How ironic that on the same weekend TCU and Boise State moved one step closer to undefeated seasons, Notre Dame would be getting ready to part ways with Charlie Weis following its sixth loss of the year. The Fighting Irish, after all, have been the bane of every non-BCS conference program’s existence for years, mainly due to the fact that even a two loss season pretty much guarantees them a spot in a BCS bowl no matter how many other teams are more deserving.
This is what happens when you’re the biggest name in college football, when NBC willingly becomes NDBC every Saturday afternoon. Yet there they were, trading touchdowns with Stanford the same way they traded touchdowns with everyone this season, looking like the stereotypical upstart program our current bowl system rarely rewards. Now it was Notre Dame, with all that tradition, displaying its prolific offense and a pathetic defense that couldn’t stop Navy or Connecticut this season.
That’s the program Weis built at Notre Dame. A remarkable offense with a glass jaw defense that allowed 30 points or more 24 times in his five years running the show. For the record, TCU and Boise State combined to do that just 21 times over the same stretch. He managed to help develop two first round picks at quarterback, but he couldn’t get a stop from his defense in year one against USC and still couldn’t in his final game against Stanford.
Now Weis is gone and the focus switches to who his replacement will be. The key will be bringing in someone who knows how to win in college football. For too long, Notre Dame has been a program that tries to get cute with its hires. 25 years before handing the keys to Weis, who had zero college coaching experience, the Fighting Irish hired Gerry Faust, a high school coach, to run the most recognized program in college sports. In between Faust and Weis, there was Lou Holtz, Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham. Of that group, only Holtz had won more than one bowl game prior to coming to South Bend.
For Notre Dame to return to some form of respectability, the next coach needs to be the full package. He needs to know how to sell the program to players and parents, how to handle the boosters and most importantly, how to put together a team that can compete for a National Championship. That’s why both Jon Gruden and Brian Kelly, two coaches considered to be on the Fighting Irish’s shortlist, might not be the best choices.
Gruden has never been more than a wide receivers coach at the college level. What makes anyone believe he will know how to recruit? Spotting talent is only half the battle in college football. Kelly appears to be the favorite, but the question with the current Cincinnati head coach is, will he be able to handle the recruitment limitations at Notre Dame? Kelly has built winners at Division II Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and now Cincinnati, but he’s probably never had to deal with anyone in the admissions office refusing to accept any of his recruits before.
The obvious choice for Notre Dame has to be Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. It will take a lot of money to lure him away from one of the best jobs in college football, but Stoops is a brand name in the sports, he can recruit with anyone and he’s won a National Title. His resume blows anyone other than Urban Meyer‘s right out of the water.
And that’s exactly what Notre Dame needs. A big splash.
Stoops has more credibility than any other candidate and would need very little time to start bringing five star players to the program. Most importantly, he rebuilt a once-proud Oklahoma team into a national powerhouse seemingly overnight, which is precisely what’s in the job description at Notre Dame.