This entry is part of Her Loyal Sons’ continuing Fiesta Bowl preview series: Defensive preview, Ezekiel Elliott accident, Costume Gameday, offensive preview, Injured Irish returning, comprehensive bowl overview. Today, we examine the coaches.
By almost all metrics, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has had a more successful career recently than Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Let’s compare:
HEAD-TO-HEAD (ON THE FIELD)
Kelly and Meyer have never faced each other. The pair were on a collision course to the 2010 Sugar Bowl, with Kelly’s Cincinnati squad emerging as a undefeated Group of 5 powerhouse and Meyer’s team blemished only by a loss to #2 Alabama in the SEC title game. Kelly scuttled those plans, however, when he left the university to accept the job at Notre Dame. Meyer’s Florida squad dismantled the Bearcats, 51-24. Jeff Quinn, now an offensive analyst for Notre Dame, replaced Kelly as Cincinnati’s coach that day.
Meyer announced an indefinite hiatus from coaching before the Sugar Bowl, citing health and family reasons. (Kelly reached out to the departing coach after he was hospitalized.) During that break – and under the auspices of Kelly at Notre Dame – Meyer was the featured presenter at the university’s football coaches clinic.
Meyer had strong ties to the university, having once served as an assistant under both former Irish coaches Lou Holtz and Bob Davie. Then-athletic director Kevin White had a meeting with Meyer to discuss the Irish’s head coaching vacancy after Ty Willingham’s dismissal, but Meyer had already made up his mind to coach at Florida for “family reasons.”
As recently as 2008, Meyer still considered being Notre Dame’s head coach to be his “dream job.” Although never officially confirmed, Meyer allegedly asked Notre Dame to consider relaxing academic requirements so that he could recruit better players.
Meyer also holds strong ties to Cincinnati, where Kelly coached before Notre Dame. It’s his alma mater. It’s his father’s alma mater. He met his wife there. His sister, Gigi Escoe, is vice president of undergraduate affairs. Meyer even attended practices at Cincinnati while Kelly was coaching there.
Four of Meyer’s current coaching staff have worked previously for Kelly.
Kelly knows that he coaches in the shadow of Meyer, as some Irish fans wonder what could have been. He even joked about it, in a press conference soon after the bowl pairing was announced:
We’re going to wrestle, arm wrestle before the game, and whoever wins gets the Notre Dame job. No, I mean, I think that’s just great talk for the fans, and Urban is a great coach. Who knows; I’m not going to be here forever. Maybe he’ll get a chance one day to coach at Notre Dame if that’s what he wants.
JUST WIN, BABY
Here’s a welcome coincidence for comparison purposes: Urban Meyer and Brian Kelly have coached 77 games against FBS-level opponents in their last six years of coaching. For Kelly, this encompasses his entire tenure at Notre Dame. For Meyer, it’s his last two seasons at Florida and his first four at Ohio State.
Urban Meyer is a more successful coach than Brian Kelly in that 77 game stretch.[table “” not found /]
Urban Meyer teams scored more points than Brian Kelly teams in that period.[table “” not found /]
Urban Meyer teams won more games against ranked opponents than Brian Kelly teams in that time.[table “” not found /]
Urban Meyer teams won more big games than Brian Kelly teams.
Ranked vs. Opp Ranked
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Vs. Teams Over .500
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But as Lou Holtz is fond of saying, “You don’t have to be the best team in the country. But we do have to be the best team in the stadium today.”
Kelly does have one statistical advantage. He’s 12-3 in games played on neutral sites, while Meyer is just 8-3. That’s a bit misleading. Kelly’s neutral site games were mostly against Navy and underwhelming competition in the Shamrock Series. Meyer’s teams were playing for conference titles, big bowl wins and national championships.
HEAD-TO-HEAD (OFF FIELD)
Brian Kelly’s student-athletes are more successful in the classroom than Urban Meyer’s, although Meyer has been trending up.
In the early 2000s, the NCAA created the Graduation Success Rate for Division I colleges. Here’s a quick explanation before we get to the numbers:
The GSR holds colleges accountable for those student-athletes who transfer into their school. Second, the GSR does not penalize colleges whose student-athletes transfer in good academic standing. Essentially, those student-athletes are moved into another college’s cohort.
Meyer’s Florida team from 2009-10 scored a 67, while his 2010-11 team scored a 76. At Ohio State, he’s logged GSRs of 75, 78 and 81.
Kelly’s team remains among the standard bearers for successful student-athletes. Since 2010-11, Kelly’s teams have scored 97, 97, 93, 94 and 93.
Since Meyer joined Ohio State on Nov. 28, 2011, he and Kelly have battled repeatedly for prized midwest recruits.
In total, 77 student-athletes held offers from both Ohio State & Notre Dame and ultimately chose one of those two schools. (My data is collected from Scout.com.)
Urban Meyer and his recruiting team have won 43 head-to-head battles, while Brian Kelly and his staff have prevailed in 34 contests. Winning a national championship has certainly helped: Meyer has landed 13 commits who also held a Notre Dame offer since taking the trophy; Kelly has landed 8 in the same time period.
Meyer’s big splash in his return to coaching also convinced many high schoolers to sign on the dotted line. Ohio State won 9 consecutive recruits against Notre Dame between December 2011 and February 2012. (The player to break that streak – Davonte’ Neal – is no longer with the Irish.)
Notre Dame’s best run against Ohio State was 5, which occurred between April 2012 (Mike Heuerman) and January 2013 (Max Redfield). It’s likely no coincidence that this was also the time the Irish made its bid for the championship.
Ohio State has done an excellent job of keeping talent in state, landing 20 commits that also held competing offers from Notre Dame. Notre Dame has just six commits from Ohio who also had Buckeye scholarship offers.
Notre Dame and Ohio State have each grabbed five recruits from Florida, Meyer’s old stomping grounds and three each from Michigan, which borders both universities’ homes. Notre Dame has dominated Illinois, picking up four recruits to Ohio State’s one. The Irish also lead in their home state of Indiana, two recruits (Jaylon Smith & Josh Barajas) to one (Austin Mack).
Ohio State has grabbed five 5-star talents to Notre Dame’s 2. The Buckeyes also attract more 4-star talent: 38 commits with competing Notre Dame offers to the Irish’s 29.[table “” not found /]
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