Friday, March 7, 2014
By RALPH D. RUSSO The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Brian Kelly, above, and Nick Saban, below, have restored two of college football’s most storied teams, and Monday the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide will vie for the BCS title.
BCS TITLE GAME
WHO: Alabama (12-1) vs. Notre Dame (12-0)
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Monday
"The program lost its compass," Finebaum said.
When it came time to hire another coach in 2006, Alabama courted Saban and Steve Spurrier. Spurrier wasn't interested and Saban had an NFL season to finish. When the Tide was turned down by Rich Rodriguez, who opted instead to stay with West Virginia, it was rock bottom.
"It was the darkest moment I can ever remember in Alabama history," Finebaum said.
As it turned out, it was one of the best things to ever happen to Alabama.
"You've got to have some luck," Stallings said.
As luck would have it, Saban was ready to get back to college football.
Alabama lured him away from the NFL with a $4 million a year contract and gave him the power and support to run the program the way he wanted.
"Alabama finally hired someone who has not afraid to tell everybody to get out of the way," Finebaum said.
For Notre Dame, it is a similar tale. Lou Holtz won that title in 1988 but by the end of his tenure, Notre Dame started to slip and the people in charge were resistant to changes needed to keep up with the competition.
The Irish promoted Bob Davie. In five seasons he never won more than nine games and went 0-3 in bowls.
Davie, now the coach at New Mexico, doesn't make excuses for his record at Notre Dame, but he does note that the school has been willing to make the type of changes in recent years that he sought back in the late 1990s.
"Their salaries for coaches are competitive with everybody in the country. They are accepting early graduates (from high school)," he said.
"I know the dynamics there very well and there's a lot of people who think you don't have to do that at Notre Dame. It's proven now that you do have to do those things."
Former athletic director Kevin White was the catalyst for many of those changes, but he was also the man who hired George O'Leary, who was caught fibbing on his resume and stepped down, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis. The Weis hiring in 2004 was especially telling.
Notre Dame wanted Urban Meyer, who was then at Utah and the hottest commodity on the coaching market. Meyer worked at Notre Dame under Holtz and had called being Fighting Irish coach his dream job.
And he turned it down to coach Florida because he realized it would be easier to win a national title with the Gators than with the Irish. He won two with Florida in six years.
The Irish hired Weis, the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator who had never been a head coach but did graduate from Notre Dame. He was gone in five years.
This time when Notre Dame went looking for a coach, the hottest candidate was Kelly. The difference was the hottest commodity also wanted Notre Dame.
Kelly has continued to push Notre Dame into the 21st century, implementing a training table to make it easier for the players to eat healthy. He pushed for music to be pumped through the PA system at Notre Dame Stadium to rouse a fanbase that had started to sit on its hands.
"It's flashier," Davie said. "They are a lot more like everybody else is but that's what's making them competitive."
Now what separates both Notre Dame and Alabama from the competition is their coaches.