As soon as Brian Kelly decided to leave Notre Dame to take the LSU Tigers head coaching job, speculation started running rampant about who might replace him.

While the Irish has a very strong candidate in-house in defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, plenty of people assumed that Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell would be the ideal hire to keep Notre Dame football on track.

Fickell is considered one of the hottest coaching prospects now that he’s led Cincy to a 12-0 record in his fifth season at the helm. Assuming they can win the AAC Championship, they should end up in the College Football Playoff, a huge accomplishment for a non-P5 program. Fickell is also 47-14 overall at Cincinnati as well.

Naturally, Fickell was asked Tuesday about the possibility of exploring the Notre Dame job. Naturally, he denied interest, although he certainly did it in that coachspeak way that leaves the door open.

“I don’t know what there is to address,” Fickell said. “I don’t talk to a whole lot of people.  There is nothing. That’s the crazy thing. It’s all whatever is being said out there and different things. There is no speculation.”

“Is the [Notre Dame] job open?” Fickell asked. “I guess it is. I wouldn’t know if somebody didn’t tell me. Most importantly, all I care about is the guys that sit in this room.”

That’s a no but it’s not a hard no. And plenty of people on social media noticed.

You can’t really blame Fickell if he does take the Notre Dame job, or any P5 job really. He’s proven that he can build a winner at Cincinnati and it’s going to be pretty hard to maintain that level of excellence there. Meanwhile, he can take his talents to South Bend or another big program and have a much easier road to constant success. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he’ll stay at Cincinnati too, but, believe a football coach at your own risk.

[Brandon Saho]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.