It's official: Marcus Freeman is named the 30th head football coach at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND — Marcus Freeman is officially the new head football coach at Notre Dame. 

After one season as the Irish’s defensive coordinator, Freeman has been promoted and will replace Brian Kelly who left after 12 seasons to coach at LSU, the university announced early Friday. 

Freeman will be introduced at a press conference on Monday at 2 p.m. 

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The following is from Notre Dame’s official press release: 

“It is an honor to be named the head coach of Notre Dame Football,” said Freeman. “I am eternally grateful to both Father John Jenkins and 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.” 

“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,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.  “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.” 

“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,” said University Vice President and James E. Rohr Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick. “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.” 

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman during the Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Success with defense, recruiting

In his first season with the Irish, he led a transformation on the defensive side of the ball that includes a number of Top-20 national rankings. The Irish rank sixth nationally in interceptions (15) and defensive touchdowns (4), seventh in total sacks (40.0), 11th in turnovers gained (23) and scoring defense (18.2) and 18th in third-down conversion percentage (.329). The 40.0 team sacks is one shy of the program record of 41 from the 1996 season. 

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Freeman has overseen sophomore Isaiah Foskey’s breakout season as a starter on the defensive line. Foskey has tallied 10.0 sacks this year, fourth-most in program history for a single season. The depth of the Irish defense has been on full display in 2021 as 15 different players have recorded a sack and 21 different players have had a tackle-for-loss. The 15 interceptions are the most in a single season since 2014 when the Irish had 16. In November, the Irish had three-straight games without allowing a touchdown for the first time since 2012. 

Prior to coming to South Bend, Freeman spent the previous four seasons as the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati. During his time with the Bearcats, he was named the 2020 247Sports.com Defensive Coordinator of the Year and 2020 Broyles Award Finalist along with a nominee for the Broyles Award in 2019 and 2018. 

In 2020, the Bearcats (9-1) earned a bid to the Peach Bowl as the No. 8-ranked team in the nation and won the American Athletic Conference Championship, the program’s first outright league title since 2009, when Cincinnati’s head coach was Brian Kelly. 

Cincinnati’s defense ranked in the Top-20 nationally in several categories for 2020-21, including being ranked 13th in total defense (324.6 yards per game) and eighth in scoring defense (16.8 points per game) among all FBS teams. In addition, the Bearcats were third in team passing efficiency defense (101.25), 14th in rushing defense (111.1 yards per game), 15th in red zone defense (0.735), 17th in fourth down defense (0.375 rate), 16th in team sacks (3.00 per game) and 10th in turnovers gained (21). 

Freeman coached the Bearcats to back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2018 and 2019, the 2019 American Athletic Conference East Division Championship and consecutive bowl-game wins in the 2018 Military Bowl and 2019 TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl. 

The Bearcats finished atop the 2019 AAC ranks in scoring defense for the second-straight season and ranked among the league’s top three in rushing and total defense. Cincinnati led the American in 2018 in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense and ranked among the Top-15 in the NCAA FBS in all three categories. 

Joined the Bearcats staff after a four-year stint at Purdue. He coached linebackers all four seasons and served as the Boilermakers co-defensive coordinator in 2015. 

Prior to his time at Purdue, Freeman coached linebackers at Kent State from 2011-12, helping develop all-conference selections Luke Batton and C.J. Malauulu. 

Freeman started his coaching career as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater, Ohio State, in 2010 and the Buckeyes went 12-1 with a victory in the Sugar Bowl. 

Freeman is just the third Notre Dame head coach to have been selected in the NFL Draft, and is the first since Ara Parseghian was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947. He is the 23rd Notre Dame head coach to have Division I playing experience and the first since Tyrone Willingham. 

During his playing career, Freeman was a four-year letterwinner for the Buckeyes from 2004 to 2008. He played under current Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell and earned second team All-Big Ten honors in 2008 while helping lead Ohio State to four conference titles, three BCS bowls and two trips to the national title game during his career. 

He played in the 2009 Senior Bowl and was a fifth-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, spending time with the Bears, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans before a medical condition ended his playing career. 

Freeman graduated from Ohio State in 2007 and returned to the classroom to earn his master’s degree in 2011.