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John Carroll University announces that Brian Polian ’97, a 25-year veteran of collegiate sports leadership, has been named the next Director of Athletics, effective May 22, 2023. He most recently served as Associate Athletics Director and General Manager of Football at Louisiana State University (LSU) after spending a season under Brian Kelly as Special Teams Coordinator.


John Carroll will formally welcome Polian during a press conference on Wednesday, May 3 at 2:30 p.m. Media are invited to attend in person while community members are invited to livestream the event via


Polian’s appointment follows recent news at John Carroll University including the debut of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, the launch of a Women’s Wrestling program, and a renewed institutional commitment to building Inspired Futures for students through significant investments in academic programs, campus life, and modern infrastructure. 


“I am pleased to welcome Brian Polian back to John Carroll University as the next leader of our Athletic Department and an impactful partner for our faculty, staff, coaches, and leadership team,” said Alan R. Miciak, Ph.D., president of John Carroll University.


Brian’s experience at the Division I level and his understanding of our institutional mission will add another layer of excellence to our Inspired Futures strategy that focuses on academic rigor, experiential opportunities including highly competitive athletics, and personal formation for our students.

Polian’s roots in athletics and ties to John Carroll run deep. A native of Buffalo, New York, and graduate of St. Francis High School, Polian’s father, Bill, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. The younger Polian graduated from John Carroll in 1997 with a B.A. in History following a four-year stint on the JCU Football Team. Polian earned All-OAC Second Team honors in 1996 playing alongside College Football Hall of Fame member London Fletcher.


“In 25 years of coaching, I have moved all over the country. There are only a handful of places that have felt like home. John Carroll University and Northeast Ohio has always been one of those places,” said Polian. “I am very grateful to President Miciak for the opportunity to bring our family back to a community that we care for so deeply. It is truly a blessing, and we are incredibly excited to take on this new challenge.”


My time at JCU was transformational in my development as a person. The relationships that were developed on the campus with classmates, teammates, faculty, and staff were some of the most meaningful in my life. It is an honor to lead the athletic department and work alongside the leadership of the University as John Carroll moves into a bright future.

Polian (middle row, third from left) Played Linebacker for JCU from 1993-96

Polian brings extensive administrative experience to the role. Most recently, Polian served as the Associate Athletics Director / General Manager of Football at Louisiana State University after spending a season under Brian Kelly as Special Teams Coordinator. During the 2022 season, the Tigers finished 10-4 as SEC West and Citrus Bowl Champions. At LSU, Polian guided the Tigers through a major roster overhaul, helping to produce two top-10 recruiting classes in 2022 and 2023. 


Polian also worked under Brian Kelly at the University of Notre Dame from 2017-21. During his stint as special teams coordinator, the Fighting Irish made two College Football Playoff appearances and consistently finished in the top 20 special teams rankings. At Notre Dame, Polian led the Irish recruiting efforts that produced multiple top recruiting classes and NFL draft picks. 


From 2013-17, Polian served as the head coach at Nevada, guiding the Wolf Pack to two bowl games and two victories over Power 5 opponents. He mentored three future NFL players (including Browns guard Joel Bitonio) and three future CFL players. As the head coach, he led the Wolf Pack Football program to a perfect 1,000 APR score during the 2016-17 academic year, the only team in the Group of Five to accomplish the feat in that season.



Polian Hoists the 2015 Arizona Bowl Trophy as University of Nevada Head Football Coach

During the 2012 season, Polian worked as the special teams coordinator/ tight ends coach at Texas A&M, helping the Aggies finish #5 in the country during the program’s first year in the SEC. From 2010-11, Polian served as the special teams coordinator, recruiting coordinator, and safeties coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw. From 2005-09, Polian served on Charlie Weis’ staff at Notre Dame. During that time, Rivals and ESPN named him one of the top recruiters in the country. 


Previously, Polian spent stints at UCF, SUNY Buffalo, and Michigan State. His coaching career began at MSU under the legendary Nick Saban as an offensive graduate assistant. 


Additionally, Polian served as a member of the inaugural College Football Officials Competition Committee, as well as the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Ethics Committee. In 2021, Polian authored a book, “Coaching Generation Z: Honor the Relationships.”  


Polian is a piece of John Carroll’s NFL pipeline. His father, Bill, was an executive in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015. The elder Polian helped to launch numerous NFL careers. Brian’s brother, Chris ‘93, along with Tom Telesco ‘95 and David Caldwell ‘96, worked for Bill with the Indianapolis Colts. Chris enters his 28th season in the NFL and his fourth as the Washington Commanders’ director of pro personnel. Telesco is now the General Manager of the Los Angeles Chargers.


Polian holds close ties with many current Blue Streaks, including former teammate and current head football coach, Jeff Behrman ’95, while Hall of Fame Head Athletic Trainer Don McPhillips once worked with Polian. 


Polian will be a transformational leader for John Carroll Athletics during a critical time as the Blue Streaks continue to pursue national success. JCU has won a record seven-straight Ohio Athletic Conference Men’s All-Sports Trophies and currently stands 21st in the NACDA Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.


Polian will be the 12th full-time athletic director in John Carroll University history, following Rev. Edward Bracken (1920-1933), Ralph Vince (1934-1936), Tom Conley (1936-1943), Gene Oberst (1946-1951), Herb Eisele (1951-1970), John Keshock (1970-1978), Ron Zwierlein (1978-1981), Jerry Schweickert (1981-1986), Tony DeCarlo (1986-2003), Laurie Massa (2004-2018), and Michelle Morgan (2018-2023).



What They’re Saying

"I've known Brian for over 30 years. You will not find a more passionate nor enthusiastic personality. His experience as a longtime Division I football coach as well as his roots in Division III athletics will bring JCU a unique perspective for the student-athletes. Brian and his wife, Laura, will be a great addition to the JCU community."

–Tom Telesco ‘95, General Manager, Los Angeles Chargers


“Congratulations to Brian on being named the Athletic Director at John Carroll University.  Brian’s 25 years of experience at multiple levels of College Football, including working at some of the top programs in the nation, will undoubtedly aid him as he transitions to his new role.  Brian’s experience as a student-athlete will provide a unique perspective on campus and will be a big asset to the entire University.  The Athletic program will be in good hands with Brian at the helm.”

–Nick Caserio ‘98, General Manager, Houston Texans


“As a member of the search committee for our new Athletic Director, I am excited about the news of Brian Polian being selected to lead JCU Blue Streaks into a promising future of success both on and off the competitive venues. Brian brings an exciting approach to leadership from which we are eager to learn and grow within our department to the betterment of our Men and Women of Carroll.” 

–Michele Benoit, Head Volleyball Coach


"Brian Polian has been a key figure in the success of our programs at Notre Dame and LSU as a coach, recruiter, and administrator. I have no doubt that he will use his knowledge, experience, and passion for people to make John Carroll University and Blue Streak athletics better in the future. We would like to wish Brian, Laura, and the family all the best as they embark on this new endeavor."

–Brian Kelly, Head Football Coach, LSU


“Brian Polian represents a home run hire. His outstanding set of professional experiences, coupled with his institutional connectivity and profound love for John Carroll University, made him an extraordinary candidate, and ultimately the absolute perfect choice! Unqualified congratulations to both Brian and Laura, and to JCU.”

– Kevin White, Ph.D., Vice President and Director of Athletics Emeritus, Duke University


“I am extremely excited that Brian Polian is returning to lead the athletic department. My former Blue Streak teammate and coach at Stanford brings a tremendous wealth of experience and expertise that will be of great benefit to the university and the student athletes that will compete at John Carroll now and in the future.”

– Greg Roman ‘94, longtime NFL football coach


"Brian Polian is an inspired choice to lead John Carroll University into a new era of college athletics. He has an understanding of college athletics and its power to educate young men and women, a wealth of experience at some of America's leading universities, and a passion for his alma mater. The future for the Blue Streaks is bright under the leadership of Coach Polian."

–Jack Swarbrick, Vice President and James E. Rohr Director of Athletics, University of Notre Dame