When Brian Kelly was hired in December of 2009, his goal was simple. The University of Notre Dame had been sidetracked for several seasons, under a revolving door coaching staff. During the tenures of Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis, the "Fighting Irish" franchise failed to get over the hurdle and reclaim the luster it once had. Kelly, however, was determined, and expected, to recover the once-adored legacy that is Notre Dame Football. Unfortunately, that road to glory has been repaved with a few additional speed bumps.
With the November 28 announcement that one of college football's most successful coaches, Urban Meyer, would be joining the ranks of Ohio State University, the athletic landscape of the upper-Midwest has changed away from Notre Dame's favor.
As with Kelly's other coaching counterparts, Mark Dantonio at Michigan State and Brady Hoke at the University of Michigan, the resurgence of the Great Lakes teams have caused more than a few recruiting heads to turn in their direction. Michigan State has emerged as a perennial contender for the Big Ten Championship. Michigan, likewise, has begun a dramatic turnaround, having escaped the Rich Rodriguez era with a recruit-heavy team and a coach who knows what it means to win at the "Big House." With Meyer at the helm, Ohio State will have the ability and resources to shut out the negative ramifications of the Jim Tressel era and begin anew. Notre Dame now finds itself lagging behind the rest as their success and advancement has trumped the meager Irish upswing.
As successful as Kelly has been, winning championships at Grand Valley State and Cincinnati, his anticipated turnaround at Notre Dame has not been as rapid as it was originally believed. He has had decent, but not stellar, success in recruitment. Hoke, Dantonio and Meyer are excellent recruiters. Their reputations are synonymous with winning football cultures. Their continued success ensures that Notre Dame will have a more difficult time excelling, as they currently lag behind the three in all aspects of the game.
The Irish are in a position that they rarely have had to endure. Their football prestige, though not tarnished as with Penn State or Syracuse, has now found itself clinging to life. They are struggling to maintain a standard of legendary success while nurturing hope, faith and mid-level performance.
Brian Kelly is no slouch when it comes to coaching. Like Meyer, he is a multiple-time champion who knows what it takes to win. At this point, however, the road seems a bit more congested and muddled, with Notre Dame following behind, as opposed to leading the way.
The author, D. Benjamin Satkowiak, is a successful entrepreneur and published, freelance author, who has tailored works on various sports, health and fitness topics. He currently serves as a Yahoo! Contributor Network "Featured Contributor" and writes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Great Lakes Loons and Notre Dame football.