There have been several articles already written about the ties between Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Between the two, University of Cincinnati football changed forever. However, while Kelly was there for the winning, Dantonio played a huge role in setting the foundation of success.
Having covered University of Cincinnati football since the 2005 season places me in a unique spot Saturday night when Notre Dame travels to Michigan State for their national broadcasted battle. While any Spartan and Irish match-up is good enough for the writing, talk by some about Kelly and Dantonio's time spent in the Queen City has sparked some debate.
Did Brian Kelly win with Mark Dantonio players? That is a question many have asked but one that should be answered with both a yes and a no.
Yes, Mark Dantonio recruited many of the players who would help Kelly win enough football games to turn the eyes of Notre Dame earning him his dream job. However, while a lot of credit should go to Dantonio for getting high quality, under the radar prospects to the Queen City, he was not at the helm of the ship when the Bearcats enjoyed their best football since the early 50's.
Brian Kelly's vision with his high-powered spread offense did several things on and off the field. Not only did he go 34-7 as the Bearcats head coach, he also sparked interest in Cincinnati's long but suffering fan base.
Both coaches found struggles during their tenure in Cincinnati as perception of the program was one that would never see Cincinnati have much success in the Big East or in college football.
Dantonio's early struggles set the stage of what was to come under Kelly as he pushed the program to new heights with back-to-back Big East titles and two BCS berths.
During Dantonio's time in Cincinnati, he brought a defensive mindset and a toughness that was lacking to win at the BCS level. Kelly's shared feelings that toughness was needed to win and that the players Dantonio had left behind were ready for success.
While Kelly will forever be known for the many victories he had at UC, some feel Dantonio was set to have equal success just in a different manner.
Therefore, while other members of the media look to stir the pot remember, Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly played significant roles in pushing University of Cincinnati football to another level.
Saturday will find both coaches looking for a victory over the other. Not for bragging rights on who has the best system or style, but for their respected teams and the universities both work for today.
Yes, Saturday should be a great game between two longtime rivals with many Cincinnati fans watching and wishing one or the other was back in the Queen City.