In less than a week, National Signing Day takes place where the Class of 14 will make their decisions about where to spend the next four years of their life. That’s the biggest news on the horizon (and worthy of its own OTPcast no less) but for that to be as successful as possible for the Cardinals and to ensure that once players sign they have someone to coach them, the two vacancies on the Cardinals coaching staff needed to be filled post-haste. On Thursday, that goal was 50% completed as Kevin Kelly was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator and inside linebackers position coach for the Fighting Football Cardinals.
Unlike some prior hires to this position, Kelly isn’t jobless, a retread, or someone who doesn’t elicit at least a cursory level of excitement. Kelly’s background is exceptionally strong on paper coming from a head coaching position at Georgetown, where his success on the field in 2011 and in the classroom and community garnered him attention for Coach of the Year honors in the Patriot League, as well as nationally as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in 2011. Overall, his record is a fairly unimpressive 24-63 over his eight years as head coach, but in fairness, Georgetown was not some football powerhouse when he arrived. It was a rebuilding job and his first head coaching position and by all measures involved, it was a successful endeavor. “We are grateful to Coach Kelly for his service to Georgetown and for his devotion to the education and overall development of his players,” Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed said. “While on the Hilltop, he embraced the challenge of coaching this program in the highly competitive Patriot League and has helped to build a strong foundation. We wish him well in his new position.”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the position that is essentially next in line at BSU along with the offensive coordinator should the head coaching job open up has such a significant background as well as that critical head coaching experience. Call me optimistic but this feels like killing two birds with one stone in terms of filling a vital need for the current coaching staff but also building in some level of continuity if/when CPL decides to go elsewhere.
BSU’s official release on the Kelly hire…
Kevin Kelly, who has served as the head football coach at Georgetown from 2006-13, has been named the defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach for the Ball State Cardinals, according to fourth-year head coach Pete Lembo.
“We are very fortunate to bring a defensive coach with Kevin’s experience, expertise and integrity to the Ball State football program at this time,” Lembo says. “Kevin and I have a relationship that dates back to 1995 while we worked together at Dartmouth College. Since that time, we have maintained a very close friendship as our careers have progressed. Kevin has been both a mentor and a great resource for me through the years. He has an outstanding reputation as a defensive technician and has made a positive impact on several Football Bowl Subdivision programs including Syracuse, Navy, Marshall and Tulane. I am also grateful for all his efforts to make my alma mater’s football program competitive despite some inherent challenges there. Our defensive players and assistant coaches will greatly benefit from Kevin’s leadership.”
At Georgetown, Kelly was named the 2011 Patriot League Coach of the Year and was an Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year finalist. In 2013, he had five players receive All-Patriot League honors, while six of his student-athletes earned league honors in 2012. Kelly coached the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, Georgetown tallied an 8-3 record, its best since 1999, and played for the Patriot League Championship in the final game of the season. Under Kelly, the Hoyas experienced success in the classroom and community, with 211 student-athletes named to the Patriot League honor roll during his tenure. Kelly also encouraged his teams to take part in several charitable activities through their careers.
Prior to his head coaching stint at Georgetown, Kelly spent from 2002-05 as the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at the U.S. Naval Academy where he helped the Midshipmen to three bowl games and a 26-11 record in his last three years. Navy won three Commander-in-Chief’s titles during his time in Annapolis, won the 2004 Emerald Bowl, the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl and participated in the 2003 Houston Bowl. In 2004, Kelly’s efforts helped Navy finish 26th in the country in scoring defense (19.83) as the team won a school record-tying 10 games. In 2003, he helped the defense finish 14th in the nation in pass defense, 42nd in pass efficiency defense (116th the year before), 34th in total defense and 34th in scoring defense (108th the year before) as Navy won eight games.
Prior to joining Navy, Kelly spent the 2000 and 2001 seasons as the defensive coordinator at Marshall — one of two coaching stints with the Thundering Herd. In 2000, Marshall won the Mid-American Conference Championship and the Motor City Bowl and followed that up with a win at the 2001 GMAC Bowl. Kelly also worked at Marshall from 1996-98, when the team was making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision. In 1996, the team won the Southern Conference en route to the Division I-AA National Championship. They won back-to-back MAC Championships in 1997 and 1998, reaching the Motor City Bowl in both years and winning in 1997. His most successful season was in 1998 when Marshall’s defense ranked 23rd nationally, including 16th in scoring defense, 14th against the pass and 25th against the run.
Kelly spent a year at Syracuse (1999), where he was the defensive backfield coach when the team won the Music City Bowl. It was his second stint with the Orange, as he was a graduate assistant/assistant linebackers coach from 1986-87, when the team won the 1987 Lambert Cup and reached the 1988 Sugar Bowl. Kelly’s other FBS experience came at Tulane (1992-94), where he was the linebackers coach.
He also spent the 1991 and 1995 seasons on the staff at Dartmouth College, and worked with Lembo there in 1995. The Big Green won the 1991 Ivy League title with Kelly as the team’s offensive backfield coach. Kelly has also had coaching stints at Northeastern (1989-90), Bowdoin College (1988) and Southern Connecticut State (1984-85). In addition to working with Lembo at Dartmouth, Kelly has also worked with current Ball State assistants Shannon Morrison while at Marshall and John Strollo while at Northeastern.
A 1982 graduate of Springfield (Mass.) College, Kelly earned a bachelor’s in physical education and played football for three years. He earned a master’s degree in physical education from Southern Connecticut State in 1986.
His first coaching job was at Longmeadow High School in Massachusetts, where he was the defensive coordinator and defensive backfield coach in 1981. After graduating from Springfield in 1982, Kelly went to The Fieldston School, where he was the head coach for two years. He also served as a junior varsity basketball coach and the head track and field coach.
During Kelly’s 20-plus years of experience in coaching at the collegiate level, he has recruited numerous players who have gone on to professional careers, including former Marshall quarterback (and Washington, D.C. native) Byron Leftwich, who played in the National Football League with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Kelly and his wife, Kathy, have one daughter and two sons. Their daughter, Alexandra, a Notre Dame graduate, married Michael Hoffmann in summer 2011. The Kelly’s have two sons, Patrick, a student at Georgetown, who serves as a student assistant football coach, and Ryan, a student at Bowling Green.
Join us in welcoming Coach Kelly and his family to the Cardinal family.