SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Brian Kelly has his dream job. Now he has to figure out how to turn a Notre Dame program mired in mediocrity back into a national championship contender.


Just as he did when he was introduced as the new Cincinnati coach three years ago, Kelly spoke at his introductory news conference yesterday about having a five-minute plan - not the five-year plan that reflects the length of his contract.

"When I refer to the challenge, it's strictly getting to that high bar that's been set at Notre Dame," he told a standing-room crowd of 200 people, including his family. "We've got challenges, but we'll go to work on those right away."

Kelly left an undefeated Cincinnati team that is ranked fourth, bound for the Sugar Bowl, and may have been one second away from playing for the national title. The Irish are nowhere near that close and haven't won it all in 21 years.

Kelly wouldn't say how far away he thinks his new team is from that level, saying where the Irish are now isn't important.

"These young men want to win, and that's why I'm here at Notre Dame," he said. "I want to be around men that are committed, and we can't trade anybody. There's no waiver wire. We're going to develop our players, and they're going to play their very best for us."

Athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the 48-year-old Kelly was the first candidate he spoke to and the only one he offered the job to. Kelly wisecracked that he didn't "doodle the ND diagram" while at his other jobs, but hoped he could one day run the Irish and called the job the "culmination" of 19 years of coaching.

Kelly said he was ready to get to work restoring Notre Dame's traditions.

"Those aren't 8-4 years. Those are national championship years," he said. "So, any time you're talking about restoring a program and the challenges, it's not about winning the conference championship - it's about winning championships and being in the BCS and being nationally prominent. That's a challenge. We've got to get to work on that."

The question is whether he can succeed where his predecessors failed: returning Notre Dame to BCS prominence and keeping the fans on his side.

Notre Dame has gone 16-21 over the past three seasons and is losing two of its best offensive players. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen and his favorite receiver, Golden Tate, announced Monday they will enter the NFL draft.

The last three Notre Dame coaches - Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham and George O'Leary, who resigned five days after his hiring - started with six-year deals. Before Kelly, the last coach to get a five-year deal was Bob Davie, who took the job after the 1996 season.

Kansas search. Athletic director Lew Perkins said he has not offered the vacant Kansas coaching job amid reports that the school is negotiating with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

Zook stays at Illinois. Ron Zook will be back at Illinois next season following a 3-9 record. However, the Illini fired almost half of Zook's staff, letting go first-year offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, quarterbacks coach Kurt Beathard and receivers coach Jim Pry, along with special teams coach Mike Woodford.