The reports that Brian Polian will join Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford can’t be looked at as good news for the Fighting Irish. While Polian was in charge of a special teams unit that drew the ire of some Irish fans for its inconsistent play, he was also Charlie Weis’ ace recruiter on the West Coast, doing battle with some of the top Pac-10 and national programs and coming away victorious on a number of key recruits, most notably linebacker Manti Te’o. Polian will replace one-time Notre Dame graduate assistant DJ Durkin, who is leaving Stanford to go to Florida, reportedly as the special teams and linebackers coach.
As Jim Harbaugh continues to resurrect the Stanford football program and raise their recruiting profile nationally, the Irish and Cardinal have found themselves competing for many of the same players the past few seasons. Current Notre Dame commit Blake Leuders, an Army All-American, just planned an official visit to Stanford, not exactly a heart-warming proposition for a Irish recruiting class that already lost its premiere edge player in Chris Martin. While Leuders says he’s still committed to the Irish, meeting with Harbaugh, an aggressive recruiter, and the familiar face of Brian Polian might be enough to pry another key recruit away from the Irish.
While coach Brian Kelly’s decision to let Polian go was said to be one of his hardest, it could come back to haunt him for the same reasons Florida hires Greg Mattison and Steve Addazio hurt the Irish. Having a coach on staff with extensive experience at Notre Dame gives you the ability to tell recruits what Notre Dame can’t do for you, and why a university well known for its academic and disciplinary challenges, isn’t a good fit for perspective student athletes. I have first-hand knowledge that Mattison and the Florida staff used negative tactics to help win recruiting battles against the Irish, swaying key recruits like Justin Trattou and Omar Hunter away from their commitments to Notre Dame before National Signing Day.
Polian already spoke candidly about some of the drawbacks of coaching at Notre Dame, and while he was honest and open about how much he loved his time at the university, it’s common sense for him to relay some of the challenges that student athletes encounter — whether it be Residence Life and du Lac, weather, or diversity issues — to recruits chosing between Notre Dame and Stanford. It’s never good to have someone that knows the Notre Dame recruiting playbook better than any guy currently on staff, and for Stanford that’s now the case.
Still, as a Notre Dame fan you have to be happy for Brian Polian, a coach that gave a lot to the university and logged a lot of tough hours trying to help the Irish win. Stanford is a great place — a tremendous university with elite academics — and Polian looks to have landed on his feet.