Starting with the Notre Dame loss to Navy, and accelerating with the loss to Pittsburgh this Saturday, there has been a flurry of articles, discussions, blog posts, and speculation about who is on Jack Swarbrick's "short list" of potential candidates to replace Charlie Weis as head football coach at Notre Dame. Yes, it's unseemly to engage in such speculation when Coach Weis is still the head coach and could conceivably remain head coach if he beats Connecticut and Stanford and wins the Bowl game. But I'm going to do it anyway.
I think all the talk about the "short list" skips a very important step: The Long List. By jumping straight to the Short List I think one takes some risks. The first risk is that one fails to adequately consider potentially great hires that just don't happen to be the "hot" names at the moment. The second risk is that one can unnecessarily paint oneself into a corner and be so anxious to hire one of the Short List candidates that one loses proper bargaining leverage as well as proper perspective. The third risk is that one gets into a position where there is no viable Plan B (or Plan C, etc...) if one of the Short List candidates backs out and one therefore ends up looking unprepared and desperate. For all these reasons I think that before one jumps to the Short List, it is vital to draft the Long List.
The Long List is that group of coaches that meet your criteria for the job of Notre Dame football coach, and who appear to be in a circumstance where they are likely to be available to at least consider taking the job, whether they have actually expressed any interest or not. The Long List doesn't include coaches who are already in better coaching jobs and who are unlikely to leave them anytime soon. My Long List doesn't include Urban Meyer or Nick Saban. I cannot imagine that either of those coaches is going to leave the #1 or #2 ranked team in the nation for Notre Dame.
What are the criteria for head football coach at Notre Dame? They are surprisingly few.
- Track record as a successful head coach at the Division I college level or the NFL. (Assistants need not apply).
- Ability to recruit. Ideally a proven recruiter, but may have to make judgment call on the recruiting potential of NFL candidates.
- Person of integrity and class. (This rules out Urban Meyer and Nick Saban).
- Committed to making sure Notre Dame student athletes go to class, graduate on time, and represent the University with class. (Real students, no thugs).
For me, the preferred model is the one that has made Notre Dame most successful in the past. Hire a coach who has been a very successful college head coach elsewhere. Find a guy who has displayed a knack for over-achieving at a "lesser" program, of doing "more" with "less." Frank Leahy was very successful at Boston College before coming to Notre Dame. Ara Parseghian won at Northwestern. Dan Devine won at Arizona State and Missouri. Lou Holtz won at William & Mary, North Carolina State, and Arkansas.
Gerry Faust, Bob Davie, and Charlie Weis has no head coaching experience in college or the NFL before coming to Notre Dame.
Ty Willingham is the exception that proves the rule, although in reality his overall record at Stanford of 44–36–1, while successful, was only moderately so.
The preferred model notwithstanding, I don't want to rule out NFL coaches entirely, as long as they have been a head coach. I don't want to leave the next Pete Carroll off my list. Also, despite lack of prior recruiting experience, an NFL coach has an added recruiting adavntage in that he has extra credibility with high school players who hope to play in the NFL someday.
I think the remaining criteria are self-explanatory.
So here is my Long List. Please leave comments below if you have another name I should add (that meets my criteria), or if you think I should drop a name from the Long List because you don't think the candidate does meet my criteria. I will hyper-link each candidate to their Wikipedia entry (or another source if the Wikipedia entry isn't very thorough) so you can read more about them. The names below are listed in no particular order.
- Marty Shottenheimer (Former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers. Maybe too old?)
- Bill Cowher (Former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Mike Holmgren (Former head coach of the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks)
- Jon Gruden (Former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Has ties to Notre Dame and the local area).
- Tony Dungy (Former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts)
- Jeff Fisher (Long-time, current coach of the Tennessee Titans. Titans having a bad year, rumors that Fisher may be ready for a new challenge).
- Mike Belotti (Long-time University of Oregon head coach, now the UO Athletic Director)
- Pat Hill (Long-time and present head coach of Fresno State University)
- Greg Schiano (Head coach at Rutgers University)
- Skip Holtz (Head coach at East Carolina, former head coach at Connecticut)
- Brian Kelly (Head coach University of Cincinnati, former head coach at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan)
- Jim Harbaugh (Head coach at Stanford, former head coach at University of San Diego. Has beaten USC two of last three years)
- Mike Riley (Head coach at Oregon State, former head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Perfect 5-0 record in bowl games. Beat USC in 2006 and 2008)
- Pat Fitzgerald (Head coach at Northwestern)
- Mark Dantonio (Head coach at Michigan State, former head coach at University of Cincinnati)
- Randy Edsall (Head coach at University of Connecticut)
- Chris Petersen (Head coach at Boise State)
- Gary Patterson (Head coach at TCU)
- Kyle Whittingham (Head coach at Utah)
- Kirk Ferentz (Head coach at Iowa, former head coach at Maine)
- Bob Stoops (Head coach at Oklahoma. Won one National championship and 6 Big XII titles. Not sure if he is really interested as reported, or if he is just angling for a raise from OU).
What do you think?
UPDATE: Here some additions to the Long List suggested by OC Domer readers:
- Butch Davis (Head coach at North Carolina, former head coach at Miami and Cleveland Browns. Personally, I'd have difficulty accepting a former Miami coach at ND)
- Tommy Tuberville (Former head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn)
- Terry Bowden (Head coach at North Alabama, former head coach at Auburn)
- Mike Shanahan (Former head coach of the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders)