Posted by BrianBoru at 12/8/2009 5:50 AM EST
Should Brian Kelly become the next head coach at Notre Dame, I will not be dancing in the streets. Most observers of Notre Dame Football will tell you that the Fighting Irish's biggest problem, probably since Lou Holtz left South Bend back in 1996, has been its inability to win the battle in the trenches.
Put simply, the Irish have been dominated more often than not on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Call it the curse of Lou Holtz and Joe Moore.
Toward the end of his epic run at Notre Dame, Holtz was hamstrung by his university's administration. No longer did Notre Dame's admissions team work with the Hall of Fame head coach, granting borderline players admittance. There were no more Tony Rices or Chris Zoriches. Instead, former University of Notre Dame president Edward "Monk" Malloy and athletic director Mike Wadsworth, each of whom Notre Dame alumni, set out a path to handcuff Notre Dame's mighty tradition. Fewer elite players were admitted in Lou's waning years, leading to 11 defeats in Holtz's final three seasons. Incidentally, success and failure at Notre Dame used to be easy to distinguish. For example, Holtz was 9-3 and 8-3 during his final two seasons in South Bend — a mark celebrated during the Charlie Weis era.
As for Joe Moore, the legendary offensive line coach during Holtz's halcyon years, he was not offered a position by incoming Irish head coach Bob Davie — instead Davie swiftly fired the venerable Moore, ultimately leading to Moore winning an age-discrimination lawsuit brought forth against the University of Notre Dame.
Bringing Bob Davie to Notre Dame was probably the thing Lou Holtz regretted the most about his time in South Bend.
With Moore's unceremonious departure from Notre Dame went his vaunted rushing attack. Gone were the 300-yard rushing outputs from Fighting Irish outfits. In their place arrived a program struggling for an offensive identity — an offensive identity still not clear some 13 years after both Lou Holtz and Joe Moore were nudged out of South Bend.
This leads me back to Brian Kelly...
Certainly, he is an upgrade over Weis. Unlike Weis, Kelly seems to be a motivator — an essential ingredient to success at the college level, and probably Weis' biggest failure at Notre Dame. Kelly has won at every stop along the way. However, it does bring pause when you think that the Big East is the highest level at which he has coached. You don't need me to tell you how suspect the Big East is. The real rub, though, is that his offense favors finesse over power running. Furthermore, his defense would be a reasonable facsimile of the Notre Dame outfits under Charlie Weis.
Kelly's Cincinnati Bearcats yielded an eye-popping 146 points during its final four games. You read that correctly: 146 points allowed in just four games.
What's more, it wasn't as though Kelly's charges were pitted against upper echelon BCS powers. That is, unless you consider: UConn, West Virginia, Illinois and Pittsburgh as powerhouse programs.
Of that mediocre lot only Pittsburgh was ranked. And they are coached by a guy named Dave Wannstedt.
Now, I'm aware that there are legions of Notre Dame fans desirous of their head coach actually being Irish. Kelly, for those of you who care about that sort of thing, is Irish. And he's Catholic. But just as his purported stance on abortion should not be a determining factor in his employment at Notre Dame, nor should his ethnicity or religion.
Truth is, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who was rumored to have been Notre Dame's No. 1 candidate, is also Irish Catholic. Though his name does not roll off the tongue as redolent of all things Irish as does Brian Kelly, he was a better candidate for the position. Rumors abound that Stoops was concerned about Residence Life, Notre Dame's unpopular student disciplinary arm, and its perceived draconian rules doled out for relatively innocuous student infractions. In other words, yet another obstacle which stands in the path of Notre Dame Football's return to prominence.
If Kelly is named the next head coach of Notre Dame, here's hoping he turns out better than the hiring of George O'Leary, who, according to former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, was "straight out of central casting".