Notre Dame football: Who could be the next Irish head coach?
Sitting Head Coaches
By now, you’re probably sick of hearing about where Luke Fickell might end up coaching next. For one, it implies he wants to leave Cincinnati, which after publicly turning down Michigan State doesn’t seem to be the case. We also know that there are less than five or so jobs that Fickell realistically wants and most people agree none of those jobs are outside the Midwest.
Now, Ohio State is clearly his top choice, but there are a few other schools he’d look at too. Notre Dame football among those select few.
Fickell is so highly regarded because of his time as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and now turning around what was a bad Bearcats team that he inherited. Now, Cincinnati is the top Group of Five program, which won the AAC last season and is expected to again this year.
Jeff Hafley-Boston College
On the list of coaches who make sense for Notre Dame football, Jeff Hafley has to be at the top of the list. A former defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Hafley is currently in his second season as the head coach at Boston College. In that time, he’s turned the Eagles from an average ACC team to one of the best.
There’s still room to grow, but the proof of concept is in and it’s successful at BC.
From Notre Dame’s perspective, this is great because Boston College has a lot of similarities to Notre Dame football. They’re the only two Catholic programs in FBS and they both maintain academic standards. Boston College is also in some of the worst recruiting territories in the country, with a boring atmosphere and bland facilities. If he can recruit there, he can recruit anywhere.
You remember Clark Lea, right? That guy who did a great job making the Notre Dame defense consistently elite and left to go be a head coach at his alma mater? Well, he’d probably make a great head coach at Notre Dame, due to his knowledge of the program, recruiting ability, and scheming.
Just forget what Vanderbilt looks like right now. They’re terrible, but that’s what Lea inherited and it’s going to take time to overcome. Let the process work its way out, and you should see big improvements. The question will be more about whether Lea wants to leave his school and hometown to be a head coach elsewhere.
A little off the known path, Billy Napier is the head coach of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, and by all accounts, he’s already turned down multiple SEC head coaching offers as he waits for the perfect job to land in his lap. Meanwhile, he had Louisiana ranked to start 2021, following a 15th ranked finish in 2020. His overall record is 31-12, after inheriting a 5-7 team.
There might be some question about Napier being a cultural fit at Notre Dame, as he’s spent his entire career in the South and would need to prove he understands the challenges at Notre Dame, but he makes a ton of sense on the field.