DALLAS (FWAA) – 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.
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.
The late Robinson, the winningest coach in Division I history (408 games), passed away on April 3, 2007. Robinson’s teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers claimed nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.
Robinson, who was named by the FWAA in 1966 as “The Coach Who Made the Biggest Contribution to College Football in the Past 25 Years,” often took his show on the road to places such as the Louisiana Superdome, the Cotton Bowl, the Astrodome, Tiger Stadium and Yankee Stadium. And with his star-studded array of players Robinson helped integrate professional football.
In 1949, Grambling standout Tank Younger was the first player from a Historically Black College to sign with an NFL Team (Los Angeles Rams). By 1963, Buck Buchanan became the first player from a Historically Black College to be selected first overall in the professional draft (American Football League by the Kansas City Chiefs). Over the years, Robinson produced a Who’s Who of professional football players, with more than 200 of his former players dotting professional rosters.
In 1975, with one of his greatest teams quarterbacked by eventual All-Pro Doug Williams, Robinson’s Grambling team and Alcorn State became the first college teams to play a game in the Louisiana Superdome. The next season, Robinson’s Tigers, along with Morgan State, became the first American college football teams to play in Japan.
A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Robinson has the keys to cities all over the planet, has been awarded in every form and fashion and has honorary degrees from many schools. The Eddie Robinson Museum has opened in his honor in Grambling, La., where numerous memorabilia now reside, including a bust of the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.
The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,200 men and women who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include gameday operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at [email protected] or 972-713-6198.
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The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). The NCFAA was founded in 1997 as a coalition of the major collegiate football awards to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of the game’s predominant awards. The NCFAA encourages professionalism and the highest standards for the administration of its member awards and the selection of their candidates and recipients. For more information, visit the association’s official Web site, ncfaa.org.