Before you reject these names, please read the article I posted yesturday to understand why Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Brian Kelly or whatever other big name coach you can think of isn't walking through that door.
The place to dispute the notion that the top coaching candidates aren't falling over themselves to leave the great situations that they are already in to come into the decades-long mess that is Notre Dame is the link above. This article is for people to discuss candidates who A) might actually take the job and B) would succeed if they would.
In my opinion, the best choices for Notre Dame coach in recent years would have been Joe Tiller, formerly of Purdue, and after that Tom O'Brien of Boston College. Notre Dame had their chances to hire both but did not because the delusional alumni and supporters (again, read the article above) wanted "the big name."
No current candidate is as good a match. However, there are some general criteria that should guide the selection process:
A. The coach should be very knowledgeable and have deep ties in Notre Dame's primary recruiting areas, which are the midwest, the northeast, and increasingly California.
B. The coach should have a track record of success at programs with high entrance requirements for athletes.
C. The coach should have a track record of identifying talented athletes that are not highly recruited or well known, of developing raw athletes into good football players, and successfully using players that aren't the greatest of athletes.
D. The coach should have schemes on both sides of the ball that de-emphasize the need for elite offensive and defensive tackles.
Again, no candidate fits these requirements as well as Joe Tiller or Tom O'Brien would have, but here are candidates nonetheless:
1. Mike Leach, Texas Tech Head Coach
Negatives: Strange personality, no experience at institution with tough academic requirements for athletes, Texas Tech buyout. The first and best choice, ND should be negotiating with his agent already.
2. Kyle Whittingham, Utah Head Coach
Negatives: No ties to midwest, knows that he can easily have the next job to open up in California, Texas, Florida etc. He also has no experience at institution with tough academic requirements for athletes. Finally, he seems committed to home state school. It would be a good choice, but ND should focus on candidates they are more likely to get.
3. Skip Holtz, East Carolina Head Coach
Negatives: From a pure football perspective, not many. However, he turned down Syracuse last year, meaning that he likely has his designs on a particular job. ND should go after him, but not in a way that results in their getting publicly humiliated like Syracuse did last year.
4. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest Head Coach
Negatives: Needs to open up offense and be more aggressive in recruiting. He was unable to build on great 06-07 seasons. Grobe can be considered both a poor man's Brian Kelly and Frank Beamer, in that he is similar to both but not as good as either. Grobe would take the job if offered, and should be a fallback candidate.
The Next Tier
1. Butch Jones, Central Michigan head coach
Negatives: Jones doesn't have much experience and has no experience at a selective school for athletes. This fellow will be coaching in the Big East or Big 10 within five years, so ND should consider grabbing him now. He also wouldn't require a big salary, which would allow ND to finish paying off Charlie Weis' ten year contract.
2. Kevin Sumlin, Houston Head Coach
Negatives: Not much head coaching experience, which is the only reason why he isn't in the first tier. He has been an assistant at Washington State, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Purdue assistant head coach at Texas A&M, offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
3. Garry Patterson, TCU Head Coach
Negatives: Few ties to the upper midwest (unless Kansas is relevant), no experience at a selective school for athletes. An excellent coach and candidate, however similar to Kyle Whittingham and Skip Holtz his willingness to leave a very good situation should be accurately gauged.
4. Mike Riley, Oregon State Head Coach
Negatives: Age, questionable commitment to recruiting, no midwest ties, loves current job, no history at school with high entrance requirements for athletes. He is on here because there is no better guy in the country at developing players and putting them in position to win ball games.
Guys to avoid:
1. Big name coaches—They aren't coming. See the link at the top.
2. Option coaches (i.e. coaches at Georgia Tech and Navy)—While option football probably gives Notre Dame their best chance at success, ND cannot afford a Michigan-type rebuilding process right now.
3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern—Loves Northwestern, hates ND. Don't waste your time.
4. Assistants—Not necessarily because Bob Davie or Charlie Weis failed, but rather because ND really needs a guy to "run the program", meaning hire the best assistants, recruit and develop the best players, promote the program, work the administration, and do the political thing with alumni and boosters. The last thing that ND needs is another Xs and Os guy who will be too hands-on and involved with the gameplans and strategy. They need a CEO coach who will hire the best group of assistants and let them handle the bulk of the on-the-field and gameday duties while he serves as the face and leader of the program.