17-4 record from 1964-74. 

How long will Kelly coach at Notre Dame? 

Rockne is the longest-tenured coach in Notre Dame history at 13 seasons. Holtz, Parseghian and Leahy all lasted 11 seasons. No other Irish coach has lasted a decade at the school.

Kelly will turn 60 in October, so he has more than a good chance to beat Rockne’s record there, too. 



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