Brian Kelly and Notre Dame close on deal

Cincinnati coach could join Irish as soon as Friday

Brian Kelly didn’t interview Tuesday in New York to become Notre Dame’s next football coach. But then, Kelly already may have known enough about the job to take it.

Kelly had a meeting last week about the opening with representatives of Notre Dame before Cincinnati’s Big East championship game against Pittsburgh, the Tribune has learned.

Talks progressed well enough that the official announcement Kelly will be Charlie Weis’ replacement could come as early as Friday — any time after Cincinnati’s football banquet Thursday night.

The informational session with Kelly was facilitated by the Parker Executive Search firm of Atlanta. Notre Dame used it to gauge the interest of potential candidates, a source said.

The interest from both sides was mutual, but Kelly didn’t want his involvement to distract his Bearcats before the biggest game of the season. Cincinnati beat Pitt 45-44 to earn the school’s second straight BCS bowl berth.

It also was important to Kelly to delay any possible announcement until after he had a chance to talk to his Bearcats in person at Thursday’s season-ending banquet. He informed his players at a team meeting Monday before leaving for New York that he planned to speak with Notre Dame.

One Bearcats player the Tribune contacted said he sensed, from Kelly’s tone and mannerisms, that his departure was imminent.