- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TAKE YOUR PICK WHO WILL BE NOTRE DAME’S NEXT FOOTBALL COACH?

A. Urban Meyer - The Florida coach who once called Notre Dame his “dream job” said Sunday he would be with the Gators “as long as they’ll have me.” That means, well, nothing. Remember Nick Saban denying any interest in Alabama right up until his introductory press conference in Tuscaloosa? No coach in the midst of a national title race wants to add the distraction of professional uncertainty. If Florida wins a third title in four seasons, don’t be shocked if Meyer at least listens to overtures from the Irish.

B. Bob Stoops - Stoops has done a phenomenal job at Oklahoma (114-28), winning a national title in 2000 and reaching a BCS game in seven of his 11 seasons. But “Big Game Bob” has seen his reputation tarnished by five consecutive losses in BCS games and is in the midst of his worst season in Norman (6-5). He could be ready for a change, and he has precisely the kind of classy but hard-nosed personality Notre Dame always has revered.

C. Jon Gruden - The “Monday Night Football” analyst grew up on the sideline in South Bend, where his father was a Notre Dame assistant under Dan Devine. Gruden compiled a 100-81 record in 11 seasons as coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, becoming the youngest coach to win a title in Super Bowl XXXVII. Though he signed an extension with ESPN, Gruden possesses too much coaching fire to trade the sidelines for the booth for long.

D. Brian Kelly - The hottest dark horse candidate in the profession, Kelly has taken Cincinnati from an also-ran program to a BCS berth last season and a 10-0 start this yea. His Bearcats are ranked No. 5 in the nation. The 48-year-old Kelly has won at every level, taking Grand Valley State to back-to-back Division II national titles (2002-03), improving Central Michigan and compiling a 32-6 record at Cincinnati.

Our take - Meyer would be Notre Dame’s top choice; they offered him the job over Weis after the 2004 season, but he chose Florida. Meyer is going to have a tough time coming up with an encore for his last four seasons. It’s just tough to see him agreeing to Notre Dame’s tighter recruiting leash.

Both Gruden and Stoops would be solid choices. But like Meyer, both would cost Notre Dame a fortune, and the Irish still owe Weis $18 million. Because he would jump at the opportunity and come to South Bend for a much lower salary, Kelly makes the most sense. Get ready for the onslaught of Kelly green Irish surname jokes.

HE SAID WHAT?

“He’d probably had just enough Heineken to tell me what he really thought. … He said, ‘You’ve got to bully them.’ ”

- European Tour stalwart Lee Westwood, who used a pep talk from caddie Billy Foster en route to a sweep in Dubai

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