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Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly Will Be Back in 2018. But What if He Wasn’t?

Brian Kelly will be here in 2018. But let’s look at 130 other candidates real quick, just to generate discussion.

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Brian Kelly will be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s head football coach in 2018. But who would the university look at it if, say, he took another job or had to step down for personal reasons?

Let’s look at all the candidates and see if we can come up with a list.


We can immediately eliminate 52 coaches on the basis that they do not have winning records at their Football Bowl Subdivision schools. They are: the Cincinnati Bearcats’ Luke Fickell, the Connecticut Huskies’ Randy Edsall, the East Carolina Pirates’ Scottie Montgomery, SMU Mustangs’ Chad Morris, Temple Owls’ Geoff Collins, Tulane Green Wave’s Willie Fritz, Tulsa Golden Hurricanes’ Philip Montgomery, Syracuse Orange’s Dino Babers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons’ Dave Clawson, Baylor Bears’ Matt Rhule, Kansas Jayhawks’ David Beaty, Texas Tech Red Raiders’ Kliff Kingsbury, Illinois Fighting Illini’s Lovie Smith, Indiana Hoosiers’ Tom Allen, Maryland Terrapins’ D.J. Durkin, Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ Chris Ash, Charlotte 49ers’ Brad Lambert, UTEP Miners’ Mike Price, UTSA Roadrunners’ Frank Wilson, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers’ Mike Sanford, Army Black Knights’ Jeff Monken, BYU Cougars’ Kalani Sitake, Massachusetts Minutemen’s Mark Whipple, Ball State Cardinals’ Mike Neu, Bowling Green Falcons’ Mike Jinks, Buffalo Bulls’ Lance Leipold, Eastern Michigan Eagles’ Chris Creighton, Miami-Ohio Redhawks’ Chuck Martin, Western Michigan Broncos’ Tim Lester, Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors’ Nick Rolovich, Nevada Wolf Pack’s Jay Norvell, New Mexico Lobos’ Bob Davie, San Jose State Spartans’ Brent Brennan, UNLV Rebels’ Tony Sanchez, Wyoming Cowboys’ Craig Bohl, California Golden Bears’ Justin Wilcox, Colorado Buffaloes’ Mike MacIntyre, Oregon Ducks’ Willie Taggart, Oregon State Beavers’ Cory Hall, Arkansas Razorbacks’ Paul Rhoads, Kentucky Wildcats’ Mark Stoops, LSU Tigers’ Ed Orgeron, Ole Miss Rebels’ Matt Luke, Missouri Tigers’ Barry Odom, Vanderbilt Commodores’ Derek Mason, Georgia Southern Eagles’ Chad Lunsford, Georgia State Panthers’ Shawn Elliott, Idaho Vandals’ Paul Petrino, Lousiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns’ Mark Hudspeth, Louisana-Monroe Warhawks’ Matt Viator, New Mexico State Aggies’ Doug Martin and the Texas State Bobcats’ Everett Withers.

In addition, there are 16 coaches whose records are barely above .500: Boston College Eagles’ Steve Addazio; the Duke Blue Devils’ David Cutcliffe (44-29 at Ole Miss, but 58-67 at Duke); North Carolina Tar Heels’ Larry Fedora (43-34 at UNC); N.C. State Wolf Pack’s Dave Doeren (23-4 at Northern Illinois, but 33-30 in Raleigh); Pittsburgh Panthers’ Pat Narduzzi (21-17); Iowa St. Cyclones’ Matt Campbell; Minnesota Golden Gophers’ P.J. Fleck (35-29); Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders’ Rick Stockstill (78-72), North Texas Mean Green’s Seth Littrell (14-11), Old Dominion Monarchs’ Bobby Wilder (26-23 at the FBS level), Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles’ Jay Hopson (15-10), UAB Blazers’ Bill Clark (14-10), Central Michigan Chippewas’ John Bonamego (21-17), Colorado State Rams’ Mike Bobo (21-17), Utah State Aggies’ Matt Wells (34-31) and the Tennessee Volunteers’ Brady Hoke (78-72).

We’ve already eliminated 68 guys who are definitely not going to coach Notre Dame if the position were to be open in 2018. Good!


There are 12 coaches who have won more games than they’ve lost, but in a sample size of four seasons or less. I don’t think you want to take a chance on a coach who is winning with guys he didn’t recruit. The only exception I think I’d make here is Kirby Smart, who has won 75 percent of his games and coaches in the Southeastern Conference.

This is the list:

So now we’ve crossed off 80 guys, or 79 if Smart survives the first round of cuts.


These guys just took jobs. They’re not coming.

Eighty-three guys are off the list, or 82 if we’re keeping Smart.


Notre Dame should definitely reach out to the agents of these 13 coaches and take their temperature.

I believe Harbaugh, Shaw or Saban are definitely not going to entertain that call. My guess is that Swinney’s only move would be to Alabama after Saban retires.


Our list now includes 14 coaches if we include Smart. Let’s look at the remaining pool of 26 candidates.


Since a vocal segment of the Irish fanbase was unsatisfied with Brian Kelly winning 66.6 out of every 100 games, I think we can safely eliminate these folks:

That leaves us with three individuals:

Petrino is not going to be hired by Notre Dame because he lied about an adulterous affair with a woman half his age. Fisher may be soon be the new head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies, although that’s just rumor at this stage.

So our list of 16 names is: Swinney, Richt, Gundy, Patterson, Harbaugh, Dantonio, Meyer, Chryst, Shaw, Whittingham, Petersen, Saban, Malzahn, Fisher, Harsin and Smart.


Jon Gruden? Tony Dungy? Les Miles? Someone from the NFL?


If Brian Kelly were not the coach in 2018, the best coach for the job (who is also a realistic get) is:

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Dabo Swinney
    (251 votes)
  • 2%
    Mark Richt
    (69 votes)
  • 2%
    Mike Gundy
    (66 votes)
  • 7%
    Gary Patterson
    (235 votes)
  • 0%
    Jim Harbaugh
    (31 votes)
  • 5%
    Mark Dantonio
    (163 votes)
  • 22%
    Urban Meyer
    (736 votes)
  • 4%
    Paul Chryst
    (160 votes)
  • 8%
    David Shaw
    (264 votes)
  • 4%
    Kyle Whittingham
    (153 votes)
  • 14%
    Chris Peterson
    (477 votes)
  • 2%
    Nick Saban
    (88 votes)
  • 1%
    Gus Malzahn
    (50 votes)
  • 1%
    Jimbo Fisher
    (43 votes)
  • 3%
    Bryan Harsin
    (126 votes)
  • 2%
    Kirby Smart
    (66 votes)
  • 7%
    Other (Suggest a name in the comments below.)
    (239 votes)
3217 votes total Vote Now