Notre Dame Promotes Freeman, 35, To Replace Kelly As Coach

On Friday, Notre Dame announced the promotion of defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to coach of the Fighting Irish, capping off a frenetic coaching search that never seriously left campus.

With the Irish still in contention for the College Football Playoff, Freeman, 35, takes over less than a week after Brian Kelly’s unexpected resignation from LSU.

Notre Dame shared a video on social media showing Freeman being introduced to the players for the first time as head coach during a morning exercise.

“Marcus’ ability to connect with people, his fit at Notre Dame, and the way he mentors young men set him aside during our search,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see how the culture formed by these incredible student-athletes continues to thrive under Marcus and his staff’s tutelage.”

Freeman said in a statement that he was “eternally thankful” to Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins and Swarbrick for the opportunity.

“Notre Dame is a very special location, and I am excited to pursue a national title with the best student-athletes, coaches, and staff in college football,” Freeman said.

Notre Dame has arranged a press conference with Freeman for Monday.

Swarbrick announced Tuesday, only hours after a quick 7 a.m. meeting in which Kelly bid the squad farewell, that Notre Dame would conduct a thorough search for the program’s 30th coach. The search was short-lived, as word began to circulate Wednesday afternoon that Freeman had been chosen by Notre Dame.

Notre Dame administrators moved quickly to retain the majority of their staff, with Kelly interested in bringing Freeman, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, recruiting coordinator Mike Elston, strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis, and others to Baton Rouge. On Friday, the final piece of the puzzle was the promotion of Freeman.

Notre Dame

“There is no one more deserving!” This initiative is still in its early stages… Time to go to work! “#FreemanEra,” tweeted linebacker JD Bertrand.

Notre Dame has won double digits in five consecutive seasons, and its leadership elected to prioritize continuity while also accepting the risk of handing over the top job to a first-time head coach who is one of Kelly’s newest members of his staff.

Kelly hired Freeman away from Cincinnati after the 2020 season, becoming Notre Dame’s winningest coach in 12 seasons at the school. The former Ohio State linebacker was a four-year starter for the Bearcats, helping them develop into a playoff contender.

At Notre Dame, Freeman led the Irish to an 11-1 record in what was considered to be a transition season following a playoff appearance. He also established himself as an important Notre Dame recruiter.

Notre Dame has a class of verbally committed talents that ranks fifth in the country less than two weeks before college football’s early signing period, according to 247 Sports.

“Marcus Freeman has not only proven himself to be a superb football coach, but he has also demonstrated – both during his time at Notre Dame and in my conversations with him this week – that he is a person of highest integrity who cares deeply about our student-athletes and is committed to their success in the classroom as well as on the field,” Jenkins said in a statement from Rome.

Since losing 24-13 at home to Cincinnati, the Fighting Irish have won seven straight games (CFP No. 4). In four November games, they only allowed two touchdowns.

Notre Dame, an independent, is ranked sixth in the CFP standings and is idle coming into conference championship weekend. However, it still has a chance to be chosen for the playoffs. If the Irish do not receive the assistance they require, they will remain in contention for the New Year’s Six bowl, as well as a trip to the Fiesta in Arizona.

Under Freeman, the Notre Dame defense struggled at times but finished strong, ranking sixth nationally in interceptions (15) and defensive touchdowns (four), seventh in sacks (40), 11th in takeaways (23) and scoring defense (18.2 points per game), and 18th in third-down conversion percentage (.329).

The 40 sacks are one less than the school record of 41 set in 1996.

′′The #FreemanEra has begun!! “Strong Finish to the Season” defensive end Isaiah Foskey, the team’s sack leader, tweeted.

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