Notre Dame Officially Announces Marcus Freeman as Head Coach After Brian Kelly Exit

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 3, 2021

FILE - Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman watches during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Navy in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Notre Dame is working on a deal to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach to replace Brian Kelly, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday night, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

The University of Notre Dame formally announced the promotion of defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach on Friday following Brian Kelly's departure for LSU.

Notre Dame Football @NDFootball

π—œπ—§β€™π—¦ π—’π—™π—™π—œπ—–π—œπ—”π—Ÿ.<br><br>Please join us in welcoming <a href="https://twitter.com/Marcus_Freeman1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Marcus_Freeman1</a> as the 30th head coach of Notre Dame Football!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoIrish?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoIrish</a> <a href="https://t.co/PVaPuPhukp">pic.twitter.com/PVaPuPhukp</a>

"It is an honor to be named the head coach of Notre Dame Football," Freeman said. "I am eternally grateful to both [school president] Father John Jenkins and [athletic director] Jack Swarbrick for giving me the opportunity to lead the exceptional men who make this program what it is. Notre Dame is a very special place and I look forward to pursuing a national championship with the most outstanding student-athletes, coaches and staff in college football."

Freeman, a former standout linebacker at Ohio State, has emerged as one of the country's top defensive minds since his NFL career ended after one season because of a heart condition in 2010.

The 35-year-old Ohio native spent time as a graduate assistant with the Buckeyes before working as a defensive assistant at Kent State and Purdue. He then spent four years as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati before accepting the same role at Notre Dame ahead of the 2021 season.

He's guided the Fighting Irish defense to a strong season during his first year in South Bend. The unit ranks tied for 11th in scoring defense (18.3 points allowed per game) and gave up just 23 points over the final four games of the regular season.

"Marcus Freeman has not only proven himself a superb football coach, he has shown–both in 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. "I am excited to welcome him as our new head football coach, and to have his wife, Joanna, and their six beautiful children in the Notre Dame family."

Freeman will take over the program immediately as Kelly opted to accept a 10-year, $95 million contract from LSU despite the Irish still having an outside shot at the College Football Playoff.

Notre Dame is sixth in the CFP rankings heading into championship weekend. It doesn't have a title game to play, but a flurry of upsets elsewhere around the country could create a path to the top four.

Even if the Irish fall short of the playoff, they'll play in a high-profile bowl game and give Freeman a chance to continue building on the foundation set during the Kelly era, which includes a five-year streak of 10-plus wins.

"Marcus' ability to connect with people, his fit at Notre Dame and the way he coaches young men set him apart as we went through our search process," Swarbrick said. "I can't wait to see how the culture created by these remarkable student-athletes continues to grow under the tutelage of Marcus and his staff."

Off the field, Freeman will look to solidify a highly promising 2022 recruiting class that currently ranks fifth in the nation, according to 247Sports.

Working quickly to elevate Freeman to head coach should provide Notre Dame with some valuable continuity in the regard, while also making sure one of the nation's most promising young coaches remains in South Bend.