“Coaching” and “Recruiting:” The dichotomy of 2 words behind the hiring of Notre Dame’s next Coach

Permit me to get this out there. I have been extremely critical of Notre Dame Head Football Coach, Brian Kelly. Admittedly, he has been on the losing side of many games, usually played at the end of the season when a National Championship is on the line; and we lose. And not only do we lose, but we also typically lose, big-time. So, I and many other Notre Dame Alumni get extremely upset. To be frank, I got even more upset when the University recently gave Coach Kelly another contract extension, which this time will go beyond the 10-year maximum that Notre Dame Administrations usually adhere. Isn’t a 10-year term as head football coach, enough already? I got upset because Coach Kelly fails to come close to Knute Rockne when the two are compared on one standard: Game-day performances. I hasten to admit, Kelly is in-fact the better of the two coaches when it comes to recruiting. In today's environment, with even higher academic standards at Notre Dame than in the past, Coach Kelly has had to deal with recruiting players who not only are at the top of the playing curve, but also on the top of their academic peers, as well. That is a herculean task.

I think the two records of the two coaches speaks for themselves. Both have had exceptional college football coaching careers. Admittedly, as I said, Coach Kelly has been on the losing side of any number of games played at the end of the season when a National Championship is on the line because Kelly’s weakness is he is not a Game-day performer. And on the other hand, Coach Rockne would not be able to field the top-notch teams he used to field, because the academic standards at Notre Dame are much higher today than they were when Rockne was coaching.

This made me think for a moment about the predicament of having the strengths of one coach versus the weaknesses of another. To start, Notre Dame’s weakness remains in its need for a Game-day coach, but who is available? I thought for a moment, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that if Notre Dame wishes to be completely transparent about its head football coaching history, She too, needs to reflect on whether any number of its coaches was given a fair tenure to prove themselves and whether any, was not? I’ll be brief. Coach Charlie Weiss, for example, was given far too much time and far too much money to prove himself. In fact, he did more to embarrass Notre Dame than any single football coach in recent memory. But then there is Ty Willingham, a gentleman who was given just a few short years to prove himself, using his predecessor’s team, not his own, nonetheless; then he was fired, over frustrations which developed during a very short three- or four-year period of time. I do not know where Coach Willingham is today, but Notre Dame needs to find him, and do whatever it needs to do to bring him back to Notre Dame for a fair opportunity to display his talents!

And one more thing. Notre Dame’s current Head Football Coach, Brian Kelly, is the very finest “recruiter” in Notre Dame Football History. Do not let him get away. The University has the unique opportunity to establish its legendary status once again in college football history, by forming the very first Division I College Football, Co-Head Football Coaching status by hiring Ty Willingham as “Head Game-Day Coach” and Brian Kelly as “Head Recruiter-Coach.” Not one, but two Head Football Coaches, working together, at the same time. When/if this happens, Notre Dame will return to its Glory Days of old. [Notre Dame, are you listening?] …Joe Bury ‘77

Notre Dame's Famed Golden Dome, photo by Steve Viscounte

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