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Big names, big flops preceded Kelly

You either love Notre Dame football with glowing fervor or despise it with equal fire. Enjoying the Fighting Irish's monumental struggles over the past three seasons -- a 16-21 mark that led to Charlie Weis' ouster -- the program's critics argue ND is no longer relevant.

The evidence to support such a claim is strong; the Irish are undoubtedly wounded, severely listing and flat-out embarrassed. But they've been here before.

With the second-highest winning percentage in the land (.733), 11 national championships and a game-day atmosphere that forces even the most outspoken skeptic to acknowledge the powerful spirit that permeates South Bend in the fall, Notre Dame's past struggles are often overlooked.

The last three seasons of Charlie Weis' five-year tenure -- the worst stretch in Notre Dame history -- awakened the wrong echoes, ones of Joe Kuharich and Gerry Faust.

After being named coach of the year at Cincinnati in 2009, Irish fans hope Brian Kelly can immediately pull the program back to national relevancy. Here's a look at two legendary ND skippers who restored South Bend's shine in a hurry.

A breath of fresh air

Kuharich presided over a dismal 17-23 record from 1959-62, including eight straight losses in 1960 and back-to-back .500 seasons that ultimately bled dry his players' dwindling emotional reservoir. Like Weis, Kuharich's experience coaching in the professional ranks didn't translate to the college level.

Hugh Devore, who served in the same capacity nearly 20 years earlier, was called upon again to fill in as interim coach in 1963 after Kuharich called it quits during a spring practice.

Despite much admiration by players, Devore went 2-7 that year knowing he was only a temporary solution while school brass searched for a permanent replacement.

And in walked Ara Parseghian in 1964, widely regarded as one of the most inspired seasons in Irish history. Notre Dame finished 9-1, coming just 93 seconds short against dream-snatching Southern Cal of an undefeated season and national championship after five years without a winning record.

Parseghian, a motivator and developer of talent, went on to win a pair national titles over an 11-year career that ended with a sterling 95-17-4 mark. The '64 season, however, was a watershed moment for a program on life support.

Holtz makes his mark

Taking over for Dan Devine in 1981, Gerry Faust inherited an Irish squad that included nine of his former Cincinnati Moeller High School players. But a 5-6 mark that year, followed by 20 more losses over the next four seasons, ended what became known as "The Bold Experiment."

When Lou Holtz was hired away from Minnesota in 1986, the Irish showed vast improvement despite another 5-6 campaign. Notre Dame lost five games by a combined 14 points. A trip to the Cotton Bowl the following season set up an undefeated run through 1988, a victory over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl and an NCAA title.

Holtz coached 132 games in 11 seasons at ND and posted a staggering 100-30-2 record, second only to Knute Rockne in total victories.