- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly did not enter his new job at Notre Dame three years ago and think that his new program would be playing for a national championship by the 2012 season. But he also did not, as he said Saturday, think that the Fighting Irish could not reach this point this soon.
If his Monday counterpart, Alabama coach Nick Saban, is the curator of The Process -- which has guided the Crimson Tide to their third national title game under him, the first coming in his third season -- then Kelly can be considered a distant disciple.
Kelly has taken the same blueprint for success that the SEC has set in dominating the college football landscape for the past seven years and adapted it to Notre Dame. The elite defense, unbending high bar and mental tests are the hallmarks of the Irish's rise from the depths of mediocrity to the Discover BCS National Championship, and they have Notre Dame in position to remain elite in the years to come.
They are why, despite consecutive 8-5 seasons coming into 2012, athletic director Jack Swarbrick extended Kelly's contract two more years through the 2016 season, saying that that the coach was on the coolest seat in America.
"He knew how to build a program and he could explain it," Swarbrick said in the minutes after Notre Dame beat USC to clinch a berth in the title game. "He could articulate every element of it. He could tell me exactly what all those elements were and how he was going to address them, and that's what we were missing: the program elements.
"As you could see, we had some really talented kids, great leaders. It wasn't our problem with the approach to the game; it was the other stuff. And he knew how to build that stuff. He demonstrated it, and that compelled me."
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17hSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
2dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney