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Notre Dame Football: 8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

Notre Dame is the latest college football job to open, as Brian Kelly is leaving South Bend for LSU. Kelly went 113-40 with the Fighting Irish from 2010-20, winning at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons. Kelly guided Notre Dame to two trips to the CFB Playoff and played for the BCS title in ’12. Prior to South Bend, Kelly went 34-6 at Cincinnati (2006-09), 19-16 at Central Michigan (2004-06), and 118-35-2 at Grand Valley State (1991-03). 

Who could replace Kelly at Notre Dame? Here are eight names to watch in the coaching search:

8 Coaching Candidates to Replace Brian Kelly at Notre Dame

Jeff Brohm, Head Coach, Purdue
Brohm is one of many coaches on this list with extensive ties to the Midwest. The former Louisville quarterback worked as an assistant with the Cardinals, FAU, UAB, Illinois and WKU before becoming the Hilltoppers' coach in 2014. Brohm went 30-10 at WKU and was hired at Purdue prior to '17. The Boilermakers are 27-29 under Brohm but are coming off their best season (8-4) of his tenure. Brohm is also regarded as one of the top minds on offense in college football. 

Matt Campbell, Head Coach, Iowa State
Campbell has been mentioned for several Power 5 openings in recent years but isn’t in a hurry to leave Iowa State. Notre Dame might be one job that appeals to him, however. The Ohio native is 42-33 at Iowa State since taking over in 2016. The Cyclones went 3-9 in his debut but have won at least seven games in every year since. Campbell guided the program to a Big 12 title game appearance and a No. 9 finish in the last Associated Press poll in 2020. Prior to Iowa State, Campbell went 35-15 as the head coach at Toledo.

Luke Fickell, Head Coach, Cincinnati
Like Matt Campbell, Fickell’s name has popped up in connection with other Power 5 openings in recent years, but the former Ohio State nose guard will be selective with his next stop. Fickell has spent his entire collegiate coaching career in the state of Ohio, which included an extended stint as an assistant with the Buckeyes (2002-16) and his five-year run as the head coach at Cincinnati. The Bearcats went 4-8 in Fickell’s debut but have won 43 games over the last four seasons. This year's team is undefeated and positioned to become the first from a Group of 5 conference to make the College Football Playoff.

Marcus Freeman, Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Could Notre Dame promote from within to replace Kelly? Freeman joined the Notre Dame staff prior to the 2021 season and has developed one of the top defenses in college football. Freeman previously worked at Cincinnati under Marcus Freeman and is regarded as one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. Freeman does not have any previous FBS head-coaching experience.

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Mark Stoops, Head Coach, Kentucky
Stoops has extensive ties to the Midwest and is a proven winner at Kentucky. The Ohio native spent time as an assistant at Houston, Miami, Arizona, and Florida State prior to taking over in Lexington. The Wildcats are 58-53 since Stoops’ arrival in 2013, which includes six straight seasons (counting 2021) of taking that program to the postseason.

Longshots

Pat Fitzgerald, Head Coach, Northwestern
Fitzgerald played his college ball at Northwestern, and he's got a good job as the head coach at his alma mater. In other words, it's going to take a perfect situation to leave Northwestern. The former Wildcats' linebacker is 109-90 as the head coach at Northwestern, which includes two Big Ten West Division titles.

Urban Meyer, Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars
Meyer gets a mention here due to his past connections as an assistant from 1996-2000 in South Bend. There’s no question Meyer was one of the top college coaches during his stints at Florida and Ohio State. However, the baggage from both stops, as well as a high-profile, off-field incident during the 2021 NFL season make this unlikely.

Bob Stoops, Former Oklahoma Head Coach
Although Notre Dame has reportedly had some interest in Stoops in the past, is he ready to come out of retirement on a full-time basis? Following Lincoln Riley’s departure to USC, Stoops is working as the interim coach for Oklahoma for the bowl game. He previously went 190-48 with a national title with the Sooners from 1999-2016.

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