In college football coaches come and go. Sometimes the fans are happy and sometimes… angry doesn’t do the feelings justice. Either way, the replacement is in an interesting position; expectations are high in both cases.
As a Notre Dame graduate and rabid fan, I can speak from that standpoint. When Bob Davie came in, he was replacing a legend. Lou Holtz was and still is beloved by the Notre Dame faithful. Sure, it was time for Lou to retire, but Davie had big shoes to fill. Davie didn’t fare too well, but not poorly either and when Tyrone Willingham replaced him, the expectation was that he would return us to greatness. We all know how that worked out... terribly! Not only did he lose a lot of football games, but he left the cupboard (in terms of quality players) barer than ever before. Then Charlie Weis was hired and the excitement was electric. Surely he was the next coming… right?! Well at least the cupboard isn’t bare.
Now we have Brian Kelly. Certainly ND fans will temper their excitement after the last few coaches… right?! WRONG! Most expect 9 or 10 wins out of the gate. Certainly Kelly is capable of that if you look at his bio, but is that expectation fair? Unfortunately for Kelly, it doesn’t matter. Now more than ever in sports and for sure at Notre Dame, it’s win now or forever hold your peace.
Is the expectation a good thing or a bad thing? "If I thought about that every day, I'd probably jump out my window in my office," said Coach Kelly to an audience in Chicago recently. Is the new coach of… let’s pick a random school like Akron… at an advantage or disadvantage by not having the same expectations? Do coaches work harder when they know they have to win now, are they more focused? To the same audience, Kelly said, “We just need to hit the ground running and play really good football out of the gates." Or is does degree of difficulty become higher for an already difficult job. I think it makes the leash a bit shorter for sure, but I do believe it provides a sense of urgency for the coaching staff and gets them focused and requires them to keep up their end of the bargain so as to not let down their fellow coaches.
Like it or not, the expectations are what they are, whether it be Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Akron or any college program. The coaches have to deal with whatever comes and the alumni and fans will judge fairly or otherwise. It’s the nature of the beast.