Why Brian Kelly Is Notre Dame's Candidate 12 Years in The Making

Jack StentwillerContributor IDecember 9, 2009

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 27:  Brian Kelly the Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats is pictured during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Nippert Stadium on November 27, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It seems obvious if you were looking for the next head coach of your high profile college football program, you would look for the candidate with the best head coaching resume who is looking to make the move to the big time.

Yet since 1997, Lou Holtz' last season as Irish head coach, Notre Dame has searched for his replacement without taking the obvious step of trying to find a great head college football coach.

Instead, the Irish have taken to other strategies, none of which has panned out. This is not to say that that ND is the only program to try any of the following strategies, it just seems peculiar that they have not taken the most typical and obvious one.

The In-House Guy: Bob Davie was Holtz' replacement in 1997. Davie was an assistant under Holtz and seemed to have some similarities in personality and discipline. The in-house candidate has been very dissapointing in recent years (see Larry Coker), and Davie was no exception.

The "Academic" Guy : Tyrone Willingham was next (we will ignore the whole George O'leary fiasco). Willingham was hired because of his niche experience of success at Stanford, an institution with similiar academic rigor. While Willingham certainly had some success at Stanford, he was hardly picked because he was the hottest name and most football qualified candidate available. The "niche pick" did not work out.

The "Pro" Guy : If you want to recruit NFL level talent, why not get a coach who knows what it takes to get there. Charlie Weis was the perfect fit.  Coming off Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and with mentors like Parcells and Bellicheck, Weis seemed to be a great fit with the Irish.

The problem? Weis simply was not the head college coach, "face of the program" type personality needed at that high profile of a position. An X's and O's guy, Weis is a much better fit for the NFL.

Which brings us to today; Notre Dame is looking for their next head coach. The leading candidate seems to be Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. Kelly leads an undefeated Big East champion Cincinnati squad, after success in two previous stops as well.

Kelly fits the mold of the candidate Notre Dame (in hindsight) should have been looking for in 1997.

The proven, successful head college guy.


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