Look For Cincy’s Kelly To Join Irish

Bobby Curran
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Friday - December 02, 2009
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Brian Kelly has led undefeated Cincinnati to No. 5

One of the hot national topics this week will be who gets the job at Notre Dame, and the mediocre record of Charlie Weis may have hurt the chances of NFL types such as John Gruden. I find it hard to believe that Florida’s Urban Meyer or Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops could be persuaded to leave their cozy situations to go to a place where the football coach doesn’t call all the shots.

But there is a perfect candidate out there. Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly is an Irish Catholic who has won everywhere he’s been, including a national title at Grand Valley State. He won the Big East title last year with the Bearcats. Even more impressively, he’s been able to recruit quality players to a school with lousy facilities and a dilapidated stadium. The son of a politician, Kelly is himself impressive on the stump, and his willingness to engage boosters and alumni represents a radical change from the arrogant and aloof Weis. There will be some who will want a higher-profile coach, but Kelly will win over the doubters when they hear him speak. At the end of the day, this will be the perfect fit for the Irish. Expect a decision to take no longer than three weeks - more likely two.

Bowl people love to talk about how well teams “travel,” meaning how many fans they bring to the game, filling the hotels, restaurants and shops and shelling out greenbacks in grand style. One of the schools that always shows up in force is Wisconsin, who will be in Hawaii this week to play the Warriors. Of Hawaii’s season-ending opponents, Wisconsin brings as many fans as anyone and should contribute to an excellent crowd on senior night at Aloha Stadium.

As we go to press, it is considered extremely unlikely that the No. 3-ranked Rainbow Wahine will get to host the first and second round of the NCAA tournament. Everyone else in the top eight will get to host - Hawaii is punished by its geography. This despite Hawaii being one of the only potential sites that could guarantee a profit. The NCAA seems obsessed with grouping teams for ease of travel, and this applies to everyone but Hawaii, which is casually sent to sites throughout the Midwest (Louisville) Rocky Mountain (Colorado State) or the West (Los Angeles).

Dave Shoji probably takes the right approach, which is to pay little attention to things he can’t control. The Rainbow Wahine are an impressively well-rounded team, and should fare well in the post-season, although there is some doubt about whether anyone can knock off powerful Penn State. The Rainbow Wahine completed the WAC tournament at neutral site Las Vegas, with baseball to follow later this year in Arizona, and men’s and women’s basketball heading to Las Vegas next year. All the coaches clamored for neutral sites; now the trick will be avoiding financial disaster.

Expect the upcoming inaugural Diamond Head Classic to regain the luster of marquee fields once enjoyed by the Rainbow Classic. The EPSN-owned tournament will enjoy all the cachet and leverage that the Worldwide Leader can exert. It will take a couple of years because many of the nation’s elite programs are committed several seasons out.

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