Brian Kelly has decided to leave Notre Dame for LSU. The Fighting Irish are now in the market for a new head coach. Here are five potential head coach candidates for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
1. Luke Fickell
Fickell has had a tremendous run at Cincinnati. After starting with just four wins in his first season, Fickell has had impressive seasons ever since. He has a 47-14 record at the school, completing a big turnaround. Fickell has three double-digit win seasons with another year that likely would have gotten there had COVID not shortened the season. He took the Bearcats to a New Year’s Six Bowl last season and this year has them on the verge of a College Football Playoff Berth at 12-0 heading into the AAC Championship Game.
Before coaching Cincinnati Fickell was an assistant and interim coach at Ohio State. His midwestern roots and ability to turn Cincinnati around makes him a great candidate for Notre Dame. He may wish to hold out for the Ohio State job, his alma mater, but that may not be opening any time soon. If he wants a bigger job, this is the time to take it with Notre Dame open and several of his players heading off to the NFL.
2. P.J. Fleck
Fleck has likely been on Notre Dame’s radar for a while. He turned around Western Michigan, going 1-11 in his first year at the school and going 13-1 in his last year with the Broncos. They made the Cotton Bowl in his final year as head coach. He then left the school for Minnesota where he has also done tremendous things. The highlight of his time there is an 11-2 season in 2019 that ended with a win in the Outback Bowl. In 2021, the Golden Gophers went 8-4, giving Fleck a 34-23 record at the school.
It has been rumored that Fleck has interest in the Notre Dame job before, but it hasn’t been open since he has been a head coach. He has built successful programs in the midwest and would bring a youthful energy to the program. With Notre Dame’s resources, he could build a consistent winner, much like Brian Kelly, if not better.
3. Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer is currently the head coach of the Jaguars, where he has two NFL wins. He made his name as a college coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. Meyer did well at every stop he made along the way and won national championships at Florida and Ohio State. He specialized in taking good programs and making them great during his tenure at schools.
In the past, Meyer has referred to Notre Dame as his dream job and has even been an assistant on staff from 1996-2000. Would Meyer leave the NFL for his dream job? That is up for debate. He hasn’t had the most success in year one with Jacksonville and may opt to leave. Meyer has recruited nationally and could take Notre Dame’s program from very good to great with time.
Freeman has been a good defensive coach for several years now. He played at Ohio State and spent time at Kent State, Ohio State, Purdue, Cincinnati and Notre Dame as an assistant. Freeman is credited with helping Fickell turn around Cincinnati, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. After taking time to get things right, Freeman also helped the Notre Dame defense get stronger as the year went on.
Would Notre Dame hire someone without head coaching experience? Freeman is going to be up for plenty of jobs in the coming years and could do well in the job. He knows defense and has already been building a rapport with recruits. Freeman will have to have a good pitch to get the job, but he would by no means be a bad hire by the Fighting Irish.
5. Matt Campbell
The Iowa State coach has totally revamped the program and posted a 42-33 record in six seasons at the school. The Cyclones aren’t historically great at football, but Campbell even led the team to a Big 12 Championship Game in 2020. Before coaching Oklahoma, Campbell had a 35-15 record at Toledo. The Rockets had three nine-win seasons under Campbell.
Campbell has been successful in developing talent at Iowa State. With Notre Dame’s resources, Campbell should be able to recruit well. His turnaround has been great and Campbell feels like a coach who would stay for a while if given the chance to coach a top program. He has most of his coaching roots in the Ohio area, so could also be successful in Indiana at Notre Dame.
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