Dec 10: Evening Update

Multiple sources have confirmed that Cincinnati's Brian Kelly will lead the Irish next season.

NOTE: This column was updated at 7:05 PM Thursday, December 10.

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'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.

Candidates Abound

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?

Urban Meyer – Head Coach, Florida

Urban Meyer
First Don Shula; then Bill Walsh; then Jon Gruden; and now, since 2004, Urban Meyer…the wish list of coaching candidates among Notre Dame fans is long and distinguished, if not realistic.

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

Bob Stoops – Head Coach, Oklahoma

Bob Stoops
The rumor mill surrounding program-saving choice No. 1A among Notre Dame fans has picked up steam over the past week, as multiple sources including's Matt Alkire have named Stoops as Weis' likely successor. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick has denied direct (and indirect) contact with Stoops or any other coaching candidate with Weis still in his employ. Stoops has reciprocated, stating Monday that he is not interviewing for any jobs coaching jobs. Both parties are likely factually accurate though a gray area certainly exists in the precise wording of any answer.

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.

Jon Gruden – ESPN Broadcaster

Jon Gruden
It was the year 2000 when I first saw the shirt that read: Gruden: the future of Notre Dame Football. (Then-head coach Bob Davie finished 9-3 with a BCS appearance in 2000). His recent, lucrative contract extension at ESPN suggests Gruden will not return to coaching in 2010, though an out-clause could certainly exist (still, I have trouble believing he'd sign a contract extension 15 days prior to the end of the Notre Dame season if he pined for a move to the college ranks).

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

Brian Kelly – Head Coach, Cincinnati

Brian Kelly
Possesses a sterling 33-6 record in three seasons in Cincinnati including an 11-0 mark entering Saturday's contest at Pittsburgh. The former Grand Valley State and Central Michigan head man led the Bearcats to their first BIG EAST Conference Championship last year and has posted back-to-back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history.

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.

Kirk Ferentz – Head Coach, Iowa

Kirk Ferentz
The Iowa head man's name circulated as a Notre Dame candidate in 2004 prior to Weis' hire. After a three-year run from '02-‘04 (31-7 aggregate record with a BCS bowl berth), Ferentz's Hawkeyes finished a middling 28-22 from '05 through '08, prior to a rebirth this season and second-place Big 10 finish (10-2 this year).

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.

Gary Patterson – Head Coach, TCU

Gary Patterson
Patterson's name has not passed the lips of most Irish supporters but the Notre Dame Athletic Department should certainly have a conversation with the Horned Frogs defensive architect. In his nine seasons as Tech's head coach, Patterson's defense has led the nation in total defense in three separate campaigns and currently ranks No. 2 in 2009 (or 85 spots ahead of Notre Dame).

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.

Paul Johnson – Head Coach, Georgia Tech

Paul Johnson
The 2008 ACC Coach of the Year is 19-6 after two seasons in Atlanta and has guided the Yellow Jackets to back-to-back top four finishes in rushing offense with his commitment to the triple-option attack. From 2003 through 2007, Johnson built the Naval Academy into a perennial bowl participant, finishing with a 43-19 mark in his final five seasons at the helm (after taking over a 2-10 squad in 2002).

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.

Names not generally mentioned that fit the category:
  • Georgia head coach Mark Richt
  • Oregon State head coach Mike Riley
  • Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall

The Up-and-comers

Jim Harbaugh – Head Coach, Stanford

Jim Harbaugh
Well, he's beaten USC twice (once as a 39-point road underdog) in three seasons at the helm while ND's last two coaching hires finished a combined 0-8 vs. the Men of Troy. Harbaugh has made Stanford into a legitimate Pac-10 contender with a commitment to the power running game and an influx of talent throughout the roster. He's changed the culture of the Cardinal, a program that now emulates its head coach's toughness and grit displayed after a stellar college career at Michigan and 15 seasons in the NFL.

Why Harbaugh? Harbaugh has recruited under major academic restrictions over the last three seasons and after inheriting a 1-11 team, was able to build a winner in Year 3 with escalating win totals of 4, 5, and 8 with a bowl game pending in '09. He brings youth, intensity, and a physical approach to the game that has been sorely missing in South Bend for the better part of the decade.

Why Not? A 17-19 mark in three seasons at Stanford; the last time Notre Dame hired a coach from Stanford it received Weis-ian on-field results. Harbaugh seems to have "NFL" written on his forehead and Notre Dame doesn't want to begin another coaching search in 3-5 years.

Pat Fitzgerald – Head Coach, Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald
The 2008 Big 10 Coach of the Year, Fitzgerald is the second-youngest head coach in the FBS (behind Tennessee's Lane Kiffin) and would bring immediate energy (not to mention the ability to continue recruiting Chicago) to South Bend. A Fitzgerald vs. Harbaugh argument could continue for days without final judgment.

Why Fitzgerald? Ara did okay when he left Northwestern for Notre Dame…

Why not? 27-22 overall in four seasons at the helm, though that's splitting hairs as Fitzgerald's teams have consistently improved, posting records of 4-8; 6-6; 9-4; and 8-4 with a pending bowl game this season. He might be difficult to pry away from his alma mater as the Wildcats are fully vested in Fitzgerald's building plan in Evanston. Fitzgerald signed a seven-year contract extension last June.

Will Muschamp – Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers, Texas

Will Muschamp
The 14-year coaching veteran has had successful stops at LSU (where he coordinated the 2003 BCS Title-winning defense, one that finished first nationally in total defense and points allowed); the Miami Dolphins (as Assistant Head Coach for a Defense that finished second in the league in sacks); and at Auburn as the defensive coordinator of the nation's seventh-ranked defense in 2006.

While at Texas over the last two seasons, Muschamp's defense has led the nation in sacks and ranked third in rushing defense (2008) while this season finishing fifth in total defense and first against the run. The '09 Longhorns also rank third in the nation in sacks and tackles-for-loss while allowing just over 15 points per game.

Why Muschamp? Defense, Defensive Recruiting Prowess, an increased pipeline into the fertile Texas high school machine…did we mention defense?

Why Not? Muschamp agreed to terms in November of 2008 as the "coach-in-waiting" to succeed Mack Brown in Austin. He also does not fit the criteria of a coach that has built and sustained success at a Division-I program as offered by Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick on Monday.

Name not generally mentioned that fits the category:
  • Boise State head coach Chris Petersen

Not a crowd pleaser, but we've heard the name

Mark Dantonio – Head Coach, Michigan State

Mark Dantonio
Dantonio might have had a better shot at the position had it opened last season (or next year) as the defensive-minded coach presided over a unit that returned eight starters from last season yet somehow allowed more than 1,500 yards in the final three contests of 2009.

Why Dantonio? Posted a 32-6 mark as Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2001 through 2003 including a 14-0 BCS championship season in '02. Dantonio's attention to detail and ability to recruit and build a defense and commitment to physicality on offense would be a welcomed change in South Bend.

Why Not? Owns just a 34-27 record as a head coach at Cincinnati and Michigan State, and after a 9-4 season in 2008, the Spartans slipped to 6-6 this season in the middling Big 10.

Name not generally mentioned that fits the category:
  • North Carolina head coach, Butch Davis, who also ranks as a "builder/sustainer"
  • Temple head coach Al Golden, who was originally linked to the Irish as a possible defensive coordinator hire for Charlie Weis' staff in 2004
  • Former Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer, currently an analyst with CBS College Sports Top Stories