Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Narrowing the List

I recently wrote about the "Long List" of potential successors to Coach Weis at Notre Dame. My stated criteria in assembling the Long List of more than 21 names were:

  1. Track record as a successful head coach at the Division I college level or the NFL. (Assistants need not apply).
  2. Ability to recruit. Ideally a proven recruiter, but may have to make judgment call on the recruiting potential of NFL candidates.
  3. Person of integrity and class. (This rules out Urban Meyer and Nick Saban).
  4. Committed to making sure Notre Dame student athletes go to class, graduate on time, and represent the University with class. (Real students, no thugs).
Yesterday the University officially announced the firing of Head Football Coach Charlie Weis, and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick spoke for a few minutes with the media about his decision to "take our football program in a different direction" and he gave us some clues about where the search for a new coach might lead.

Clearly, from listening to Swarbrick and reading the full transcript of the press conference, there is a very strong preference for candidates "who have demonstrated an ability to build and sustain a Division I college football program." Swarbrick used that phrase twice in his remarks yesterday. "Building and sustaining." He also indicated that, while it wouldn't necessarily be a limiting factor, he does feel that we "need to play good defense." So I won't leave anyone off the list depending upon whether they are a defensive or an offensive minded coach, but just be aware that at the and of the day that might be the tie-breaker.

Should we believe what jack Swarbrick is telling us? Is he trying to throw us off the scent while he brings in another NFL coach? I don't think so. The template for success at Notre Dame has been fairly simple. When we have hired proven college head coaches we have had great success. When we have gone off that recipe, we have met disaster. So I think we can take Jack at his word. Having just dismissed a very good NFL coach, it would be a very risky move for Swarbrick to bring in another NFL guy and expect a better result. Much safer for him to go with what has worked well in the past.

So, taking Jack at his word, we can start whittling the Long List down, removing coaches who have not demonstrated the ability to build and sustain a Division I college football program. To me the word "build" means a coach who has taken a program from whatever level it was on when he was hired and then elevated the program to another level. The word "build" means, to me, that we don't necessarily want a coach who took over as the caretaker of a program that was already doing really well and simply maintained it. The word "sustained" means we don't want a one-year wonder. We want someone who built a program up to a high level and then kept it there for some time.

Applying these standards to the Long List and being a little flexible with the definitions of "build" and "sustain", I get the following names:
  • 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)(Might be too short-lived to meet "sustain" requirement)
  • 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)(Nobody is talking about him, but he is a great coach)
  • Pat Fitzgerald (Head coach at Northwestern)(Pretty young still. Might not meet "sustain" requirement yet).
  • Randy Edsall (Head coach at University of Connecticut)
  • Chris Petersen (Head coach at Boise State)(Didn't really "build" the program. Took over a really good team from Dan Hawkins).
  • Gary Patterson (Head coach at TCU)
  • Kyle Whittingham (Head coach at Utah)(Did not really "build" the program. Took it over from urban Meyer).
  • 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)(I have some reservations about Stoops' integrity and the quality of player he recruits).
  • 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)(Did not "build" at Miami, but has "built" at UNC).
  • Tommy Tuberville (Former head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn)
Can you think of anyone else? Add them in the comments below and if they fit the criteria I'll put them on the list. I am a little curious about the Division I-AA option, a la Coach Jim Tressel at Ohio State. I'm not sure Swarbrick would take the risk of bringing in a Div I-AA coach, but if you know of any really strong candidates from that level I'd love to hear about them. Jack said he was looking for Division I experience, but he didn't specify Division I-A only.

Eliminating the guys listed above who I think may be a little short on either the "build" or "sustain" criteria, my personal favorites from the shorter list are, in approximate order of preference:
  • Brian Kelly
  • Kirk Ferentz
  • Mike Riley
  • Mike Belotti
  • Randy Edsall
  • Butch Davis
  • Tommy Tuberville
I think any of these guys would be outstanding hires. Who do you like?


Anonymous said...

Brian Kelly is the only REAL candidate!

Anonymous said...

I've been real high on Mike Riley. He's done one hell of a job at OSU with limited talent while competing for recruits with the rest of the big names in the Pac-10 and the super-sexy University of Oregon's digs 40 miles away in Eugene. He always fields a tough team full of guys who play hard for 60 minutes and win games that they're supposed to win.
If Brian Kelly is indeed not available, Riley would be a great coach to go after.

jay said...

As a University of Michigan fan, please do not try to take Rich Rodriguez from the University of MIchigan. He is our coach and will return Michigan to the glory days of Fielding Yost. So back off Domers!

OC Domer said...

You got it Jay. We'll definitely stay away from your coach!

Jim said...

Great. Finally someone get's it. Urbam Meyer will be a bad fit. Too many students in trouble with the law. As an assistant, you have a HC overseeing you. When you are the HC, you set the direction and he has shown that he would be an embarrassment to the university in mentoring students.

THe OSU coach is someone I had not thought of...May be a good choice.

Anonymous said...

You didn't say age was a criterion, so . . . .

My choice: Joe Paterno

Plan B: either Holtz

PSU 75

Anonymous said...

I think whoever is picked is going to continue to struggle without a little help from admissions. I really like Mike Riley for the long term and don't think Brian Kelly would want the job over his current position.

Clay said...

I like in this order:

Patterson (I believe he fits the "has built" and "has sustained" criteria--correct me if I'm wrong)
Butch Davis (he may have coached at Miami, but it's not like he's Jimmy Johnson or Dennis Erickson)

I say "no" to Tuberville. Too many question marks regarding his ability/desire to run a clean program. Auburn is one of the worst habitual NCAA violators and I don't think you coach at Auburn as long as Tuberville did without having a certain morally casual attitude, to use an Animal House euphemism.

While I have my reservations about Stoops, I don't think Oklahoma has been quite the cesspool that Auburn has been. And no matter who we hire, student affairs and admissions are going to hold any ND coaches' recruits to a high standard (recall Powers-Neal in '05 and Fauria in '09), perhaps to a fault.

Ferentz is consistent but he has never been able to take it to the next level. Maybe that's because he's at Iowa. I also don't get the impression that he'd move.

What about Patterson--I realize that he is probably happy and TCU and thus not a realistic candidtate, but why is he not on the short list?

Clay said...

I think Jay is either:

(a) one of our ND brethren having a little fun with us at the expense of Michigan

(II) posting fresh out of a 50 year stay in his Upper Penninsula fallout shelter, ala Brandon Frazier in Blast From the Past (ridiculous reference I realize) or

(D.) High.

OC Domer said...

Clay: Patterson fits the criteria, he just isn't one of my personal top choices. Not high-profile enough for my tastes. Also, I believe he just signed a big contract extension at TCU.

Frank said...

Butch Davis is the best choice. He has experience recruiting from the south, knows how to assemble a solid, speed-oriented D. While barely successful in the pros he can tell blue chip prospects that his former players made it to the NFL.
And he's a grown up. This is not time to get cute and go with the flavor of the month. BD is tested, mature and hungry. He has exceeded expectations. He's as close to a proven entity as they will get.

valpodoc said...


OC Domer said...

Valpodoc: Spurrier actually meets the criteria. But he's a bit of a lose cannon for ND, and don't you get the feeling he's nearing the end of his career? Not sure he has the fire in the belly to build another program. He likes to golf too much.

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of Butch Davis; however, how did he all of a sudden start grabbing four and five star recruits to suddenly come to play football at North Carolina? There's gotta be something fishy goin on with his recruiting but if he isn't getting caught then y not bring Davis to ND. It's about time the Irish get some star defensive players whethere he recruits them fairly or not. If Davis isn't the answer: Mike Riley

Vairish84 said...

I would delete Ferentz, Belotti, Davis and Tuberville from the list.

Ferentz bores me. Belotti willingly retired after first hiring his successor, I can't see him back on the sidelines. Davis and Tuberville would just be retreads, neither has done much in some time. UNC underachived the last two years; Auburn was pretty much stagnant the last five of Tuberville's tenure.

The one name from left field would be Henry Frazier III. He took over Prarie View, literally the worst 1-AA program, and has had them in the Top 25 the last three years. He did something similar at a lower tier school the years before that. Only 11 years of HC experience between the two places though.

jay said...

The University of Michigan Alumni of Mission Viejo is holding a march down Santa Margarita Parkway in Mission Viejo Saturday December 5, 2009 at 12:00PM in protest of Notre Dame trying pry Rich Rodriguez away from the University of Michigan. All are welcome to attend.


Anonymous said...

I like Tommy Tuberville! He is fresh and has been putting a coaching staff together for his next job. He has no buyout and can start today. Great for recuriting.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Get over it ND is not the program they used to be. I remember when Weis was it and It was like Jesus Christ Himself Arrived. Thats it Hire Jesus.

jay said...

Brian Kelly to Notre Dame?


Anonymous said...

I think ND should hire Nicky Saban....go for it all

Anonymous said...


7 mil per year.....spread the word