Before Urban Meyer became Urban Meyer, he was just your ordinary head coach trying to make it at Notre Dame. He was a wide receivers coach from 1996 to 2000 for the Irish and had no head coaching experience under his belt.
The second he left South Bend to begin to build his coaching resume is when he became one of the most successful college football head coaches of this generation.
If we fast forward to the 2009 season, Meyer is on a roll, winning an abundance of football games, conference championships and even a pair of national championships. Notre Dame was struggling with Charlie Weis and was looking to make a coaching change during the offseason.
The rumors began to pick up that Meyer was going to become the next head coach and things were going to be jolly once again for the program that was striving to get back on top. Meyer eventually shot down those rumors, and the Irish went ahead and hired the hottest coach on the market at the time in former Cincinnati head coach, Brian Kelly.
It turns out that Notre Dame made the right decision.
Sure, Kelly didn't have the huge resume that Meyer had. He had never coached a big program before and only reached three bowl games in his entire career before taking the job as the Irish coach. But he did have a terrific reputation of turning programs around and displayed great leadership in his other coaching gigs.
According to Tom Coyne of the AP, via The Augusta Chronicle, players who had played for Kelly back in the days aren't surprised at all with the recent success Kelly is having with the Notre Dame program.
"I’m not surprised at all by what he’s done," said Curt Anes, who played quarterback for Kelly when Grand Valley State won the Division II national championship in 2002. "It’s the nature of who he is. He’s such a leader. He’s tenacious in what he does. He’s just really doggone good at it."
Kelly was able to turn around a Central Michigan team, leading the Chippewas to nine victories in the 2006 season, which was the most since 1994. He then led Cincinnati to three straight double-digit winning seasons, including a BCS bowl game back in 2008. He has helped put programs on the map and has led them to success they had never achieved in the past.
While leading Notre Dame to new heights is nearly impossible, considering the Irish have done it all, Kelly does have the chance to win a national championship in just his third year.
Other Irish coaches that have accomplished this feat include Ara Parseghian, Frank Leahy, Lou Holtz and Dan Devine. All guys who have had tremendous success and are forever remembered in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Meyer may be the better recruiter out of the two, but this is Notre Dame, a school that sells itself. The coach at the school doesn't have to do much talking, as the 11 national championships and seven Heisman trophies speak for themselves.
Also, as Irish Illustrated recently mentioned, Kelly can now make the recruiting pitch short and sweet.
Brian Kelly's recruiting pitch this week will be a 115 mph fastball. "Want to play for a title? Want an elite degree? Great. We offer both."— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) November 25, 2012
Kelly was receiving a lot of grief for the lack of success early on and questions were surfacing on whether or not he was the right man for the job. With the performance he has displayed this season, there is no question whether the Irish have found their guy for the future to run this football team.
He went from looking like he was going to explode on the sidelines to calmly talking to his guys and helping them grow into effective players on the field. This is a sign of being able to deal with different personalities, which is also a sign of great coaching. Having a little bit of Mike Ditka and Tony Dungy can't be a bad thing.
Kelly gets angry and cohesive when he needs to be, but he can also talk to a player without blowing a gasket and embarrassing him on national television.
The current Notre Dame head coach doesn't have the same accolades that Meyer has, and he doesn't have the same reputation quite yet. But with the way he is quickly building this Notre Dame program back to the top, you get the feeling that it is just a matter of time before he is in the same category as Meyer, Saban and the other elite coaches.
The Irish could have easily taken the easy way out with Meyer and hired a coach for a quick fix, who has built a reputation of leaving for the next hot gig, but they chose to go with the more stable head coach, and it looks like it has paid off.
Thankfully for Irish fans, those rumors were just that, and now the school is finally on the right track.