"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong." (Hugh Akston, 'Atlas Shrugged')
Back in July, I decided to take my best crack at predicting the type of season Notre Dame would have in 2009. After taking a look at the returning talent (very good), the coaching staff (a big question mark ) and the schedule (challenging, but not oppressive), I came up with my answer. I said 6-6. Why, you may ask, in spite of what would appear to be relatively favorable circumstances, might I think the Irish would have the same disappointing record as they did in 2008? Simple - history didn't support an improvement. Yes, they had been very impressive against Hawaii, but what had they done prior to that? Was it a team that, on the whole, got better as the season wore on? Never mind wins and losses, were there any areas of the team which seemed better in November than they had in September? Not from where I was sitting. Improvement is not about a game, it's about steady, incremental progress, and Notre Dame hadn't had any. That, coupled with the aforementioned coaching question marks, led me to believe 2009 would be, in so many ways, nothing more than 2008 redux.
After a few days of thinking it over, I did what every SAT-taker is advised to avoid - I changed my original answer. I decided I was being far too dour and there was no way this monstrously talented team could be as average as they had been the season before. While I did restate some of the concerns from the previous post, I used rationalization instead of actual reason to guide me to a revised prediction of 9-3. In other words, I goofed.
With all this in mind, is it possible to use the same type of rational deductions to determine the next Irish head coach? No. Unlike prognostications relating to a game or season, in a coaching search, there are far too many variables and unknowns at play: Who's available? Who's interested? How much might one option cost versus another? Who has attributes the administration favors and who has those which are frowned upon? Is the administration willing to make concessions or are they being conservative? You get the idea. Without being on the inside of this process, no one can answer any of those questions with real certainty. So, while Stoops, Kelly and yes, even Urban have all been mentioned prominently; it's also entirely possible that the new ND head coach is someone who has not been on or near the radar of most fans.
At this point, if you want to get a sense as to what the future holds, you take a look what we can say with certainty. For my money, there are two things: 1) Charlie is gone, and 2) Jack Swarbrick is exactly the right person to find his replacement. On the first point, entirely too much has been said. We all know Charlie's a lame duck heading into Stanford. In fact, I actually think Charlie's already been told he's gone, but they've refrained from going public with the declaration in order to give further cover to the search for his replacement. That leaves us with #2.
What we know about Swarbrick is that he is an exceptionally savvy fellow. He has an undergrad from ND and JD from Stanford. He was a partner at big-time law firm, Baker & Daniels. The Big 12 had him as a candidate for commissioner, the NCAA had him as a finalist for president and he was a leading member of the group that brought the Super Bowl to Indianapolis. Take a look at that last factoid for a minute. The man was compelling enough to bring the Super Bowl to Indy for the first time and a cold weather venue for just the fourth (Detroit - 1982, 2006 and Minneapolis - 1992). This is clearly a very impressive individual.
Given his C.V., I think it's fair to assume Swarbrick is going to make a splash with this pick. In Weis, he is living with a decision made by his predecessor after an embarrasing and, ultimately, misguided search process. Whether he opts to stay on as AD or, as some have suggested, move on to the post of NCAA president, this hire will become a massive part of Swarbrick's legacy. To that end, Jack Swarbrick will want to make this pick count and, I have every confidence, will come up with a choice that, in the end, will thrill Irish fans. As to whom that will be, I can't say. My gut says Kelly is most likely with Stoops in second place but, as mentioned previously, I don't have nearly enough information upon which I can offer anything more than an uneducated guess.
Nevertheless, the most important thing for Notre Dame fans to reflect on as this season comes to an end, is that the future is bright. This is not just some lame bromide akin to "wait 'til next year." In this instance, in this moment, Notre Dame has a chance to finally get it right. The proper AD and president are in place to assure this happens. The proper mix of talent and depth are in place to both attract and bring success to a new coach. If 2009 was a lost season, 2010 will be the rediscovery of a program. Not another "return to glory", but the actual first step in a climb back to the pinnacle. How do I know? I've checked my premises.