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:
- 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).
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)
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