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Parsing Quotes from Stoops, Kelly Regarding Irish Coaching Vacancy

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The search for the man who will replace the man who replaced the man who replaced Bob Davie began in earnest on Monday, and the two front-runners are saying all the right things.

Oklahoma HC Bob Stoops:

“I will never confirm or deny whether I talk or not talk to anybody, and I won’t be interviewing for any jobs,” he said.

“I’m going to be at Oklahoma next year,” he said. “If (athletic director) Joe (Castiglione) will have me and President (David) Boren, that’s what I intend to do.”

Cincinnati HC Brian Kelly, on Monday:

“Oh yeah (laughing).  Every day it’s a flood.  I get real estate cards and it’s crazy.  (Things like) ‘I want to be your new real estate agent in South Bend.’ I just laugh and my administrative assistant, she kinda just throws most of that stuff away because she knows I’m not interested in anything that doesn’t have a Bearcat on it.”

And this is Kelly earlier today on a Cinci-area radio show,

“I’m Staying, Man!  I’m staying. Why would I go? I’m very happy in Cincinnati.”

Do we believe either of these guys?  Should we?

Yes, you should, but if you’re going to, you better learn how to read between the lines.  And if you can see between the lines, you’ll notice three things.

  • Kelly and Stoops are both legitimate candidates for the Notre Dame job,
  • They both want to be there,
  • Neither really believes that they are going to get the ND job.

The armageddon situation for a division-I college football head coach is to let it slip that you are interested in a job, but to not land it.  In Kelly’s case, he’s simply been too careful with his language in prior interviews to not be taken seriously as the front runner for the job.  He’s almost the ideal candidate: offensive guru, wildly successful at every level, Irish Catholic in heritage, runs a strong program based around high graduation rates: Kelly is the prototype Notre Dame man.

And, to be frank, I have it on good accord that he absolutely wants to take the Notre Dame job this year if it’s offered to him.  He’d be gone in a heartbeat, and there’s no amount of money Cincinnati can offer him once he’s been offered the ND job that would keep him.  But, reading between the lines, the job has not been offered to him yet, despite mutual interest from the university.

And, given that, nothing Kelly has said this week is incorrect, when taken at face value.  The simple probability of it suggests that there’s a higher probability that Kelly will never be offered the job than that he’ll get it.  Oh, and by the way, he’s still the front-runner for the position.  But until Kelly is sold that he’s actually going to get the opportunity, it would be completely irresponsible to offer potential Bearcat recruits any inkling that he won’t be the head coach of Cincinnati next year.

I should elaborate: Notre Dame wanted Brian Kelly at this time last year.  He was interested at the time, but the situation was far more murky: the Irish still had faith in Charlie Weis to get the program turned around, and weren’t going to let him go on the off chance that they could get Kelly or a Kelly-equivalent.  The timing of the move was poor, so Kelly essentially told them he was not interested at the time.  One year later, Weis is definately out, the coaching position is vacant, Kelly’s stock is at an all-time high, and you can see why everyone sees this move happening in the near-term future.

But what of Stoops’ quote?  There’s not a whole lot of uncertainty there.  He’s going to be at Oklahoma next year, and that means he’s not a candidate for the ND job?

Untrue.  He is a candidate, and never denied speaking to Notre Dame.  Now, according to Irish AD Jack Swarbrick, the conversations between Stoops and Notre Dame had not occurred as of Monday, which would make Stoops’ statement stronger.  But we’re not supposed to believe that at least a cursory interest conversation will not happen, are we?

Like Kelly, Stoops being a candidate hardly means he’s going to get a job offer, and unlike Kelly, there’s a good chance that Stoops would turn down the job if offered.  But as long as Notre Dame remains merely a remote possibility, Bob Stoops can’t do anything that could be interpreted as interest in the job.  And whether he is, or isn’t looking at getting the heck out of Norman, I have no idea.

The only constant with these quotes is 1) that both coaches truly believe that when this situation unfolds, they’ll remain employed by their current employers, and 2) if Notre Dame calls with two bagfulls of hundred dollar bills in hand, they’ll be listening.

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  1. January 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm

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