One Second That Could Forever Change Notre Dame Football

Michael MaxwellCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 11: Brian Kelly attends a press conference where he was named new football head coach at Notre Dame University on December 11, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana.  Kelly most recently led the University of Cincinnati to two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances including a perfect 12-0 record this past season. (Photo by Frank Polich/Getty Images)
Frank Polich/Getty Images

Brian Kelly walked out on his undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats this week to accept his dream job as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame.  It is funny how certain seemingly unimportant random events come together to eventually result in cosmic shifts.

The chain of events that rapidly lead to this conclusion was put in motion last weekend when Cincinnati rose from the dead after being down 31-10 on the road in the first half to come back and stun No. 15 Pittsburgh 45-44.

The Bearcats finished their season a perfect 12-0 and Brian Kelly announced on national television that he would be a huge Nebraska Cornhusker fan that evening.  You see, his team was No. 5 in the BCS standings.  Kelly knew that either No. 1 Florida or No. 2 Alabama would drop out of the national championship contention because they would meet later that day in the SEC championship game.

Further, the Bearcats were poised to gain in the polls on the strength of this huge road win at a ranked conference foe.  It certainly was possible that this momentum would be enough to vault Cincinnati over idle No. 4 and fellow unbeaten TCU.  In fact, when the final BCS standings were released the next day, Cincinnati had jumped ahead of TCU.

For Brian Kelly’s team to have its shot at a national title, it would come down to Nebraska finding a way to upset heavily favored No. 3 Texas in the Big 12 title game that evening.  After a Colt McCoy incomplete pass hit the ground on the sidelines, the clock showed triple zeros with Nebraska ahead 12-10. 

What seemed like a pipe dream at the beginning of the day had suddenly become reality for Cincinnati.  They would be playing in the BCS championship game!

But wait.  The Big 12 officiating crew huddles and the referee goes upstairs to the replay official.  After a lengthy evaluation process, one second is added back to the clock.  We all know by now that Texas place kicker Hunter Lawrence takes advantage by nailing a 46-yard field goal to send the Longhorns to the BCS title game against SEC champ Alabama.

If that one second is not added to the clock in Dallas, then Cincinnati leaps Texas and finishes No. 2 in the BCS rankings and is playing for the national championship.  If that ended up happening, do you think for one second that Notre Dame could have convinced Kelly to jump ship so quickly?  No way.  How in the world could Kelly walk out if his team is playing for the national title?

If Cincinnati ends up in the BCS championship game, either Notre Dame would have had to look elsewhere for its next coach, or if Notre Dame really, really wanted him, they would have had to have waited until after the January 7 BCS title game. 

It seemed to me like there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the Notre Dame administration to make this happen quickly.  Thus, I seriously doubt that the Irish would have been patient enough to wait until the second week of January to bring in their next head coach.  There was just too much at stake from a recruiting perspective.

It appears that Notre Dame has got their man, at least for now.  Time will tell whether Brian Kelly can wake up the echoes and stir Notre Dame back into one of college football’s elite programs. 

If that does happen at some point down the road, will anyone ever remember that a measly one second in a seemingly unrelated football game could very well have been the difference between Kelly coming on board at Notre Dame and the Irish being forced to look elsewhere for another coach? 

Well, they say “timing is everything” and this couldn’t be more true in this case.