But while many who've never spent more than a day with Kelly may have him headed off to the Irish, they really don't understand what makes Kelly a coach capable of saying no to Notre Dame or any program that may call.
In December of 2006, Brian Kelly was introduced as the right man to take the Cincinnati program to the next level. Mark Dantonio started the process of taking the Bearcats from mid-level C-USA program to Big East challenger. Kelly promised championships, BCS bowl games and the right to play for a national championship. While many laughed Kelly started to deliver by winning the Big East in 2008 and putting the Bearcats in their first BCS bowl game. Now he has the Bearcats in the hunt for a chance to play for a national title.
To say Kelly's added to the program would be an understatement. The Bearcats under Kelly have gone 32-6 (16-4 Big East) heading into their non-conference battle with Illinois next Friday and have Pittsburgh to play the following weekend with a Big East title and BCS trip on the line. Just as Kelly had planned it.
While some feel a call from a major program and the money that would come with such a position would be an easy choice for Kelly to jump and run. They really don't understand what makes Kelly a possible fixture in the Queen City.
Since 2006 Brian Kelly has not only enjoyed winning football but also a cult like following as more fans have filled Nippert Stadium than any other time in the programs long history.
Kelly, his wife Paqui, and their three children have found Cincinnati to be a place to settle. They've now bough two homes (one in Cincinnati, one on a lake in Southeast Indiana just across the Ohio state line) and just purchased a private box at Fifth Third Arena and had it remodeled.
While there is no guarantee Kelly is going to stay at Cincinnati, the fact he continues to settled in will make a move even harder. But it's not just the settling in that has some who know Kelly feeling he's at Cincinnati for the long haul. It's the fact Kelly has placed his own money in the program to help push forward upgrades in the football facilities.
After his first season at the helm of the Bearcats the university knew they had a coach with a hot hand and gave him a new contract. At the time Kelly donated $50,000 to new practice fields and started working to raise the money needed to finish the project.
Brian Kelly is a builder. He built Grand Valley State into a two-time national champion. He built Central Michigan into a Mid American Conference champion. Both programs have Kelly to thank for putting them on the college football map and have continued to reap the benefits of Kelly's stay since he left.
While some coaches would jump at the chance to take over a Notre Dame or other high profiled program that already have facilities in place, Brian Kelly knows the changes at Cincinnati will have his finger prints all over them.
Brian Kelly is building something no one can ever take away from him. Cincinnati was never to be a program on the same level of those who stand on top of the college football world. But Brian Kelly saw potential and knew if worked right it would happen in the Queen City.
Since arriving in Cincinnati, Kelly has continued to build getting high level recruits to buy into the next phase of his plan. The work at every speaking engagement and civic stop he's made has paid off in the box office and also on the national level as television has placed the Bearcats as one of their top programs to broadcast. While some coaches would be sitting back and enjoying the fruits of their labor Kelly continues to build.
So why would Brian Kelly stay in Cincinnati? You might be surprised to learn a few of the reasons.
Winning – Brian Kelly is about winning on and off the field. He knows at Cincinnati he's in the recruiting hotbed of Ohio and at a university that gives him many advantages to win the Big East and a fighting chance to play for a national championship.
Cincinnati is a solid university in academics allowing for top student-athletes to find majors to their liking while also leaving open the door for those who are in the middle of the academic world. The success of student-athletes earning degrees at Cincinnati is the best of any of the Top 10 ranked teams at present time.
Control – Part of Brian Kelly's success has been his ability to hire coaches who understand his coaching style and philosophy. Brian Kelly runs his football program much like a Fortune 500 CEO would run one of Americans top companies. It's Kelly's way and only his way. While he entrusts his coaches with doing their jobs each knows they have a responsibility to their players and the staff as a whole. This goes from the head coach to the video room to the weight room. Kelly knows what's going in each office of his football program. While it's not micromanaged, Kelly has a thumb on what is going on and makes sure each person in his program is accountable for their actions.
Support – With the naming of new university president Gregory Williams in September it's become clear Brian Kelly will have support of a president who is also an avid football fan with knowledge of what a successful football and athletics program can do for a university.
Since officially taking over the reigns as president, Williams has pushed the university forward in getting the new 10-11 million dollars Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex started before the end of this year and open for use by September of 2010.
The facilities will push Cincinnati in the right direction and give Kelly a regulation field that can be covered with a bubble to go with a 50 yard field so the team can separate offense and defense when needed. At present time the Bearcats football team use Nippert Stadium for all practices.
But Williams didn't stop there as he approved the universities athletic department to finance the project as it continues to raise funds. Williams also knows Nippert Stadium must be expanded with a new press box and luxury suites to help generate the revenue needed to keep Cincinnati in competition with Big East and national programs in paying Kelly and his assistant coaches.
While it will be easy for many to say Brian Kelly will leave Cincinnati for the big-money and spotlight of a higher profiled program after his team finishes play against Pittsburgh, they've not spent the time watching Kelly build his dream program knowing he feels the job is not finished.
Remember, Brian Kelly likes to build things and the Cincinnati football program may be his lasting legacy.
Not many football coaches can say they've placed their personal stamp on a college football program. Especially one that talked about getting ride of the sport just a few years ago.