November 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly before the Fighting Irish play against the Southern California Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If Brian Kelly Leaves, Who's Next?

Notre Dame finishes 12-1 and played in their first National Championship since Poison had the country’s #1 hit single.  But a coaching change?  Sources from every which way are mentioning a meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.  Interesting timing by the media bringing this story to the light after Alabama’s thumping of the Irish two days ago and the fact that Kelly is not even on American soil at the moment.

Although most believe Kelly is using the interview for a nice raise in his paychecks from Notre Dame, the question is still there: if Brian Kelly bolts for the National Football League, who takes the reigns in South Bend?

During the search after the 2009 season for the Irish that ended abysmally at 6-6, Notre Dame’s search for a new head coach including some hot-name signal-callers.  The list including names such as TCU head coach Gary Patterson, current San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and of course Brian Kelly.  After 10 days on the prowl for a new head man in South Bend, the Irish went with Kelly.  Kelly is 28-11 in his three full seasons as the Notre Dame head coach.

A search would be just as high-profile as the search conducted in 2009 if Kelly were to leave.  Notre Dame matched their best win total since the 1989 season.  According to Rivals.com, the Irish have the #1 overall recruiting class for the 2013 season.  So if Kelly leaves, who’s next?

Hot names such as Boise State head coach Chris Petersen would be an option.  Petersen is 84-8 since he took over in Boise in 2006.  Small school turned into a powerhouse; sound familiar?  TCU’s Gary Patterson: same story, different school. Patterson is 116-36 in his 12 seasons coaching the Horned Frogs.  Urban Meyer has been on the Irish’s radar since the coaching search that led to the Charlie Weis hire in 2005.  Leaving Ohio State seems even more unlikely than Kelly leaving Notre Dame.  The name that would be a dark horse but a great hire nonetheless: Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.

Diaco won the Broyles Award this season as college football’s top assistant coach.  A University of Iowa linebacker from 1992-95, Diaco joined the Notre Dame staff when Kelly came to South Bend.  Diaco’s name has been attached to numerous openings around college football, along with the potential opening at his alma mater: Iowa.

Brian Kelly seems to be trying to get Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s attention for a brand new extension on top of the one Kelly received at the beginning of the previous calendar year for five more years (through 2016).  Even though the Notre Dame name could bring a big name to South Bend, Irish fans should not have to worry too much.

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