George L. Kelly

George Kelly

George Kelly didn’t spend his whole life at Notre Dame or even his whole coaching career, but he became a fixture in the athletic department in the manner of the ultimate lifer, Moose Krause. The beloved and widely respected former football coach died in March, 2003 at age 75. Like Krause, Kelly was laid to rest in Cedar Grove Cemetery within sight of the campus he loved. 

Kelly worked in the athletic department for 34 years, half of them as an assistant under head football coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Gerry Faust. In 1986 he began serving in administrative capacities. He came to Notre Dame as a football prospect from Rockford, Illinois, but injuries shortened his career and he turned to coaching immediately after graduation. His first job was as an assistant at South Bend’s Saint Joseph’s High School. Three years later a former Notre Dame assistant coach invited him to join the staff he was assembling at Marquette. When Marquette gave up football in 1960, Kelly landed at Nebraska, later serving as an assistant to legendary Cornhuskers coach Bob Devaney. After the 1968 season Parseghian invited Kelly home to his alma mater to fill an opening for a linebackers coach. He never left. 

During Kelly’s tenure the Irish defense ranked among the nation’s top 10 six times, including 1974, when the team ranked first. His star players included team captains Bob Olson (1969), Greg Collins (1974), Bob Golic (1978) and Bob Crable (1980–81). 

He kept in close contact with many former players and even their parents, often entertaining them at his home when they were in town. For hundreds of football alumni from different eras, his was the familiar face they sought out in the athletic department, the thread of continuity. His many honors included, in 1997, the Moose Krause Award, given by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club to its member of the year.