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.
NO CALL 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!
NOT ENOUGH EXPERIENCE
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:
- Houston Cougars’ Major Applewhite (1 year as a head coach, 7-5)
- Memphis Tigers’ Mike Norvell (2 years, 18-6)
- UCF Knights’ Scott Frost (2 years, 17-7)
- Oklahoma Sooners’ Lincoln Riley (1 year, 11-1)
- Texas Longhorns’ Tom Herman (3 years, 28-10 — most of that in Houston)
- Purdue Boilermakers’ Jeff Brohm (4 years, 36-16 — most of that at Western Kentucky)
- Toledo Rockets’ Jason Candle (2 years, 20-6 overall)
- Georgia Bulldogs’ Kirby Smart (2 years, 19-6 overall)
- Appalachian St. Mountaineers’ Scott Satterfield (4 years in the FBS, 35-14 overall)
- Arkansas State Red Wolves’ Blake Anderson (4 years, 31-18 overall)
- Troy Trojans’ Neal Brown (3 years, 23-13 overall)
- USC Trojans’ Clay Helton (3 seasons, 26-9 overall)
So now we’ve crossed off 80 guys, or 79 if Smart survives the first round of cuts.
JUST GOT HIRED
These guys just took jobs. They’re not coming.
- UCLA Bruins’ Chip Kelly (4 seasons at Oregon, 46-7 overall)
- Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen (9 years, 69-46 at Mississippi State)
- Mississippi St. Bulldogs’ Joe Moorhead (no FBS coaching experience)
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.
- Clemson Tigers’ Dabo Swinney (10 years, 100-29 overall)
- Miami-Florida Hurricanes’ Mark Richt (17 years, 164-56 overall)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys’ Mike Gundy (13 years, 113-53 overall)
- TCU Horned Frogs’ Gary Patterson (18 years, 159-56 overall)
- Michigan Wolverines’ Jim Harbaugh (10 years, 86-37 overall)
- Michigan State Spartans’ Mark Dantonio (14 years, 117-62 overall)
- Ohio State Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer (16 years, 175-31 overall)
- Wisconsin Badgers’ Paul Chryst (6 years, 52-25 overall)
- Stanford Cardinal’s David Shaw (7 years, 73-20 overall)
- Utah Utes’ Kyle Whittingham (13 years, 110-55 overall)
- Washington Huskies’ Chris Petersen (12 years, 129-28 overall)
- Alabama Crimson Tide’s Nick Saban (22 years, 216-62-1 overall)
- Auburn Tigers’ Gus Malzahn (6 years, 54-23 overall)
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.
WORSE WINNING PERCENTAGE THAN BRIAN KELLY
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:
- Navy Midshipmen’s Ken Niumatalolo (11 years, 83-47 overall)
- USF Bulls’ Charlie Strong (8 years, 62-39 overall)
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets’ Paul Johnson (16 years, 120-83 overall)
- Virginia Cavaliers’ Bronco Mendenhall (13 years, 107-59 overall)
- Virginia Tech Hokies’ Justin Fuente (5 years, 45-30 overall)
- Kansas State Wildcats’ Bill Snyder (29 years, 209-110-1 overall)
- West Virginia Mountaineers’ Dana Holgorsen (8 years, 53-36 overall)
KurtKirk Ferentz (19 years, 142-97 overall)
- Northwestern Wildcats’ Pat Fitzgerald (12 years, 86-65 overall)
- Penn State Nittany Lions’ James Franklin (7 years, 59-32 overall)
- Florida Atlantic Owls’ Lane Kiffin (6 years, 44-24 overall)
- FIU Panthers’ Butch Davis (11 years, 70-47 overall)
- Louisiana Tech Bulldogs’ Skip Holtz (13 years, 91-76 overall)
- Marshall Thundering Herd’s Doc Holliday (8 years, 60-42 overall)
- Akron Zips’ Terry Bowden (12 years, 78-59 overall)
- Northern Illinois Huskies’ Rod Carey (5 years, 44-23 overall)
- Air Force Falcons’ Troy Calhoun (11 seasons, 82-60 overall)
- Fresno State Bulldogs’ Jeff Tedford (12 seasons, 91-60 overall)
- San Diego State Aztecs’ Rocky Long (18 seasons, 129-97 overall)
- Arizona Wildcats’ Rich Rodriguez (17 seasons, 118-82 overall)
- Washington State Cougars’ Mike Leach (18 years, 122-80 overall)
- South Carolina Gamecocks’ Will Muschamp (6 years, 42-32 overall)
- Ohio Bobcats’ Frank Solich (19 seasons, 154-90 overall)
That leaves us with three individuals:
- Florida State Seminoles’ Jimbo Fisher (8 years, 83-23 overall)
- Louisville Cardinals’ Bobby Petrino (13 years, 75-26 overall)
- Boise State Broncos’ Bryan Harsin (5 seasons, 47-17 overall)
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
Other (Suggest a name in the comments below.)