Notre Dame names Marcus Freeman head coach after Brian Kelly’s exit
Notre Dame is staying in house to replace Brian Kelly.
The Irish made official what has been speculated on for days, promoting defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to be the 30th head football coach in South Bend.
“It is an honor to be named the head coach of Notre Dame Football,” the 35-year-old Freeman said in a statement announcing his hire. “I am eternally grateful to both 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.”
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees informed Notre Dame he would remain with the Fighting Irish instead of joining Kelly in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Notre Dame released a video on Twitter of Rees telling the team he was staying put.
Freeman is now the second Black head football coach at Notre Dame after Tyrone Willingham (2002-04).
A source told the AP that Kelly also had interest in bringing Freeman to LSU. Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons and with the Fighting Irish still in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. He was introduced Wednesday as the Tigers’ coach.
Swarbrick, who was scheduled to attend a CFP expansion meeting in Dallas, instead spent Wednesday in South Bend meeting with Rees and Freeman.
The 29-year-old Rees, a former Notre Dame quarterback, returned to the Irish as quarterbacks coach in 2017 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2020.
Freeman, 35, joined Kelly’s staff this year after being hired away from Cincinnati. Landing Freeman, who was also being pursued by LSU last offseason, was considered a major victory for Kelly and Notre Dame.
Freeman, a former Ohio State linebacker, is considered a rising star in college coaching and in his short time with the Irish he has played a major role in assembling a recruiting class that’s ranked No. 5 in the country by 247 Sports with two weeks to go before signing day.
On the field, Freeman and Rees have helped the Irish go 11-1 in what was expected to be a rebuilding year after last season’s playoff appearance. Notre Dame is sixth in the CFP rankings.
Freeman spent four seasons at Cincinnati as defensive coordinator for Luke Fickell, helping the Bearcats become a playoff contender.
The Bearcats are fourth in the CFP rankings heading into the American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday and have a chance to become the first team from outside the Power Five conferences to reach the playoff.