The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been an obvious playoff contender in recent years. Under head coach Brian Kelly, the Fighting Irish have been consistently dominant. However, things are changing in South Bend with Kelly leaving to take the head coach job at LSU.
With that in mind, Notre Dame will have its work cut out for them replacing Kelly. He is one of the nation’s best coaches and losing him will be tough to replace. Despite that fact, there are a few coaches that come to mind as legitimate replacement candidates for the program.
As of right now, some believe that current Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman could end up replacing Kelly. That may end up being the case, but it is not set in stone at this point in time and Kelly is trying to bring Freeman to LSU. Notre Dame should do a widespread search before deciding to hire from within.
During the 2021 college football season thus far, Notre Dame has gone 11-1 and is currently the No. 6 ranked team in the nation, with a chance still at getting into the College Football Playoff. Leaving now is a bit of a surprise by Kelly, but a change of scenery is needed sometimes. The school is in a very good position to hire anyone that they set their mind to getting.
All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at three potential coaches, outside of Freeman, that the Fighting Irish should consider hiring to replace Kelly.
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Top Brian Kelly replacements for Notre Dame
3. Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars
Immediately following the news that Kelly would likely leave Notre Dame for LSU, Urban Meyer is a name that was brought up by many fans. Meyer is currently the head coach for the Jaguars and has not shown interest in leaving that post. However, an aggressive offer from the Fighting Irish could change that tune.
Meyer has had a tough season in Jacksonville thus far and may view a return to college football an intriguing option, though there are rumors out there suggesting he doesn’t want to return to the college game. He also might be so motivated to prove that he can coach successfully in the NFL that he would not leave even for the Notre Dame job. But, he still must be placed on this list as a potential option.
If Meyer did have interest in leaving the Jaguars, the Fighting Irish should certainly pursue him. Meyer is an amazing college coach and has had massive success throughout his career. Joining a program like Notre Dame with the recruiting tools available for him, Meyer would likely continue that college success in South Bend.
2. Matt Campbell, Iowa State Cyclones
Should the Fighting Irish look at other current college head coaches, one name that could come up in their search would be Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. He has had big success with the Cyclones, but moving to a bigger program like Notre Dame would be something he would have a hard time passing on. Campbell is just 42 years old and would be a great long-term hire for the Fighting Irish.
Throughout his six years at the helm for Iowa State, Campbell has led the Cyclones to a solid 42-33 record. He just finished up a 7-5 regular season in 2021. Despite the relatively mediocre season this year, Campbell is a great coach and would be a worthy hire for Notre Dame.
It sounds like the Fighting Irish are very interested in hiring a younger head coach, which Campbell would fit the mold. Should Notre Dame come calling, the two sides would likely be able to work something out. Campbell is an option that fans should keep a very close eye on.
1. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati Bearcats
How about poaching one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the nation from Cincinnati? Notre Dame already did that once with Kelly, and Luke Fickell would be a very intriguing option and a worthy hire as well. He has led the Bearcats to an undefeated 12-0 record, and they are looking like a potential playoff team this season.
Can you imagine what he could do with a program as powerful as Notre Dame? He has already turned Cincinnati from being a struggling program into a national championship contender. Having the resources that the Fighting Irish could offer him would be a deal that Fickell may not be able to refuse.
If the Fighting Irish decide to not go with Freeman to be their next head coach, Fickell would be their best candidate. He would immediately come in and give Notre Dame a breath of fresh air and at 48 years of age would lead the program for years into the future. This is a hire that the Fighting Irish should seriously consider.