Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly has won the AP Coach of the Year award. 

ESPN reports on the honor, which is the first time the Fighting Irish have won it since the award’s conception in 1998. Coach Brian Kelly won 25 votes of the 48 votes cast, with Penn State’s Bill O’Brien coming in a distant second with 14 votes.

"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 has made an impressive turn with the otherwise struggling Fighting Irish, who last made a national championship appearance in 1988. In his three years at South Bend, he has managed to bring the team from unranked to headed for the BCS National Championship. Notre Dame will face off with Alabama in Miami on January 7 for the title.

Kelly made successful runs at other colleges, but none that were as in the public eye as Notre Dame. 

"I think the job tends to distract you," Kelly said earlier this week. "There are a lot of things that pull you away from the primary reason why you want to be head coach of Notre Dame, and that is graduate your players and play for a national championship.”

Coach Kelly’s work was cut out for him when he signed on to be head coach, and came to find that tuning into his team is an imperative element of being a successful team.

"Now, to do that you have to have the pulse of your football team and you've got to have relationships with your players. If you're already going around the country doing other things other than working with your football team, it's hard to have the pulse of your team."

Despite helping to guide the Fighting Irish to a perfect season this year, Kelly’s passion is in the development of each individual player rather than winning titles.

"That's why I got into this. I want to develop 18 to 21 year olds. My development as the head coach at Notre Dame this year has been about getting back to why you would want to coach college players. You want to learn about them; you want to know their strengths and weaknesses; you want to help them with leadership skills; you want to help them when they're not feeling confident in their ability.”

"For me, that is why it's been the most enjoyable year as the head coach at Notre Dame, is that I got a chance to spend more time with my team."

Here, watch ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi chat with Notre Dame coaches Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, and Brian Kelly about sideline demeanor at South Bend:

Brian Kelly is named the AP Coach of the Year