Brian Kelly has officially been named the next head football coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame confirmed the reported signing with a press release late Thursday night that indicated Kelly inked a five-year contract and will be formally introduced at a press conference on Friday at 1:30 p.m. (et). The 48-year-old Kelly had a sterling 34-6 record in three seasons with Cincinnati. He will take over immediately for Charlie Weis, who was let go following a 6-6 season in 2009 and a 35-27 record in five seasons with the Irish. Kelly led Cincinnati to back-to-back Big East titles, including a 12-0 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl this season, though he will not coach the team in that game.
In a prelude to Saturday's presentation of the Heisman Trophy, several noteworthy awards were doled out to the best college football players in the nation on Thursday. The Maxwell Award, signifying the nation's top all-around player, went to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who also won the Walter Camp Award for a second straight year and the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top QB. Nebraska defensive end Ndamukong Suh took home the Chuck Bednarik Award as the country's top defensive player and the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman.
Also on Thursday, Stanford's Toby Gerhart captured the 2009 Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's top running back, while Golden Tate became the first Notre Dame player to win the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the top wide receiver in the nation. Tennessee junior safety Eric Berry was selected as the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, given each year to the nation's top defensive back. UCLA's Kai Forbath captured the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top placekicker, and Georgia's Drew Butler won the Ray Gay Award as the nation's top collegiate punter.
The Pittsburgh Steelers continued their debilitating tailspin, as the defending Super Bowl champions dropped their fifth straight contest, a 13-6 decision to the rival and previously one-win Cleveland Browns. Cleveland (2-11), powered by Josh Cribbs' 200 all-purpose yards, snapped a 12-game skid against Pittsburgh (6-7) and won for the first time since Week 5 vs. Buffalo. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times, as the Steelers are currently on the wrong side of the playoff picture, sitting 1 1/2 games behind Jacksonville for the final AFC wild card spot.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed practice for the second straight day with right shoulder and finger injuries. Brady was injured in the team's loss to the Dolphins on Sunday but never came out of the game. He also sat out Thursday's practice because of a rib issue that was not listed on Wednesday's report. The three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback became the team's all-time leading passer two weeks ago against the Saints and has 3,638 yards passing and 22 touchdowns this season for the 7-5 Patriots. New England plays at home against the Panthers on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner both missed practice for the second straight day. Ryan is battling an injury to his right big toe that caused the Boston College product to miss last week's matchup against Philadelphia. He has thrown for 2,291 yards with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games this season. Turner also did not play against the Eagles because of an ankle ailment. He has rushed for 864 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games this year. The 6-6 Falcons take on the undefeated Saints this Sunday.
Baseball's winter meetings came to a close today with a couple of minor deals taking place. The Atlanta Braves traded reliever Rafael Soriano to Tampa Bay in exchange for Jeff Chavez, while the Boston Red Sox acquired pitcher Boof Bonser from the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named later. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed veteran infielder Bobby Crosby to a one-year deal. Crosby had spent his entire big league career with Oakland, winning the American League Rookie of the Year honor in 2004.
The Houston Astros, meanwhile, added third baseman Pedro Feliz. The former Philadelphia Phillie has agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Feliz spent the last two seasons with Philadelphia after breaking into the majors with the San Francisco Giants in 2000. Last year, the 34-year-old hit .266 with 12 homers and 82 RBI in 158 games for the National League champion Phillies.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant leads all players in votes in the initial balloting results for the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. Bryant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, has received 692,518 votes and has a slight lead over Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who has garnered 672,227 voters. Cleveland's LeBron James is third with 649,327 votes. Last year's leading vote-getter, Orlando center Dwight Howard, has 625,279 votes to lead Eastern Conference centers by a commanding margin over the Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal.