Notre Dame Gets Its Man: Brian Kelly
New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly
New Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly
Posted Dec 10, 2009

Cincinnati head coach Brian Kelly will become the new head man at Notre Dame. Did the Irish make the right move, or was the aim too low? Pete Fiutak give his initial reaction to the big news in the college coaching world.


Brian Kelly to Notre Dame

CFN Analysis

Pete Fiutak 

It's not Bob Stoops after all, Urban Meyer was never in play, Jim Harbaugh was just a rumor, and Kirk Ferentz was never really a part of the discussion.

Cincinnati's Brian Kelly will become the next head coach at Notre Dame, and now the pressure is on to get the recruiting ramped up, have a plan for 2010, and most of all, be solid in the initial press conferences.

Charlie Weis's fatal flaw from the start was his arrogance with his "schematic advantage," and while Kelly can't set the bar too low, he has to prepare the fan base for a year of turnover and a year of work to get to the place where Notre Dame football wants to be. Good luck with that for a program that never shoots for anything other than being among the elite.

However, Notre Dame aimed too low.

There's no question that Kelly is one of the new stars on the college football scene, having turned Central Michigan into the MAC's top program and taking an afterthought of a Cincinnati team into a BCS-caliber program that was a missed field goal away from playing for the national title. His offense became one of the most efficient and most effective in America no matter who was running it. Whether it was Ben Mauk, or Tony Pike, or Zach Collaros, the Bearcats moved the ball on the way to three double-digit win seasons, a 34-6 record with two BCS appearances and two Big East championships. There's no question that he's a great prospect, but Notre Dame didn't need to go for a prospect when it had its chance to take a shot at a proven superstar.

The problem isn't that the Irish are going with Kelly, who might turn out to be the next Urban Meyer, it's that it didn't appear that AD Jack Swarbrick and the powers-that-be made an honest run at the real Urban Meyer.

The rumors and inside information (from some very, very trusted sources) made it a done deal that it was going to be Stoops, but that obviously wasn't the case. Stoops is a lot of things, but he's not known in any circles and in any way for being a liar, so when he continued to vehemently deny that he wasn't going to leave Oklahoma, things just didn't add up. At the very least, though, Notre Dame was thinking about him. The same can't be said for Meyer.

There's no question that Meyer would be a dream fit for the Irish and could've made a run at him after screwing things up the first time around, and going instead with Charlie Weis after Meyer took the Florida job. This was the one shot the program had of assuring itself a spot in the BCS and in the national title chase year after year after year, and now it's going to bank on Kelly, who has gotten Cincinnati to the BCS, twice, but doesn't have the proven track record as a recruiter that Meyer or Stoops have, and he hasn't actually proven he can take a team to a national title. He was close, and he'd be preparing for Alabama right now if that one final second ticked off the clock in the Big 12 Championship or if Hunter Lawrence had missed, but Meyer has won two of them.

This was when Notre Dame could've gotten its star of stars. Tim Tebow is leaving, Florida has to reload a bit and the SEC is getting nastier, and it's going to be more work, more headaches, and more of a fight now than it has been in past seasons. No, the Gators aren't going away, but this was a run, a great run, and it's going to take a major effort to stay at such a lofty perch with Alabama rocking and rolling, with Tennessee improving, with Georgia reloading, and with LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, and the rest of the league, outside of Vanderbilt, getting better and stronger. In other words, Meyer might have wanted to be wooed, wined, and dined and be shown that the grass might be greener in Indiana.

But now the focus is on Kelly, who openly campaigned for the job from the start, made his move to say all the right things and be the coach that could potentially turn Notre Dame into a superpower once again, and he's going to be a great spokesman and figurehead for the Irish. He's smart, quick, and he's going to be a good new face for a program that had to live through the insufferable joylessness of the Weis regime.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the hire. This might be the right coach and the right fit and the right time. But if Florida keeps on playing at a national title level year after year, and if Kelly doesn't get Notre Dame to the BCS on a yearly basis, and that's where the expectations are set at now, there will be a segment of the Irish fan base that will always wonder what might have been.