Notre Dame needs a new head football coach for the first time in over a decade. On Monday, Brian Kelly told the school he would leave for LSU, creating a vacancy for one of the top jobs in the country.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has indicated that it could take some time before hiring its next coach. The program heads into the conference championship weekend with an outside chance of making the college football playoffs.

"It's about the right candidate," Swarbrick told reporters Tuesday. "When we find the person we think is the right one to lead this program and have the right conversations with him, that's all that matters. If that happens tomorrow, or weeks from now, that's fine."

Even if Kelly’s replacement isn’t named soon, a handful of names stand out as the most likely options for Notre Dame.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell is viewed as a top candidate. Fickell led the Bearcats to a perfect 2021 regular season. If Cincinnati beats Houston in the AAC championship game, it could become the first school from a non-Power Five conference to reach the CFP.

The final postseason berth could come down to Cincinnati or Notre Dame.

Fickell would be a similar hire to Kelly, who went undefeated as Cincinnati’s head coach in 2009 before going to Notre Dame for the 2010 college football season. Since going 4-8 in his first season as the Bearcats’ head coach, Fickell has led the team to a 43-6 record.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is another candidate who could make sense. Campbell has led the Cyclones to five straight winning seasons. Iowa State had a losing record each year from 2010 to 2016.

Campbell is interested in the Notre Dame job, according to Jordan Strack, sports director at WTOL Channel 11, a CBS affiliate in Toledo, Ohio.

Notre Dame could promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach. Earlier this year, Kelly suggested that Freeman would become his eventual replacement. 

Kelly wants to bring Freeman and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to LSU, according to The Athletic. Freeman would reportedly become the sport’s highest-paid defensive coordinator if he joins Kelly with the Tigers.

Freeman was the Cincinnati defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2017 to 2020. The Fighting Irish have the country’s 11th-best scoring defense this season.

Notre Dame is 11-1 this season.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun mascot carries the school flag after a touchdown during a game against the Temple Owls at Notre Dame Stadium on September 2, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. The Irish won 49-16. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images