And a framework it is, laying a foundation for consideration, not saying that these lines are rigid.
In similar vein, another framework I like to use, a question I like to ask, is would this coach have been a candidate for Gene Corrigan in November of 1985? Per SI, in addition to Lou Holtz, here were the other candidates (article linked):
But why was Lou Holtz chosen for the most storied and prestigious coaching job in America? After all, according to an SI source there were four other top candidates: former UCLA and Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, current UCLA coach Terry Donahue, Virginia's George Welsh and Maryland's Bobby Ross
How do these stack up? As of November 1985, here are their resumes:
1969-71 William & Mary, 13-20 record
1972-75 NC State, 33-12-3 record, 1 ACC Championship, 3 top 20 rankings
1976 NY Jets, 3-11 record
1977-83 Arkansas, 60-21-2 record, 1 SWC Championship, 1 top 5 ranking, 3 top 10 rankings, 4 top 11 rankings, 1 major bowl win (1978 Orange)
1984-85 Minnesota, 10-12 record
Other notes: Assistant under Woody Hayes at OSU
1974-75 UCLA, 15-5-3 record, 1 Pac10 Championship, 1 Rose Bowl win (over Bo of course), 1 top 5 ranking
1976-82 Philadelphia Eagles, 54-47 record, 4 playoff appearances, 1 division title, 1 NFC Championship
Other Notes: Assistant under George Allen with the LA Rams
1976-85 UCLA, 79-31-6 record, 3 Pac10 Championships, 4 major bowl wins, 3 Rose Bowl wins, 1 top 5 ranking, 3 top 10 rankings, 7 top 15 rankings
Other Notes: Assistant under Pepper Rodgers and Dick Vermeil at UCLA
1973-81 Navy, 55-46-1 record, 1 top 20 ranking
1982-85 Virginia, 22-21-2 record, 1 top 20 ranking
Other Notes: Assistant under Paterno at PSU
1973-77 The Citadel, 24-31 record
1982-85 Maryland, 33-14 record, 3 ACC Championships, 2 top 20 rankings
Other notes: Worked as an assistant under Marv Levy with KC Chiefs
Of the coaches hired since Lou, only O'Leary would obviously fit with these candidates. Kelly might based on his head coaching record, though his lack of major conference experience and pedigree would not fit with this group.
So even picture a world where Lou says no (or where something comes up in the interview process that disqualifies him), I think ND would have been pretty damn solid with any of these guys, except maybe George Welsh. Not saying that Holtz wasn't the best choice of the group, but I could picture Vermeil, Donahue, and Ross being quite successful at Notre Dame as well. Heck, the postscript would note that Vermeil would eventually win a Super Bowl, and Ross a National Championship.