Name: Brian Kelly
Education: Assumption College
Experience: defensive backs coach, Grand Valley State (1987-88); defensive coordinator, Grand Valley State (1989-90); head coach, Grand Valley State (1991-2003); head coach, Central Michigan (2004-06); head coach, Cincinnati (2007-present).
Pros: Kelly would bring fresh blood and an explosive offensive philosophy to a program that quite frankly needs it. He’s been successful every location on his coaching tour, making Grand Valley State into a national powerhouse and turning usual doormats Central Michigan and Cincinnati into conference contenders. He has a squeaky-clean image in terms of recruiting, though that might partially be because of the smaller stages most of his teams have played on.
Cons: Kelly doesn’t have any big-conference college football experience. Even though he’s experienced success everywhere he’s coached, it’s been against relatively weak competition. There are also questions about whether or not he’d stay at Michigan, since he has a reputation as someone who sticks around only until a better offer comes. A racist remark Kelly made while coaching in Central Michigan certainly wouldn’t fly in Ann Arbor, either.
Why he’ll get it: There’s a lot of pressure from fans and boosters to get the Michigan football program up to speed with the rest of the nation. Kelly’s innovative offense has had success everywhere he has brought it. Bringing in a lesser known coach who had his started in a smaller division seemed to work for Ohio State, so why not for Michigan?
Why he won’t: Two words: Les Miles. All indications are that Miles is the top candidate on most people in power’s list. And while Kelly is on the rise as one of the best up-and-coming coaches in the nation, he probably isn’t ready for Big Ten ball just yet. Michigan State passed him up for Mark Dantonio, and Michigan very well could do the same for a candidate it feels is better qualified.
What people are saying: “When he first walked into our new meeting room, you could feel this energy. There was just this spark about him. The second he started speaking, the excitement in his voice was just awesome. He said, ‘My goal here isn’t to rebuild, it’s to win a Big East championship.’ He basically said, ‘I’m a winner.’ ” – Cincinnati safety Haruki Nakamura