Brian Kelly, coach of the BCS championship bound Notre Dame Fighting Irish,… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)
After two seasons as Notre Dame coach, Brian Kelly decided he wasn't spending enough time doing the best part of his job: coaching players.
Kelly changed that in 2012, and he shuffled his staff. Then, with Kelly more in tune to his team and the assistants in sync with the head coach, Notre Dame went from unranked to top-ranked.
For leading the Fighting Irish to the BCS championship game for the first time, Kelly was voted Associated Press coach of the year.
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"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 is 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."
Kelly received 25 votes from the AP college football poll panel. Penn State's Bill O'Brien was second with 14 votes. Stanford's David Shaw (four), Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin (three), Kansas State's Bill Snyder (two) and Alabama's Nick Saban (one) also received votes.
Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to win the AP award, which started in 1998.
Penn State's O'Brien was named coach of the year by the Maxwell Football Club. O'Brien, who took over at Penn State last January, guided the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 record despite NCAA sanctions that led to the transfer of a handful of key players and an 0-2 start to the season.
"He had a plan and he stuck to his word," said senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who has been preparing for the 2013 NFL draft. "He's a leader not only by the things he says but the things he does, just how he carries himself."
Any speculation Shaw could be the latest Stanford coach to jump to the NFL is over — at least for now.
Shaw agreed to a "long-term contract extension" Wednesday that will keep him with his alma mater beyond the two years left on his remaining deal. Terms of the contract, including the years, were not announced by the school.
"I feel blessed to work every day with an outstanding staff and coach the best group of young men in America," Shaw said, "and I am excited to lead the Stanford football program for many years to come."
Shaw has won back-to-back Pac-12 coach-of-the-year awards since taking over for Jim Harbaugh, who left for the San Francisco 49ers after starting Stanford's resurgence. The Cardinal finished 11-2 last season after a loss in the Fiesta Bowl and won the conference title this year for the first time since 1999.
Stanford is one of two schools in California appearing in a third consecutive bowl game. The other is San Diego State, and the Aztecs' revival continues in the Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday against Brigham Young at Qualcomm Stadium.
The Aztecs have won 26 games over the past three seasons, one more than USC. With a Poinsettia Bowl victory, the Aztecs (9-3) would post their first 10-win season in 35 years.
The key matchup: San Diego State running back Adam Muema, who rushed for 255 yards in his last game, against a BYU defense ranked second in the nation against the run. BYU (7-5) is expected to give senior James Luck his second career start at quarterback; Luck threw for 384 yards and six touchdowns in the Cougars' regular-season finale.
Oregon probably is headed toward a hearing with the NCAA committee on infractions after it could not resolve an investigation of the football coaching staff's use of a scouting service, Yahoo Sports reported. The NCAA investigated Oregon after questions arose over a 2010 payment of $25,000 to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting service. Lyles had a relationship with a player from Texas who committed to Oregon.
Illinois defensive tackle Akeem Spence will skip his senior season and make himself eligible for the NFL draft.