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Notre Dame set to promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to head coach

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman watches during warmups before a game against Navy.
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman watches during warmups before a game against Navy in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 6.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

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.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized, though the first piece of Notre Dame’s plan to regroup after Kelly left for Louisiana State earlier this week had already fallen into place.

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees informed Notre Dame to he would remain with the Fighting Irish instead of joining Kelly in Baton Rouge. Notre Dame released a video on Twitter of Rees telling the team he was staying put.

The next step is elevating the 35-year-old Freeman, who would become the second Black head football coach at Notre Dame.

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The person told the AP that Kelly also had interest in bringing Freeman to LSU.

Kelly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons and was introduced Wednesday at LSU.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who was scheduled to attend a College Football Playoff expansion meeting in Dallas, instead spent Wednesday in South Bend, Ind., meeting with Rees and Freeman.

During a 24-hour period, Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC and Brian Kelly ditched Notre Dame for LSU. College football has turned a corner and isn’t coming back.

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 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 two weeks before signing day.


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