An agreement likely will be finalized in the next 24 hours.
Kelly, in his 12th season at Notre Dame, will replace Ed Orgeron, whom LSU announced on Oct. 17 would not return as coach of the Tigers in 2022, less than two years removed from an undefeated season and national championship.
Kelly, 60, is the winningest coach in Notre Dame history with 92 victories. He guided Notre Dame to the BCS title game in 2012 and to College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020.
Notre Dame (11-1) still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff this season and is ranked No. 6 in the latest CFP rankings. The Fighting Irish suffered their only loss of the season on Oct. 2 to No. 4 Cincinnati.
Kelly’s departure comes as a major surprise to prominent Notre Dame sources who spoke to ESPN earlier Monday. Sources said LSU had approached Kelly earlier this fall, but he declined any interest in the job. LSU made another push for Kelly over the weekend.
Kelly last week addressed the possibility of leaving Notre Dame for another job, telling reporters, “No. I mean, [Pittsburgh Steelers coach] Mike Tomlin had the best line, right? Unless that fairy godmother comes by with that $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first. I’d have to run it by her.”
Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell will be a top target to replace Kelly at Notre Dame, sources told ESPN’s Chris Low. The timing would be anything but ideal for Fickell, though. He has his undefeated Bearcats on the cusp of the College Football Playoff if they can win their matchup against Houston on Saturday in the AAC championship game.
Fickell has drawn serious interest from several other big-name schools in recent years, but sources close to Fickell said earlier this year that the two jobs that would be most difficult for him to turn down would be Notre Dame and Ohio State, the latter being his alma mater.
Sources told ESPN that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman would also receive serious consideration for the head-coaching job.
Kelly is 263-96-2 as a college coach with two Division II national titles at Grand Valley State and 10 AP top-10 finishes. He came to Notre Dame from Cincinnati, where he went 34-6 with two New Year’s Six bowl appearances.
In the two seasons since winning a national title, LSU has gone 11-11 and Orgeron was accused of improperly handling allegations of sexual misconduct by a player twice in the past year.
On Saturday, LSU upset Texas A&M 27-24 for its sixth win of the season. Afterward, Orgeron announced that he will not coach in LSU’s upcoming bowl game, with offensive line coach Brad Davis to act as the interim coach for the game.
“Whoever the new coach is, I wish him all the luck in the world,” Orgeron said Saturday. “I’ll always be an LSU fan.”
LSU had been connected to various coaches, including Jimbo Fisher, whom Orgeron beat on Saturday and who has vehemently denied that he is leaving Texas A&M for any job this offseason. Oklahoma‘s Lincoln Riley also shut down speculation over the weekend that he could be up for the LSU job, before accepting the position at USC only a day ago.
Yahoo! Sports first reported LSU’s expected hire of Kelly.