Blue and Gold Illustrated

Jan. 1, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 59 of 63

60 JAN. 1, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI T his month, defensive coordina- tor Clark Lea became the sixth assistant in 11th-year head coach Brian Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame to be named a head coach at another school. Making the transition from valued and esteemed lieutenant to suddenly becoming the general of your own troops, however, has more often than not had its share of pitfalls. Chances are when an assistant is hired as a head coach, it's because the opera- tion has been struggling. That is what Lea will inherit at Vanderbilt, which finished 0-9 this season and has produced only four seasons finishing above .500 in the last 45 years. It's also vastly differ- ent to be in charge of one segment of a collective team than oversee the entire operation. For most of the first five assistants under Kelly who accepted a head coaching position right after Notre Dame, it's been rough waters. • Offensive coordinator/quarter- backs coach Charley Molnar (2010- 11) was hired by Massachusetts, but jettisoned after just two seasons and back-to-back 1-11 finishes. He has been the quarterbacks coach at Idaho since 2014 after a nomadic previous career in which he had 13 stops in 26 years. • Named the Frank Broyles Assis- tant Coach of the Year in 2012, defen- sive coordinator Bob Diaco (2010-13) was the toast of the town when his defense spearheaded a 12-0 regular season. After the 2013 campaign, Diaco was hired as the head coach at Con- necticut but fired after a three-year mark of 11-26. Since then, he's had stops at Nebraska, Oklahoma (origi- nally as an analyst) and Louisiana Tech, and this December was fired as the defensive coordinator at Purdue. • The same year Diaco departed for UConn, offensive coordinator and former defensive backs coach Chuck Martin was hired by Miami (Ohio). After a rough start while rebuild- ing, Martin just completed his sev- enth season with the RedHawks, where he has a 32-46 (.410 winning percentage) career mark but won the Mid-American Conference champi- onship in 2019. • Offensive coordinator/quarter- backs coach Mike Sanford (2015-16) was hired as the head coach at West- ern Kentucky in 2017 to succeed Jeff Brohm, who had posted a 30-10 mark there. When the Hilltoppers fell to 6-7 and then 3-9 in Sanford's first two seasons, he was axed. After a stop- over at Utah State in 2019, he was hired in 2020 as the offensive coordi- nator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Minnesota. • Notre Dame all-time leading rusher Autry Denson was the run- ning backs coach under Kelly from 2015-18 before getting named the head coach at Charleston Southern, a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school. Denson debuted with a 6-6 mark in 2019, but the Buccaneers did not have a season this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a review of former Notre Dame assistants who left the Fight- ing Irish when they received head coaching opportunities. Ara Parseghian, 1964-74 Despite immense success, including the 1973 national title, the staff remained intact his final six years from 1969-74. Backfield coach Tom Pagna, defensive line coach Joe Yonto and defensive backs coach Paul Shoults were on his staff all 11 years. • After five seasons from 1964-68, linebackers coach John Ray, who also was the defensive coor- dinator even though the title was never officially listed, accepted the head coaching post at the University of Kentucky. He took with him receivers coach George Sefcik as his offensive coordinator. Ray was 10-33 overall and 4-24 in SEC play in his four seasons with the Wildcats before getting fired. He then worked for the NFL's Buffalo Bills from 1973-76 before leaving coaching at age 50. After Ray's firing, Sefcik went on to be a career assistant in the NFL for 29 years. Replacing Ray as Notre Dame's linebackers coach was George Kelly, who would handle that position group for 17 years from 1969-85. Hired in place of Sefcik was Mike Stock, who would coach the wideouts the final six seasons under Parseghian. • Richard "Doc" Urich coached the offensive line the first two years (1964-65) before becoming the head coach at Buffalo, where he was 18-12 in three seasons, and then hired by Northern Illinois, where he was 3-7 in both 1969 and 1970 before becom- ing an assistant in the NFL for 15 years. • Replacing Urich from 1966-69 was Jerry Wamp- fler, who then became the head coach at Colorado State. The Rams fired him after a three-year mark of 8-25, and over the next 21 years he served as an assistant at seven different NFL franchises. Brian Boulac and Wally Moore coached the of- fensive line from 1970-74. Dan Devine, 1975-80 Despite Devine's successful tenure that was high- lighted by the 1977 national title, only one assis- tant departed during this time to be a head coach, and that was special teams assistant Ed Chlebek after that first year in 1975. Chlebek was 10-12 at Eastern Michigan (1976- 77), 12-21 at Boston College (1978-80) and 4-18 at Kent State (1981-82) for a 26-51 total before coaching two more years in the Canadian Football League. Three holdovers from the Parseghian staff — Yonto (defensive line), Kelly (linebackers) and Boulac (tight ends/offensive line) — were Notre Dame graduates who were living the dream at HEAD GAME Notre Dame assistants moving to top positions have not been easy transitions for most Bob Diaco was Notre Dame's defensive coordina‑ tor from 2010‑13, earning the Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year award in 2012 after an undefeated regular season. He left to become head coach at Connecticut, where he was fired following a three‑year mark of 11‑26. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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