SBNation’s Notre Dame site is called One Foot Down. This week, I got with Patrick Sullivan, a writer for the site, to pick his brain about the current state of Notre Dame football.
1. Is Brian Kelly on the hot seat. If so, who would you like to see be the next ND coach and why?
I don't think there's any question that Brian Kelly is on the hot seat. I know Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick came out and said Kelly would be coaching the Irish in 2017, but we all know that a public vote of confidence like that can actually be the kiss of death as opposed to anything to hang your hat on as fact.
Kelly has under-performed almost every season as coach, losing 5 games in 4 of 7 seasons and losing 4 games in 5 of 7. Last year he went 10-3 but the best team he beat was either Navy or Temple, and his magical 2012 season is forever marred by the absolutely abysmal showing his team had against Alabama in the championship. Over his 7 years, he's lost to Navy (twice), Tulsa, South Florida, Northwestern, Duke, and NC State in a hurricane when he kept calling for passing plays for some unknown reason. None of that is good enough as coach of the most storied college football program of all-time, as the goal should always be to at least contend for a College Football Playoff spot almost every year and to find success in the Playoff at least every couple of years.
If Swarbrick isn't actively searching for and reaching out to replacements, then he has fallen into the same purgatory of mediocrity that tons of ND fans and analysts find themselves in, defending a sub-par coach who has shown more stubbornness and mediocrity than adaptability and excellence in his time at the helm.
As far as who I want to see as the next ND coach, there are really three tiers of candidates in my eyes and no solitary answer I have that is both realistic and desirable.
The first tier of candidates is the group I unquestionably want to coach ND and who I know would take the program back to being a national power, but who have the tiniest possible probability of even having a remote interest in the job. Urban Meyer is number one on that tier, considering he once coached at ND and almost took the job after ND fired Tyrone Willingham. Other coaches who I'd consider at his level would obviously be the short list of Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh. All of these guys will all very very very likely say no, but Swarbrick has to at least see if anything could convince them to listen to more than a couple seconds of his pitch.
The second tier is the group I think have a great shot to bring ND back to national prominence and who aren't quite as untouchable as the first tier, but still would be a huge surprise if Swarbrick were to pull them to ND. This includes Dabo Swinney, Chris Petersen, David Shaw, Bob Stoops, Mark Dantonio, and Bobby Petrino (ND wouldn't go after him due to the sliminess factor). My first choice here would be Petersen, followed by Swinney and Stoops and Petrino, but with Petersen's new contract coming from Washington and the others not having any real reason to leave their current gigs for ND, Swarbrick probably won't land anyone on this list either. He better go hard after at least a few of them, though, because otherwise ND is immediately settling for less than very good.
The third tier is my realistic list. These are the guys Swarbrick could probably get after striking out with the above two tiers - and he absolutely better wait until he's been laughed off of the phone by each and every one of the coaches above before pursuing these lesser options. This tier includes more certain commodities like Gary Patterson, Kyle Whittingham, Mark Richt, and Les Miles, as well as good but flawed coaches like Mike Gundy, Tom Herman, David Cutcliffe, Paul Chryst, and then potentially a few other wild cards like Mike Leach, Jim McElwain, or Mike Riley. My preference of these coaches would probably be Patterson, Whittingham, or Richt, but God knows I'd welcome the entertainment of seeing Les Miles or Mike Leach handling Notre Dame football press conferences every week.
So I guess my answer is Urban Meyer. Or Chris Petersen. Or someone from the upper section of Tier 3.
Any of them would be a step up from Brian Kelly, so ultimately I'll take it. But God only knows if Jack Swarbrick is doing anything to make it happen.
2. How do you like being a quasi member of the ACC, and do you feel it helps or hurts ND not to play in a championship game?
I don't mind it, mainly because it's given ND the opportunity to play at least one more exciting opponent every season - Florida State. Clemson, Virginia Tech/Miami - that they likely wouldn't play otherwise. However, it was definitely an initial change that was difficult to get used to, as it's disrupted series against long-time opponents like Michigan State and Purdue. Overall, though, I think it's good for ND to get out to the east coast more for recruiting purposes and enables all other Notre Dame sports to enjoy ACC membership while football still retains some semblance of independence.
I think overall it hurts ND to not play in a conference championship game, but not necessarily because they don't play in one at all. More so, I think it hurts the Irish to not have a game during the last week of the season, as all the conferences hold title games and Notre Dame sits idle and doesn't have a chance to make as last-minute of an impression on the committee as everyone else.
Just about all of the Power 5 conference teams play an FCS school at some point during the season (which cannot be considered a real opponent), meaning their conference championship game really affords them the same number of games as ND.
I want Notre Dame to work on scheduling another game in that final week just to address that idleness, but I haven't heard about any concrete plans for that to happen yet.
3. The best thing to order at the concession stand in South Bend is.....
I don't think I've ordered anything from a concession stand in Notre Dame Stadium in years, but the concessions there have always seemed to be pretty average to me. You'll find your basic hot dogs/popcorn/pretzels and then sodas, water, and hot chocolate/coffee during cold game days.
The last game I went to (Stanford game this year) a friend of mine shared a hot dog with me and that tasted delicious, so I guess I can recommend that. Alternatively, outside the stadium there are typically food trucks scattered among the tailgates and my friend got a huge, delicious-looking turkey leg before the Michigan State game this year, so I'm sure that's pretty solid as well.
4. Best local restaurant in South Bend is.....
There are various really nice (read: expensive) restaurants like LaSalle Grill that I've heard are fantastic, but for more reasonable prices, I'd recommend Fiddler's Hearth for some delicious Irish food and a cool atmosphere that usually includes live music, Rocco's or Bruno's for good pizza/Italian, CJ's Pub for burgers, J.W. Chen's for Chinese food, Cambodian Thai for great Thai food, and then a few local breweries like Crooked Ewe and Evil Czech have good beer and food to go with it.
Also, a classic late-night diner spot in town is Nick's Patio, although I cannot honestly tell you what the food there tastes like when completely sober.
5. Lou Holtz walks into a bar, what does he order?
Lou is a simple, old school man with simple, old school tastes.
He's going to order something classic, like scotch or bourbon, and probably drink it neat. Although, if he goes to the Linebacker Lounge (my favorite bar in the world, right across from campus), then he's absolutely going to order a few Long Islands to share with me and my friends as we all belt out the words to Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" together.