Brian Kelly can match and even surpass Lou Holtz at Notre Dame.
That's pretty extraordinary stuff, given that a statue to Holtz was unveiled on campus in 2008.
The glory days have been over at Notre Dame since Holtz left after the 1996 season. He once described Notre Dame as the "Michelangelo" of college teams, and he was right.
Now, there's a new artist at the Sistine Chapel of football, and Kelly arrives at Notre Dame with a better record than Holtz did, in many ways.
I think he can surpass him as a coach, and as a leader.
It's easy to forget that both as a coach and an individual, Holtz was never far from controversy.
Many people gloss over Holtz' 3-10 record with the New York Jets, for instance, and the fact that Notre Dame was put on a two-year probation by the NCAA when he left because of alleged recruiting violations.
There was also his overt political activism, like when he appeared in ads for right-wing Sen. Jesse Helms when he was at Arkansas.
Compared to that, Kelly comes with a clean sheet and a better record at his previous coaching job than Holtz had. What Kelly did with Cincinnati was nothing short of miraculous, taking a no-hope program to BCS contention in two successive years, ending with a 34-6 record and a perfect 12-0 record this season.
Kelly will bleed Notre Dame blue and gold like Holtz did. As the first Irish Catholic since — well George O'Leary, who lasted five days — Kelly is infused with the spirit and tradition of the school.
Not since Dan Devine, who won a national championship in 1977 and showcased the incredible Joe Montana, have the Fighting Irish had a coach who fits their roots, religion and passion.
His first step after the announcement was to change his Twitter logo to blue and gold, and write: "Thrilled to be the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Committed to stirring PEOPLE with PASSION and PURPOSE."
He will also be exciting. His no-huddle spread offense will be a tightwire act, if he brings it to Notre Dame. His first job will be to hire a defensive coordinator who can replace the powder-puff defensive schemes we saw this year.
Then, he just has to win, baby. Given his record so far, I think that this is a no-brainer. Kelly can be the coach Note Dame fans have been praying for — and and he will make them forget the Lou Holtz era. Roll on to Sept. 4, 2010 and Purdue!
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