|Brian Kelly hopes this isn't his last reward of the 2012 season. (US Presswire)|
While he may have his eyes on a bigger prize in the immediate future, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly has already won a major award for the work he's done in 2012.
On Wednesday, Kelly was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year.
Kelly becomes the first Notre Dame coach to win the award, which was first handed out in 1998.
"When you're talking about the coach of the year, there's so many things that go into it," Kelly said. "I know it's an individual award and it goes to one guy, but the feelings that I get from it are you're building the right staff, that you've got the right players, and, to me, that is a validation of the program. That you put together the right business plan."
In only his third season in South Bend, Kelly has helped transform a Notre Dame program that had been mired in mediocrity for much of the previous 20 years -- some would say "irrelevancy" -- back into a national title contender, as the 12-0 Irish will face off with Alabama in January's BCS National Championship Game.
Kelly received 25 votes from the AP's panel. Penn State's Bill O'Brien (14 votes) finished second with Stanford's David Shaw (4), Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin (3), Kansas State's Bill Snyder (2) and Alabama's Nick Saban (1) also receiving votes.