Kirk Ferentz, the Iowa Hawkeyes head coach, is the only other serious candidate other than Brian Kelly for the job at Notre Dame, IrishCentral.com has learned.
IrishCentral was the first to predict that Kelly would be the Notre Dame choice, and while he remains the overwhelming favorite, Ferentz is apparently still a contender, according to sources close to the situation.
Once Bob Stoopes of Oklahoma and Urban Meyer were out of contention, it came down to Kelly and Ferentz, the source says, with Jim Harbaugh of Stanford making up the final three.
Ferentz is just coming off an excellent year with the Hawkeyes.
The 2009 Hawkeye football team got off to the best start in school history. Narrow home victories over Northern Iowa and Arkansas State, coupled with double-digit road wins over Penn State and Wisconsin fueled a 7-0 start.
Ferentz' 2009 Hawks became the first Iowa team to win eight games to start a season by triumphing at Michigan State, 15-13, with a touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
After defeating Indiana to run their record to 9-0, the Hawks lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi to injury in an upset loss to Northwestern. Iowa then lost the de-facto Big Ten championship game at Ohio State, 27-24, in overtime.
The Hawkeyes shut out Minnesota to finish the regular season with a 10-2 record, and will they play Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl on Jan. 5.
Now Ferentz, who has been touted for several head coaching jobs in both college football and the NFL, is in the running at Notre Dame, where he has attracted a number of admirers after his successful 12-year tenure at Iowa.
However, Kelly remains the inside favorite and very much the head coach in waiting. The departure of Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate has only helped Kelly in his quest for the job.
He is a miracle worker with offense, and has a talent for plucking talented quarterbacks from obscurity. He would need all that and more with the Fighting Irish.