JT: Will Notre Dame's return to glory be the Brian Kelly story?

We would like to welcome Jason Thompson to The Sunny and C Network. JT, as he would like to be known, will be one of our regular contributors. He will also be a guest on tonight's edition of The Sunny and C Show to discuss Notre Dame football.

Another no-show last week by the Notre Dame defense against Stanford left everyone with little to speculate regarding the future of coach Charlie Weis.

After a five-year tenure (or internship, as some fans will call it), a 6-6 record became unacceptable to the Irish faithful. Quite frankly, Weis only made it to Monday because it would have been politically incorrect for a Catholic university to fire someone on a Sunday.

An era is over, and Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick has begun his search to find the man to bring Notre Dame “back to glory.”

Can Notre Dame – with their high academic standards and less than spectacular campus location – ever reclaim the dominance lost when Lou Holtz left in 1996? Do players want to play at Notre Dame anymore? Are the Irish even relevant to a generation that has seen nothing but undelivered promises from the “storied program?”

Most of these questions are irrelevant because as coaches like Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have shown, the story in college football begins and ends with the head coach. Just about any school can be one hire away from plunging onto the national scene.

That being said, who can right the ship in South Bend?

Remember, Notre Dame isn’t your typical job.

In-state recruits don’t exist, so you had better be a great recruiter.

You must be an ace with the media because from the minute you sign up, you will be relentlessly questioned and second guessed.

Finally you will need to be one of the “good old boys.” There are a lot of old-fashioned Irish alumni digging deep into their pockets to buyout Weis’ mistake of a contract, so they better like you at face value.

With all of that in mind, isn't the search fairly simple?

Its a two-tier process consisting of three coaches: Meyer, Kelly, and Bob Stoops.

After multiple failures, Swarbrick can’t afford to get cute and look at a Gary Patterson, a Butch Davis or a Jim Harbaugh. They need someone with hardware and a name.

Swarbrick owes it to the Irish fan base to throw the kitchen sink at Meyer. They underbid him in 2004 and lost out to Florida. Notre Dame is still close to the heart of Meyer, and if Swarbrick could bring him to South Bend everything in the world would be right again.

Likely? No. Meyer has already publicly shot down the idea of ever leaving Florida, even after admitting Notre Dame is his dream job. But then again, Saban did the same thing to Alabama until the pot was sweetened. So Irish nation can dream right?

Once Swarbrick fulfills his obligation and forces Urban Meyer to tell him no, it comes down to Stoops and Kelly – pick your order.

It took Stoops far too long to dismiss the rumors of him coming to South Bend, and nobody should be shocked if more rumors start surfacing in the coming weeks. Stoops is said to feel underappreciated in Oklahoma, and his midwest-Catholic roots would fit right in at Notre Dame.

Kelly, one of our own from Grand Valley, is neck and neck with Stoops. Kelley has had success wherever he has gone, and nobody needs to be reminded of what he has done with average talent in Cincinnati this year.

The knocks on Kelly are his unproven track record on the recruiting trail and a lack of Division 1 hardware. But, if he is the second coming of Meyer like some have proclaimed, can Notre Dame afford to pass him up?

In addition, all speculation says Kelly will be half way to South Bend before he hangs up the phone with Swarbrick.

With loads of excitement and speculation surrounding the Irish football program, don’t be surprised if little noise is leaked out of South Bend in the coming days.

All three of the coaches still have bowl games with their current teams, and Notre Dame can’t afford for any of them to pull a Les Miles and bail because word was leaked too early. On paper, two of the three are still in the national title hunt, and, as Miles showed us, no future job can pull a coach away from that.

Pending the games on Saturday, this is how the coaching search will shake out:


...Notre Dame hires before Saturday - Stoops (only one of the three not in the title hunt)

...Texas wins - Kelly becomes available (statistically out of title hunt)

...Florida loses - Meyer becomes available (out of title hunt)

...Texas loses and Florida wins - Kelly and Meyer are locked up

...Notre Dame doesn't hire before the National Championship game (a game not featuring Cincinnati) - Notre Dame fans can get excited

Here are the odds, Las Vegas style:

Kelly 1:1 – Up and coming, open to the idea, makes the most sense
Stoops 2:1 – Brings the hardware and a name, but leaving Oklahoma will be hard
Meyer 7:1 – Best coach in America, good coaches don't move much
The Field 8:1 – Any other selection better panout or Swarbrick is fired

Rumors and controversy will surround not only the Notre Dame football program, but programs around the country as more names are thrown into the Irish coaching mix. We’ve seen these insecurities already, as rumored candidates Jim Harbaugh and Gary Patterson were given large contract extensions by their universities as added insureance.

Notre Dame has a huge decision to make in the coming weeks, maybe one of the biggest in school history. Time is of the essence, as recruits grow restless of being committed to a leaderless program.

The Irish have missed on their past three coaches. If Notre Dame misses on another, they could slip farther into irrelevance, effectively crushing the dreams fans have for a “return to glory.”


December 3, 2009 at 1:13 AM Anonymous said...

No way is Urban Meyer the best coach in America. He may be a great recruiter, but with the talent level that Florida consistently has anybody could be winner there. The best coach in America is someone like Boise State's Chris Peterson or Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. Peterson has two undefeated seasons and one one-loss season in his first four seasons as head coach. Season after season, these head coaches have a dominant team with half the talent that Urban Meyer has. The only problem? They never get to showcase that talent against teams like Florida because the BCS will never allow it to happen. Look at the past. If, somehow, Cincinnati gets to the championship game, either Alabama or Florida will see what the top coach in America has done with half the talent. My prediction? Cincy can win a national championship if they get a chance.

December 3, 2009 at 7:20 AM Cody Eding said...

I don't disagree with you, but to play devil's advocate, it should be mentioned Meyer coaches in the SEC, perhaps the toughest conference in America.

I'm not knocking Boise State or Cincinnati, but the WAC and the Big East are not the SEC. To have success requires more than just sheer talent.

But, as you mentioned, Florida does have the athletes and talent. As Kelly was quoted during the Cincinnati/Illinois game last week, he doesn't believe Cincy could compete in the SEC for a year, but for one game they could hang tough.

December 3, 2009 at 10:02 AM kevin said...

are you taking bets on those odds....that'd be a way to raise money

December 3, 2009 at 10:51 AM Cody Eding said...

Haha. No we are not taking bets. Suppose I should put in a disclaimer? :p

DISCLAIMER: We are not taking actual bets. Any odds listed are merely for illustrative purporses.

December 3, 2009 at 11:54 AM Katy said...

JT -
Good article. I'm not a particularly huge fan of Urban Meyer (or anything UF, for that matter) [*Tebow*], and like you say, Notre Dame is his dream job. With Tebow graduating soon though, and DUI allegations against one of UF's best receivers, it could turn into an interesting story with Meyer.
I do think there's something to be said as well about the dedication Weis had for the team and the school of Notre Dame, and regardless of wins and losses, that might prove difficult to replace.

I really look forward to hearing what you have to say tonight on the show and collaborating with you!


December 3, 2009 at 1:08 PM Anonymous said...

That is true that the SEC is a very tough conference to play in. However, the Utah Utes proved that a team from the Mountain West could handily beat a team from the SEC (Alabama)by fourteen points in the Sugar Bowl. Boise State has been pleading to play against any big name football team in America to beef up their schedule but nobody will take them up. The BCS-conference teams are satisfied having a lax non-conference schedule because they have a strong enough conference schedule.
The BCS is a joke because, as Utah showed, there are some non-BCS conference teams that deserve a shot at a national title.

December 3, 2009 at 1:30 PM Cody Eding said...

"The BCS is a joke..."

I think everyone can agree there. Great points.

December 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM Matt Sundberg said...

True. The BCS is a flawed system that needs to be fixed, Boise State has deserved a shot in the past couple years, Utah is a good example, and a lot of the mid majors are very good as well. However, The reality is that like most things, big business runs a lot of our world, hence you get the BCS flawed system. Urban Meyer I would say is one the hands down better coaches within the BCS system, and if Notre Dame wants a high profile coach, they'll find it in the BCS where coaches are a house hold name.

December 3, 2009 at 6:48 PM JT said...

I like all the comments, it seems as if my "Greatest Coach in America" one has caught the most steam. In defense of my statement let me point out Urban Meyer's track record, and I'm hardly going to mention Florida to do this.

'01-'02 Bowling Green, 1st head coaching job. Took the program from 2-9 to 8-3 in his first year, 9-3 in his second year.

'03-'04 Utah, 2nd head coaching job. Took a 5-6 program to 10-2 in his first year, named national coach of the year. 2nd year went 13-0 including a Fiesta bowl win.

(and by the way, both schools still run the offense he programed in if you're wondering why they are still both fairly successful)

Then we all know the Florida story. Took an above average SEC school and made them into the dominant force in the country. (2 titles in 3 years)

The point I am trying to make is Urban Meyer's career wasn't created by a Florida pipeline system, I would argue his career was created by the spread-option offense that he used to revolutionize college football. Does he benefit from great recruits now? Of course, but recruiting is part of the job description. And not to mention, Florida wasn't even the recruiting hotspot in the state before he got there, it was FSU and depending on the year, Miami.

It's hard to say who is the best coach in the country because there are a lot a great coaches with fantastic resum├ęs. It's hard to argue with names like Brian Kelly or Gary Patterson, they both have accomplished a lot and I would love to see Texas go down on Saturday to see how one of them would perform on the big stage. Urban Meyer though, has taken college football by storm and completely dismantled the SEC since his arrival at Florida. Therefore, I stick by my statement.

December 3, 2009 at 10:41 PM Anonymous said...

Good job, Jason I agree with everything you said but wish you would talked about notre dame's defense, and which of these coaches would've helped the D out the most and possible d-coordinators. great job though.

December 4, 2009 at 1:30 PM JT said...

Thanks for the comment. Notre Dame's defense was definitely its Achilles heel this season and should be the main concern of any coach coming in.

Surprisingly all three of these candidates have the potential (and I stress the word potential) to at least improve the Irish Defense. I’ll name them from least qualified defensively to most qualified.

Kelly, although now know for his offensive schemes, comes from a defensive background, that’s something I guess.

Bob Stoops has been running the Sooners defense for years now, but then again, do they really play much defense in the Big 12?

Then you have Urban Meyer who works very little with the defensive side of the ball, BUT, he brings with him Charlie Strong, one of the better D-coordinators in the country.

I'll be writing a follow-up article immediately after a new coach is announced and I'll be sure to break down what it means for the currently dismal ND defense.

Thanks for keeping me honest. Look for my next article soon (as early as Thursday?).

December 7, 2009 at 1:39 PM JT said...


I might have hit this one right on the money. ESPN reports Kelly to be interviewed by ND on Tuesday.

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