The ground rules were pretty simple. They get to choose three coaches to interview. They can't include Urban Meyer as he's extricated himself from the discussion. As you'll note below, one of analysts just couldn't bring himself to eliminate Coach Meyer. Despite denials of interest, Bob Stoops remains eligible for the conversation. All responses were submitted in private, and without discussion among the recruiting team. The candidates are presented to you in the order our analysts chose to put them.
So Mr. Swarbrick, breathe easy. The candidates are right here for your consideration:
Allen Wallace - National Recruiting Editor
Mike Riley - All-around great person who gets his team up for big games, the type of contests Notre Dame needs to start winning. With the talent he could sign into South Bend, Riley should be able to establish very well-balanced squads. Has the ability to maximize the athletic ability of his team and has very strong experience in the Pac-10 and the NFL background doesn't hurt. Overall terrific credentials and his players love him and play like it. Also a very strong talent evaluator whose easy-going style translates well.
Brian Kelly - Very impressive, but the Notre Dame job is still a big leap up from Cincinnati. None-the-less, I think he'd be a good fit to gamble on based on his success with the Bearcats and at Grand Valley State. Kelly's a multiple Div. II national title coach and a program builder who doesn't take long to quickly elevate a team's stature. His teams play smart and he wins wherever he goes. He'll be good at some big program someday, why not with the Irish? It's a good time for Kelly to jump too.
Scott Kennedy-Director of Scouting
I never thought it probable to convince a coach making more than 3 million a year and a BCS Championship ring on his finger to change jobs, so I think the search should expand.
Recruiting should never be a problem at Notre Dame. The Irish should be amongst the Top 20 most talented teams in the country every year. So I'm looking for a proven developer of men.
Assuming due dilligence on all of these men to avoid an ordeal like the Irish went through with George O'Leary:
Brian Kelly - Kelly is a tough coach that brings out the best in his players. He's familiar with the area for recruiting and would instill a toughness that is missing in the Irish right now.
Jim Grobe - I know there are flashier names out there, but over the last 10 years Grobe has done more with less than any coach in the country. He is an egoless worker who makes his team the story rather than the coach. He is familiar with stringent academic requirements, and always has his team prepared to its best abilities. Give him Top 15 talent every year and Notre Dame is a mainstay in the Top 10.
Allen Trieu - Midwest Recruiting Manager
Bob Stoops - He has run his program with class and comes from a place of tradition, so he would be able to keep that going at a place like Notre Dame.
Jim Harbaugh - I've been impressed with what he has done at Stanford and this would be Notre Dame's chance to catch a rising star in the coaching ranks. Would this Michigan alum come to Notre Dame? That I don't know, but if everything is equal, he would be one of my top candidates.
Bob Lichtenfels - Northeast Recruiting Manager
Brian Kelly. Kelly is hungry and his track record at Central Michigan and UC speaks for itself, and he deserves his shot with a big program. Notre Dame is a prestigious academic institution and Kelly has made the Cincinnati program one of the best in the country at graduating their players. Kelly has recruited well and he built the Cincinnati program without much to show players until recently. Imagine what he could do with selling what ND has to offer.
Skip Holtz - My third choice, and some may laugh, but I would interview East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz. Holtz is a true "Rudy" story at Notre Dame. Holtz worked his tail off to be a part of the Notre Dame program and took the long route to get there. Holtz was part of a successful run at Notre Dame when he was the offensive coordinator under his father, Lou Holtz. It would not be hard to sell Notre Dame when the man has a deep love for the program. Holtz has been successful everywhere he has been and like Kelly, he has earned the chance to lead a big time program. This job would not be about money or glory, it would be about his love for everything that is Notre Dame.
Matt Alkire - Northeast Recruiting
Bill Cowher - Because Notre Dame once had a proud tradition of winning and money shouldn't be an object. Also, they should be looking at all candidates here, even though a man like Cowher may seem like a long shot. He's great with younger players, and he is a natural motivator and I think his philosophy of a strong running game and strong defense would click at the collegiate level more quickly.
Mark Richt - The name sounds off the wall, but I would get in touch with Richt to see how happy he is at Georgia. This is a coach that will have to put up with Urban Meyer and Nick Saban in the same conference for a long time now. The SEC can be fickle when you don't win national championships and while Richt has had the Bulldogs near a championship before, he hasn't won it yet. I would see if a job at Notre Dame, an elite university not in the South, would appeal to him. Richt always has a strong running game and a great defense. Notre Dame has been on the pass-happy end of things too long.
Chad Simmons - Southeast Recruiting Manager
Butch Davis – Another great defensive mind that has UNC's defense playing at a high level. He turned Miami around, he is close to bringing UNC back, and would be a good fit.
Paul Johnson – He is an offensive guru and he has proven that his offense can be successful at Georgia Southern, Navy, and now Georgia Tech.
Andrew Bone - Southeast Recruiting
Notre Dame fans must remain patient with the process of hiring a new coach. The University of Alabama fired Mike Shula in November of 2007, and it was January of 2008 before Nick Saban was announced as the head coach, after denying interest in the job as the coach of the Miami Dolphins. Here are my three candidates to interview:
Bob Stoops - One of the best coaches in the country and excellent recruiter.
Gary Patterson - A great developer of talent and a great defensive mind. Notre Dame has plenty of offense, but not enough defense for several years.
Miller Safrit - Southeast Recruiting
Bob Stoops - I get it, he is at Oklahoma and they have tradition. It is still tough to get players away from Texas as long as Texas is as dominant as they have been for the last decade. With a 7-5 record this year, and after talking with Clemson last year about their coaching search, Stoops may be ready for a change of scenery. Could be tough to swallow paying two of the three highest-paid coaches in the country at the same time in this economy.
Paul Johnson - This one could be a stretch given his personality may not be the best fit for the Notre Dame spotlight. A tough, fiery coach on the field and in some interviews off the field he still has taken a "gimmicky" offense and turned it into a top 10 team this year. With Notre Dame's schedule, a triple option could catch some teams (not named Navy and Army) off-guard and there may not be a better place to recruit offensive linemen for the system than in the Midwest and Pennsylvania. Then there is the whole "if you can't beat Navy, join them thing."
Mike Bakas - Florida Recruiting
Dave Wanndstedt - He has done a great job at Pittsburgh and could probably be in position to do even more at Notre Dame. He has pro experience and has coached in that part of the country before when he was with the Bears.
Butch Davis - He is as good a recruiter there is in the business and he proved that the last time he was at a high profile program at Miami. He can win at North Carolina and is doing a great job there but his recruiting reach at Notre Dame would be even stronger. He has pro ties, could put together a top notch staff, and he's coached in that part of the country before when he was at Cleveland.
Brandon Huffman - West Recruiting Manager
Bob Stoops - He turned around Oklahoma when they were at their worst, has been able to recruit nationally, and has the name cache.
Brian Kelly - He's won everywhere he's been, not unlike Urban Meyer, and also, is a Midwest guy who knows his way around the region.
Jason Jewell - Southwest Recruiting
Jim Harbaugh - He has won at academic schools, San Diego, and Stanford. Why couldn't he do it in South Bend?
Brian Kelly - His name is going to come up in every conversation when it comes to major jobs. His track record is great, winning at Grand Valley State and now with the Bearcats. He has recruiting ties in the Midwest and should be surefire candidate for this job.
Chris Fetters - Northwest Recruiting
Brian Kelly - Another guy with ties to the general area. He has won big everywhere he has coached (Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati) and is primed to take that next step up. Plus, image is a plus at ND, and he would project a strong Irish Catholic visage with the subway alumni. A minor point, to be sure, but it is a positive.
Jim Harbaugh - Harbaugh could be an attractive option for a number of reasons. First he's winning at a school known for its academic reputation (Stanford), so if he can do it on the Farm he can do it in South Bend. Plus, he's clearly a young coach on the rise and could turn the ND job into a long-term deal. And lastly (but certainly not least), they could kill two birds with one hire: Notre Dame could get one of the truly bright football minds in college football, and at the same time take away presumably the top candidate to replace Rich Rodriguez at Michigan - his alma mater. And with Rodriguez on the ropes, the Irish may not find a better time to stick it to one of their main rivals.