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Warinner and Hinton leave as coaching staff shakes up

Jan 2, 2012, 12:47 PM EDT

Kelly Urban Meyer

Make no mistake about it, this means war.

Urban Meyer has always held a peculiar place in Irish fans’ hearts. He’s spurned them, leaving Monk Malloy and the school jet empty when he turned down his “dream job” at Notre Dame to head to Gainesville instead. He’s poached from them, with he and former henchman Greg Mattison using knowledge of Notre Dame and its “peculiarities” against Charlie Weis and his staff when he flipped recruits from South Bend to North Florida. He’s even worked his way back into their favor, speaking at Brian Kelly’s coaching clinic last offseason, and saying flattering things about the program, it’s new head coach, and the way Kelly’s staff does business. During the year Meyer spent with his family (and working for ESPN) after walking away from Florida, he found his way back to Notre Dame, where he famously once worked as an assistant coach, and finally patched up some wounds left behind from the past decade of putting a stick in the collective eye of ND Nation.

It was fun while it lasted.

Last week, Brian Kelly happily stated that all the coaches working at the Champs Sports Bowl would be back for the Irish next year. This morning, Kelly and the football program announced sweeping changes to the coaching staff, likely the result of Meyer relentlessly getting what he wanted, and poaching not one but most likely two coaches from the Irish staff.

The move of Chuck Martin to offensive coordinator should obviously be the headline from today’s release. That Martin will move from directing the secondary to the offense is an unconventional move at the major college level, but makes sense for the Irish. The former Grand Valley State head coach directed the offense for the Lakers for six years, just as his predecessor and current boss did at Grand Valley.

Other changes to the existing staff include Bob Diaco adding the title of assistant head coach, Kerry Cooks being promoted to co-defensive coordinator, Scott Booker being promoted from intern to full-time assistant coach, with contract extensions given to Martin, Diaco, Cooks, Tony Alford, Mike Denbrock, and Mike Elston.

The changes, other than Martin’s shift across the ball, are common this time of year. Losing two assistants — especially a week after the head coach publicly stated both would be back — is not. The official release says that both running backs coach Tim Hinton and offense line coach Ed Warinner “left the program to pursue other opportunities.” But Hinton left to join Meyer in Columbus, Ohio after awkwardly pledging allegiance to Notre Dame less than two weeks ago.

“I’m coaching at Notre Dame. That’s where we are and the bottom line is that I’m going to coach at Notre Dame as long as I can. I love Notre Dame,” Hinton said, with the politcal savvy of a guy running for office, not coaching running backs. “I’ve got one thing to do: I’m going to coach Cierre Wood, I’m going to coach Theo Riddick, and I’m going to coach George and Cam… That’s the bottom line. We’re coaching the heck out of it. Do I want to be at Notre Dame? Absolutely. This is a great place.”

Hinton’s an Ohio native, who spent time with Meyer at Ohio State when Hinton was a graduate assistant and Meyer was also working his way up the coaching ladder. Whether it’s a rumored pension he’s almost qualified for in the state of Ohio or just the siren song of the Buckeyes, the timing and non-denial denial Hinton gave while working his way out the door don’t reflect highly on a coach that did great work with running backs Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood.

The true surprise is the loss of Warinner, who’s name came out of nowhere. Warinner seemed like the logical choice to replace Charley Molnar, but Kelly went with familiarity and chose Martin, who has known Kelly and his offense for more than a decade, while Warinner was the only coach without a connection to the program when he came to South Bend from Kansas. Multiple media sources are reporting that Warinner is also joining Meyer’s Ohio State staff, which would also be a homecoming for the Strasburg, Ohio native that graduated from Mount Union and spent time coaching at Akron as well.

The Irish haven’t assigned Booker to a position group and now will hire one more full-time assistant to a job that’s likely still to be determined. More importantly, the Irish coaching staff will wait until the NCAA required quiet period ends tomorrow to reach back out and retain recruits, most likely offensive tackle Taylor Decker, who was recruited by both Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton.

In a time where the calendar is usually only crazy with recruiting hijinks, Brian Kelly learned a lesson that Irish fans have known all too well: Watch out for Urban Meyer.

  1. carlitobrahhgante - Jan 3, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Anybody see that Shaq Thompson supposedly ruled out Southern Cal ans has ND, Cal, and Washington in his final 3..
    Shepard, Thompson, and Darby would be lethal to go with the D line..

  2. bernhtp - Jan 3, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I’ve calmed down about the coaching losses. When you think about it, we lost Molinar for a better (HC) job, Hinton to get back home and play for an old friend, and Warinner who was the guy left out of the OC promotion of Martin. It’s too bad, but life in major college football.

    Since Kelly isn’t an idiot, he must have known of the possibility of Warinner leaving because he was the un-anointed one and put that into his calculations. This was not a big surprise to him, IMO.

    Of course, Kelly may have miscalculated as he did with the QB situation. He obviously came to believe midway through USF that Rees would give him a better chance of not only winning short term, but he could be developed into a much better QB long term. I don’t know if the first half of this belief is right or wrong, but it’s pretty clear that the second half has been tragically wrong.

    • nudeman - Jan 3, 2012 at 4:51 PM

      I told you, man. Relax.
      If a kid jumps ship because an Asst Coach left, he wasn’t very solid in the first place.

      Think about it: You’re a stud HS player, you visit ND and see it in all its glory; game day, the band, the Fight Song, games on NBC, games against Michigan, USC, Michigan State, Stanford, Oklahoma; Brian Kelly meets your parents, etc etc. You can get a college degree on a par with almost any other U in the world.

      So you do the obvious thing: You commit to Notre Dame.

      Then a RB coach leaves and BECAUSE OF THAT YOU’RE GOING TO DE-COMMIT? A running backs coach?

      Come on.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jan 3, 2012 at 5:34 PM

        You make an excellent point and I hope you’re right.

  3. jomilly - Jan 3, 2012 at 6:51 PM

    Good luck to them, if you dont like people you work with or a better job, or a different location, whatever it is we all have the option to do whats best for ourselves. They worked hard for ND, so get off their ass. They are replaceable, now its time for BK to do his JOB, and replace them with better coaches. Lets talk about the guys who are here. Good luck to all the coaches who left, I appreciate your efforts while you were here. I dont think I will ever here any of your names again.

  4. ndrocks2 - Jan 3, 2012 at 8:25 PM

    Coaches switching schools is the nature of the business and Meyer has more than had his way with Notre Dame both at Florida and will do damage at Ohio State, that is to be expected. What I find strange is Kelly letting Meyer get into the fold of the university over the last year or so knowing Meyer would get back in the game and his penchant for recruiting ND coaches. Kelly was probably practicing keeping your enemies close while Meyer was thinking “My My My Said the Spider to the Fly”. These switches may not have been preventable but BK needs to start thinking like a major DI coach to say this will not have any effect on recruiting is as naive as BK letting Meyer come onto the campus to begin with.
    As far as the replacement coaches named to date by BK he seems to be comfortable with lower level DI and DII schools. I hope he will learn to appreciate other coach’s experience from successful upper echelon DI schools. Right now we seem to be a proving ground for other schools, would be nice to switch that up once in a while.

  5. bernhtp - Jan 3, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    I hope that the resumes are rolling in already. I imagine there are lots of great coaches out there that would jump at a chance to coach at Notre Dame.

    Unless this was anticipated – Kelly’s recent statements suggest it wasn’t – it will take a while to locate, choose, and approve (big background check required these days) replacements. I don’t expect announcements for several weeks and this obviously hurts the closing days of recruiting. Promotion of existing GAs would be faster.

  6. jmb795 - Jan 4, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    How do you know when a football coach is lying?
    His lips are moving.
    Never forget, The Urb, Christian man that he purports to be, once told UF QB recruit, Jevan Snead, that Tim Tebow was being recruited to Gainesville as a linebacker.

    • 1historian - Jan 9, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      your source for the above?

  7. 1historian - Jan 9, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    6 years ago Urban Meyer’s Utah team was 12-0. As a former assistant @ N.D. it was known that he had a proviso in his contract that exempted him from having to buy out of his contract if he wanted to leave Utah and go to Notre Dame as HC.

    I had then the distinct impression that Notre Dame wanted to have him as HC so they fired Willingham and went after Meyer, figuring he would jump at the opportunity. They were wrong – he took a look at the roster and knew that 2007 would be a disaster, took a look at the Florida roster and just like that he was HC at Florida.

    I was watching a Notre Dame game last season on TV and Meyer was one of the commentators. More than once he raved about the talent on the Irish roster.

    If Urban Meyer had been available 2 years ago when Charlie Weis was fired, how many of you would have liked it if he had been hired?

    Let’s take a poll – if you would have liked it go thumbs up. If not, thumbs down.

    • nudeman - Jan 9, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Trick question? Who would HONESTLY say they wouldn’t have wanted a coach who won back to back titles?

      Some will say “no” because they’re pissed off at him now, but c’mon

      I like BK. I still think he’ll do well at ND. I don’t want to throw him overboard
      But I have to admit my confidence is slightly shaken after this past year.

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