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Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU. Who are 5 possible candidates to take over the Irish job?
Welcome to Notre Dame. Now do what the other guy couldn’t – win a national championship.
The Notre Dame head coaching gig is one of those jobs.
It’s like being the manager of the Yankees, or the head basketball coach at UCLA or Kentucky or North Carolina, or the host of The Tonight Show.
It’s the job that every coach would at least think about for a moment or three – even if it’s not realistic to take.
It’s the job that every coach knows would’ve made a teary-eyed Dad go (in full Ned Beatty voice), “Hey, you guys … my son’s going to coach at Notre Dame!”
No, Notre Dame hasn’t been able to land the biggest of coaching whales over the last several years for a variety of reasons – arrogance, low-ball offers, recruiting concerns – and it’s absolutely more about the name of the place than the reality of the program compared to other powerhouses, but it’s still Notre Dame.
And as Brian Kelly showed, you really can win and win big there.
Maybe it fills a lifelong dream for some coach to be the guy who restores the national championship glory. Maybe it’s a guy who grew up whistling the Notre Dame fight song.
Or maybe it’s because it appeals to the ego among the most egotistical guys on the planet.
It’s one of those jobs that has so much prestige and so much Notre Dameyness that there’s no coaching candidate who’s too wacky of a call.
Really, would you be totally shocked if Dabo Swinney was announced as the next Notre Dame head coach?
Honestly, if Mike Tomlin wanted the job, would you be any more stunned than you were when Lincoln Riley took his talents to USC instead of the NFL?
Urban Meyer could absolutely leave movies and go back to TV with the right offer.
My running actually-happened-anecdote that every giant program thinks it can get a Harbaugh, any Harbaugh, actually fits here.
If we lived in a right and just world, Lane Kiffin would take his train up to South Bend.
Or it could be Josh Heupel. Or it could be Bob Stoops. Or it could be Mark Stoops.
Really, does 70-year-old Pete Carroll seem like a guy who’s all that keen on spending the next few years rebuilding the Seattle Seahawks?
So by the time you’re reading this, some big name from somewhere that you’d never suspect will probably be the hot rumor.
However, knowing that the school could try going for an A-lister to keep up the arms race – (cough) USC (cough) – here are the five most likely main candidates for Notre Dame head coaching job.
NEXT: 5 Top Notre Dame Head Coaching Candidates
5 Top Notre Dame Head Coaching Candidates
5. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest
Here’s your head coach who actually can bring the decided schematic advantage.
All the guy has done is take Wake Forest to the ACC Championship with one of the most dynamic and fun offenses in college football.
Six straight bowl games, five winning seasons in the last six, and he has done it all at one of the toughest academic institutions in FCS college football.
4. PJ Fleck, Minnesota head coach
He’s young, he’s 100 miles per hour all the time, and he’s the hope to get another Minnesota head coach – Lou Holtz the last one – to take the Irish to a national title.
His teams have had some puzzling performances – seriously, the Bowling Green loss? – but they’ve been tough, they run well, and he’s widely seen as one of the bigger Next Job Up hires.
However, he’s very, very PJ Fleck. He might not wake up the echoes, but he’d wake up something.
3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
You don’t come up with four straight winning seasons at Iowa State without knowing how to do something right.
Here’s the problem. He was the hot coach after last year.
This year’s Iowa State team had everyone back, it came into the season with a ton of high expectations, and it was an okay run. 7-5 was fine, but Baylor is playing for the Big 12 Championship – that’s Iowa State’s spot if it’s not Oklahoma or Texas.
He’ll eventually be a great get when he decides he’s ready to take on a bigger-name gig, but USC just got Lincoln Riley. That’s the level of sizzle the Irish base will want.
However, if the idea is to get in on the hot stock before it blows up massive …
2. Marcus Freeman, Notre Dame defensive coordinator
He’s only 35, he has never been a head coach before, and …
Try to find anyone around the Notre Dame football world that doesn’t think he’s soon going to be a superstar.
He helped make the Irish defense into a brick wall this season after helping to turn the Cincinnati D into a powerhouse under Luke Fickell.
The continuity would be there with him, the energy would be off the charts, and as long as there’s a little bit of a grace period allowed considering his lack of head coaching experience, the payoff might be there.
However, the more likely scenario is that he takes the job left open by his old boss, and the next Notre Dame head coach is …
1. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati head coach
If it’s not Oklahoma that gets Fickell, it’s Notre Dame – it’s the better fit.
Mediocre in his one year as the Ohio State head coach, he got his shot at Cincinnati, struggled for a year, and then … boom
33 wins and counting in his last four seasons, he has the program on the cusp of a historic season and a spot in the College Football Playoff, and look out if and when he gets his chance to use his recruiting skills at a place like Notre Dame.
It might take a week or so to see where Cincinnati is in the CFP picture, but he might quickly become the main target no matter what happens against Houston.