Remember when it appeared Brian Kelly would replace Dan McCarney at Iowa State?

Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

Here’s how close — or perceived to be close — Brian Kelly was to replacing Iowa State football coach Dan McCarney late in 2006:

It was so (erroneously) rumored that Kelly’s bolting from Central Michigan to Ames was such a done deal that a well-placed official in Iowa State’s athletic department alerted The Register that it probably wouldn’t be the greatest idea to run with fiction against fact.

Go ahead and do it, but you might look silly, she or he told us. So we held tight.

As media outlets throughout central Iowa were pouncing on the Kelly-to-Iowa State buzz, Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik got off a private plane at the Ames Municipal Airport a day later.

That’s pertinent now, you know, because now-Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and his Irish will face coach Matt Campbell and Iowa State in the Dec. 28 Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

There’s no disputing Kelly was on Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard’s short list of candidates. He was right there with Jim Harbaugh (head coach at San Diego at the time), Jay Norvell (Nebraska offensive coordinator) and Steve Kragthorpe (Tulsa head coach).

Pollard even interviewed Kelly for the position — after the courtesy call to Kelly’s boss.

“I heard from Jamie Pollard, and I said I didn’t have a problem with him talking to our coach,” Central Michigan athletics director David Heeke said in an interview with the Des Moines Register on Nov. 25, 2006.

Kelly reportedly interviewed with Michigan State, too. And Cincinnati.

“I’m not going to comment on anything regarding Iowa State,” Kelly said then. “I know there’s a lot of stuff out there. I just can’t comment.”

Heeke was mum on the 11th-hour speculation, too.

“I understand that you have a job to do, but I can’t comment,” Heeke said. “When you’ve got a successful program like we have, having your coach mentioned for other jobs is a fact of life.”

(Iowa State administrators and fans know that all too well, given that Matt Campbell’s name comes up often during job speculation.)

Pollard, meanwhile, was coy throughout the process. He ended up naming Chizik on Nov. 27, 2006. Two weeks later, Cincinnati named Kelly as its head coach.

“One part of you says, “I can’t believe people are that far off,’” Pollard later told The Register. “The other part is, ‘OK, as long as they’re watching that one, they’re not watching who you are going after’.”

Which ended up being Chizik.

By the way, Dan Patrick did a Q&A with Kelly in the “Just My Type” column of the May 3, 2010 Sports Illustrated magazine. It included this question and answer when Patrick asked if players would rather play in a conference — unlike independent Notre Dame.

“Ask Texas if they’d like to go to Iowa State every other year,” responded Kelly, whose team faces Navy in 2020 in Dublin, Ireland. “Look, I could take our football team anywhere in the country, and that is attractive to a young man if he knows he can play in different destinations. I think the destinations of a conference affiliate can get worn and old, and in the recruiting process I can pitch national, and that helps us.”

I wonder what he would have thought, had he become the Cyclones coach back in 2006.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly ended up taking the Cincinnati head coaching job late in 2006, a couple of weeks after appearing to be a serious candidate at Iowa State.