December 10 Evening Update
Multiple sources have confirmed that Brian Kelly will succeed Charlie Weis as Notre Dame's head football coach. IrishEyes will have full coverage of the official press conference which could take place as early as Friday.
December 10 Afternoon Update
Dave Berk of Scout.com's Bearcatsinsider informed IrishEyes that Cincinnati has denied media access to its annual football banquet. The assumption is that head coach Brian Kelly will inform his players about the result of his talks with Notre Dame.
Cincinnati altered its media access Thursday afternoon shortly before the team's banquet.
Twitter Updates (seriously): ESPN's Joe Schad and Bruce Feldman have both renamed Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly as the front runner for the vacant head coaching position at Notre Dame. Feldman's "tweet" denounced rumors that Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall and the Irish had significant contact as previously reported.
Schad added that Kelly has spoken directly with a search firm representing Notre Dame and with athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
December 10 AM Update
According to a report by ESPN's Joe Schad, there is mutual interest between Notre Dame and Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall.
Likewise, the South Bend Tribune's Al Lesar reported Wednesday that "a source close to the search said Kelly, from the University of Cincinnati, and Connecticut's Randy Edsall were in contact with Notre Dame officials Wednesday." And that "Edsall, like all through the process, was impressive in his presentation."
As recently as Tuesday, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh reiterated he had no scheduled meeting with Notre Dame. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also denied discussions with Irish representatives.
December 8 Evening Update
The Chicago Tribune reports "things are heating up" regarding Brian Kelly's chances as succeeding Charlie Weis as head coach.
The Tribune spoke with "a source close to the Cincinnati coach" and learned that Kelly had had communication with Notre Dame representatives but no decision has been made regarding an interview with athletics director Jack Swarbrick.
The aforementioned source believes no contract has been offered but that Kelly could be announced as the Irish coach as early as Friday after the Bearcats football banquet Thursday night.
December 8 Update
Joe Kay and Tom Coyne of the Associated Press report that Brian Kelly met with his Cincinnati team and informed them he would speak with Notre Dame and "listen to what they have to say." While the previous sentence has been confirmed it has been widely speculated (first by ESPN) that Kelly with meet with Notre Dame officials and/or athletics director Jack Swarbrick today.
Additionally, Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh declined comment when asked about a New York Times report that he was a candidate for the position: "Not now or not in the future will I talk about any other jobs or opportunities," Harbaugh told the Associated Press.
December 5 Update
ESPN reported today that Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly to the network he would "entertain their request" if Notre Dame inquired about his interest in its vacant head coach position.
In a story published by Tulsa World writer Dave Sittler, Oklahoma sports information director Kenny Mossman released a quote from Sooners coach Bob Stoops:
"For the third, and hopefully final time, let me again state that I will continue to be the coach at Oklahoma. I appreciate the history and tradition of Notre Dame. I also appreciate the history and tradition of Oklahoma, and I have been part of building that tradition here.
"I work for a wonderful president (David Boren) and athletic director (Joe Castiglione), who have created an incredible work environment at OU. There haven't been any plans for a meeting or negotiations with Notre Dame and there will not be. Any reporting to that fact is completely erroneous. I will not be the next coach at Notre Dame."
December 4 Update
Phil Fulmer: Brian Hanley and Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun Times spoke with recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who happens to work with former national title winning coach Phil Fulmer at CBS College Sports.
''I know he's interested, and he's an aggressive, relentless recruiter,'' Lemming said of the former Tennessee head man. ''He would bring in a real good staff, and he's a relentless worker.''
Fulmer was 152-52 in 17 seasons for the Volunteers.
December 3 Update
Kirk Ferentz: According to Andy Hamilton of the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Ferentz wouldn't confirm or deny whether he or any of his representatives have been contacted by Notre Dame.
"The first thing I'd say is that's Notre Dame's business and nobody else's, as far as I'm concerned," Ferentz said. "What they choose to do is their business. If they had or hadn't, I think that would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.
December 2 Updates
Brian Kelly, regarding the rumors concerning his candidacy: "It's irrelevant. It's absolutely irrelevant. We are in lockdown mode. We haven't been working for anything else but to win a championship."
"All that stuff's going to have to wait for another time."
Gary Patterson: Though no contract details have been disclosed, the TCU head coach has reportedly inked a two-year contract extension to remain with the Horned Frogs. Patterson currently holds a $1.8 million annual contract that runs through 2014. Like Kelly, Patterson has guided his squad to an undefeated campaign and though the Horned Frogs' regular season is complete, the team still has an outside shot at a berth in the BCS Title game.
IrishEyes reviews 11 coaching candidates and offers a few suggestions that could receive further mention as Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick's plane lands at an airstrip near you.
Didn't Lombardi once drive through South Bend?
Why Meyer? Meyer is one win away from playing for his third national title in five seasons. He has a newfound stranglehold on the state of Florida with Florida State in a down turn and Miami still recovering from one of their own. He appears happy; he's once again publicly denied interest in the Notre Dame job, and he won't be available, nor would he likely make himself available until after the BCS is completed.
Yet still we believe…
Why not? Meyer isn't a realistic candidate. Then again, what if Alabama beats Florida Saturday for the SEC Title, relegating Meyer and the Gators to a garden-variety BCS bowl berth? And with Tim Tebow graduating…see how this far-fetched scenario just won't go away?
Swinging for the fences
Stoops, the defensive coordinator on Florida's 1996 National Championship team, boasts a 116-29 record as Oklahoma's head coach as well as one BCS Championship, a 13-2 win over Florida State following and an undefeated 2000 season, and three other title game appearances/defeats after the 2003, 2004, and 2008 campaigns.
Why Stoops? Immediate national credibility on the heels of three bunt-and-miss coaching tenures in South Bend as well as the continuation (and possibly the escalation) of Weis' recruiting machine.
Why Not? None, aside from what would likely be an obscene contract and the scrutiny that comes with it during difficult economic times.
Gruden, whose father coached at Notre Dame under Dan Devine in the late 70s, is a former South Bend native and South Bend Clay High School graduate and has been in the coaching dreams of Notre Dame fans since a rumor circulated that he woke up every day as an NFL coach at 3:17 am (St. Patrick's Day) to the Notre Dame Victory March.
An NFL offensive position, coordinator, or head coach since 1990, Gruden owns a 95-77 mark as an NFL head man including a victory in Super Bowl XXVII.
Why Gruden? Gruden would be immediately accepted by 95 percent of Irish fans. He has ties to the school and the area and is one of the more energetic and hard-nosed sideline personalities in the coaching ranks. Only 39 coaches in the history of the NFL have won more games than Jon Gruden…just 18 members of that list also possess a Super Bowl Championship.
Why Not? Aside from a stint as a graduate assistant at Tennessee and as a position coach at both Southeast Missouri State and Pacific in the mid-to-late 80s, Gruden has no college coaching (and therefore, recruiting) experience.
He fits the "builder/sustainer" criteria
While at Grand Valley State, Kelly at one point won 32 consecutive games and the Division II national title in both 2002 and 2003. He was twice named the AFCA Division II Coach of the Year with 28 wins and 1 defeat in that span.
Why Kelly? He's won at three escalating levels of college football over the last 18 years.
Why Not? Producing a winner and appeasing the masses at Cincinnati is a far cry from situation awaiting him in South Bend. Though certainly not as an on-the-field product, Cincinnati is still two rungs below Notre Dame in the world of college football.
Ferentz was Iowa's offensive line coach from 1981-1989 under the legendary Hayden Fry and coached the position for six seasons (for the original Cleveland Browns in 1993-1995) and then the Ravens upon the team's move to Baltimore from 1996 through 1998.
Why Ferentz? His offensive line background would be welcomed at a program once known for its ability to run the football and Ferentz's 76-41 mark and four bowl wins (seven appearances) over the last eight seasons is a solid body of work at the Big 10's fourth most famous program.
Why Not? His name wouldn't pass first blush if not for the Hawkeyes rebirth this season.
12-0 with their regular season complete, TCU has won 22 of its last 24 games and is 49-10 since the beginning of the 2005 season. Patterson, a two-time conference coach of the year recipient, entered the season with the 10th highest winning percentage among qualifying FBS coaches and owns a 5-3 bowl record and the Horned Frogs are one of seven programs to possess a current bowl winning streak of at least four games.
Why Patterson? Notre Dame has allowed nine consecutive November opponents to rush for more than 165 yards (and the Irish have lost 8 of those 9 contests). Someone needs to stop the madness.
Why Not? There aren't many aspects on paper to fault. The Horned Frogs have twice dropped to a sub or near-.500 record the season following a double-digit win effort. Would a six-year stretch of: 11-1; 5-6; 7-5; 10-1; 10-2; 7-5 fly at Notre Dame? (He's won 22 of 24 since, but Irish fans are a tad less patient than those in the Mountain West). Finally, the name value of a Patterson hire is unlikely to inspire top recruits.
Why Johnson? Irish fans have pined for a coach of Johnson's caliber since his 2007 semi-upset of the Irish in South Bend, a win that marked the first for the Naval Academy over Notre Dame since 1963. He's proven the option still has a place in the college game.
Why not? Lou Holtz wore out his welcome in South Bend with some fans when his productive ground-oriented offense "couldn't win in modern college football." The same will be said of Johnson's triple-option attack and the Year 1 fit would be a square peg in a round hole for the Irish personnel.