The Unofficial Top Five Notre Dame Coaching Prospects

Jim Cowan@jimicowanCorrespondent INovember 9, 2009

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Head Coach Chris Petersen of the Boise State Broncos meets Heads Coach Gary Patterson of TCU Horned Frogs after the Horned Frogs 17-16 win over the Broncos during the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on December 23, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

At this point every single living Notre Dame fan has contemplated the football program's future and who should replace Coach Weis. I suspect there are even a few turning over in their graves turning at the recent loss to Navy. No coach since the Kuharich experiment has lost to Navy...not even once, let alone twice!

Let us say that Weis is released at the end of this season. I'd support shipping him up Lake Michigan right now and punting the rest of the season, but that's an admittedly irrational personal opinion. The way I see it, at least when they get their asses kicked by Pitt and Stanford they'll have the interim coach excuse.

Either way, I wish I could say I'm breaking new ground here, but I cannot. Like I said, we've all thought about who would be best to fill the enormous shoes as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. I've come up with my five top candidates, assuming they would leave their respective jobs of course.

Let me first say, I am not a fan of inter-league coaching moves, a la NFL coaches to NCAA and vice-versa. For the most part, save Pete Carroll and a few others, it is a failure. With the exception of Bill Cowher, I would not support another NFL to Notre Dame coaching move right now.

Here you go:

Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Replaced Urban Meyer as head coach at Utah and has a 45-15 record in his fifth season. He's been at Utah as a defensive line coach and defensive coordinator for most of his career and coached the Utes to an undefeated season in 2008.

Brian Kelly, Cincy

In his fourth season as head coach of Cincinnati and has a 31-6 record there. But his totals as head coach are now 168-57-2. He has one Big East title, contending for a second, one division title with Central Michigan, six division titles, and two national championships with Grand Valley State. An undefeated season this year could land the Bearcats in the BCS National Championship game.

Gary Patterson, TCU

He has coached the Horned Frogs to an 80-27 record in his 10th season. I believe he is the only head coach who can say he's coached three separate conference winners, all with the same school certainly. One WAC, one Conference USA, and one Mountain West Conference title and will pretty much coach for a second this week. He's got TCU at No. 4 in the country as I type this.

Chris Petersen, Boise State

Certainly the best coaching record out of my five here at 44-4 in his fourth season. The Broncos are on their way to a second undefeated season under Petersen, the first in 2006 of course ending with the BCS win over Oklahoma. They are also playing for their third WAC title in his four years as well.

Personally, this choice is very intriguing and is probably my top choice. The only thing I would say is that he can be conservative at times where opening up the play book a bit would be warranted. That point can be countered, though, with the simple fact that they are a damned good football team and don't really need to be loose with the play calling.

Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

Maybe a bit of a sleeper here but he's coached the Cougars to a 44-15 record in his fifth season at the helm. He's probably the most uncontested as far has head coaching goes, but I think he's done a hell of a job in a tough spot like BYU. They are on their way to a fourth consecutive 10-win season and will contend for the third Mountain West Conference title this season under Mendenhall.

As you can see, I'm in the Midwest box here as far as my coaching candidates go. That was unintentional. I purposely left off the Urban Meyer and Nick Saban type coaches because, while I believe they come in and provide proven credentials and instant wins, I don't see them as either truly available or long term candidates.

Looking back in Notre Dame's coaching history, many choices have been unconventional, dark-horse types. Many have panned out to be hall of fame coaches, some have faltered.

Either way you flip that coin, this regime is on its last leg...and it's one that John Ryan buckled a season ago. I'll open this up as many other articles have thus far: Who are your top candidates?