As soon as the announcement was made the rumors started. Tennessee fans have been clamoring and waiting for the announcement of a new head football coach for almost a month now. After 16 years of Fulmer, the Vol-nation was ready for a change. (Sound familiar?)
In the days and hours immediately following Fulmer's resignation there were some presitigious names in those rumor mills.
You heard names like: Jon Gruden, Lovie Smith, Mike Leach, Butch Davis, and Lane Kiffin. Some less-informed dreamers were even saying names like Bill Belichick, Jeff Fisher, and even Pete Carroll. Are you kidding me?
But as time has seperated us from that heart-wrenching press conference the names have changed substantially.
With Gruden, Smith, and Davis all saying 'Thanks but no thanks', some lesser-known candidates have emerged.
South Florida's, Jim Leavitt was recently rumored as a candidate. In addition, Tulsa's Todd Graham, TCU's Gary Patterson, Mike Reilly from Oregon State, and until Tuesday Texas Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp.
One name that has continually popped up that seemingly no UT fan knows is Brian Kelly. The Cincinnati Bearcats Head Coach was one of the first names I read about. From the moment I read that name and saw his resume I was hooked.
Sure I supported Minnesota's Tim Brewster at first. But then the Gophers became Michigan's third win.
But this Kelly guy just kept coming back to the top.
The question is why. Why does Brian Kelly keep coming to the forefront of the conversation? Why would the 2007 SEC East Champs want an unknown, former division two coach who is currently coaching in the less-than-stellar Big East?
Well for starters, Brian Kelly has been a head coach for 18 years. In those 18 years one of his teams finished under .500. That was his first year at Central Michigan. Two years after that 4-7 rebuilding season, the Chippewas won the MAC.
Kelly parlayed that success into becoming the replacement for Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati. In a little over a season in the Big East, he lead the Bearcats to a 10-win season in 2007 and he is two wins away from a Big East Championship, and a BCS berth this season.
Not to mention he's on the verge of winning the Big East while being decimated by injuries and using four QB's. Yes, I said four QB's in one season.
Tennessee will use its third QB this weekend and the Vols have 3 wins to show for it.
That's just what Kelly has done in Division I. While in Division II, at Grand Valley State he was 125-20-2 in 13 seasons as head coach. That includes back-to-back National Championships his final two seasons with the Lakers. In his final three seasons at Grand Valley State, the Lakers record was 41-2.
The questions I have heard about Kelly have been far ranging. Everything from 'Can he recruit in the South?' to 'Yeah, he might be great, but that's the Big East, or the MAC, or Division II.'
Those assumptions are true, on the surface. But the fact is Brian Kelly is a rising star in college football. Much like Urban Meyer was in the early 00's at Bowling Green, and Utah.
The difference between Kelly and Meyer was that Meyer had only been a head coach five years before taking over the Gators program.
Brian Kelly's career is actually quite close to that of Jim Tressel at Ohio State. T
Tressel was the head coach at Division 1-AA Youngstown State for 16 years, winning 4 national titles. He only went straight into a big-time, big conference Division 1-A program and lead Ohio State to a national championship in his second season in Columbus.
Am I saying that Kelly will do that for UT? No. I am simply stating that this guy has tons of potential and his past record indicates that he knows what he's doing.
And please UT fans, don't bellyache about how he's done this in the Big East or the MAC. Don't make stupid, uneducated remarks about his lack of recruiting ability.
He only recruited Dan LeFevour at Central Michigan. The same Dan LeFevour who was actually being mentioned on some Heisman short lists when the season began. Which is not a big deal until you realize that he plays for CENTRAL MICHIGAN!
And apparently Kelly has recruited some decent 3rd and 4th string QB's at Cincinnati. Considering the Bearcats 3rd and 4th stringers were better than either of the Vols top 2 QB's this season.
Will Tennessee take a chance? Will fans give him a chance?
This fan is giving him a chance. My recommendation to other fans is to read about the guy. Look at his record.
Check out the Bearcats next game against nationally ranked Pitt on Saturday night. Watch Kelly's team.
Educate yourself. Get to know Brian Kelly. Because at this hour it appears he will be the next head coach of the Tennessee Vols and hopefully 'the next big thing' in the SEC.
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