Marcus Freeman met the media as Notre Dame head coach. Here's what he said.
SOUTH BEND – Here are the key comments from Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman, along with university President John Jenkins and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, at a press conference Monday the Irish Athletics Center.
Freeman entered through one of the sliding garage-like doors on the facility’s north end, directly across from the Guglielmino Center football facility. He walked through a tunnel of the Notre Dame marching band accompanied by his family.
Freeman's opening statement was six minutes, and he took questions for 25 minutes. He was due to oversee a team meeting at 3 p.m.
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► He said he is ready for the challenge and ready to lead the program to the greatest heights. He said that it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. The expectations at Notre Dame won't change. There will be a “golden standard” of the program with a “winner’s mindset.” The ultimate goal: win a national championship.
► Freeman never dreamed he’d be the head coach at Notre Dame after only 11 months at the university. Every once in a while, he sits back and says, ‘Whoa.”
► Searching for a term to describe Notre Dame's players, Freeman said they’re "exceptional thinkers." Most never take shortcuts and are tireless workers committed to excellence, he said.
► The biggest advice Freeman received over the last few days about being the head coach: “Just be you.”
► Freeman joked whether he’d mentioned the names of all six of his children. He said the kids didn’t ask for this, and they didn’t ask to share their dad. But they will. He fought tears when discussing his family, and his players, past and present.
► Asked about the confidence a head coach needs, Freeman said he has to be himself and focus on what he can do to raise the standard. The team will do it together, as a group, he said. Treat young men well and be a relentless recruiter, Freeman said of his tasks.
► Freeman has not made a decision on defensive coordinator and won't until after the Fiesta Bowl. He also hasn't decided who will call plays at the bowl game.
► His offensive philosophy is what you’ve seen on the field under coordinator Tommy Rees. There’s no certain scheme; it's about production.
► Balancing his professional and personal life, Freeman said, is about having people around who will tell you to go home and spend time with family.
► How has Freeman changed over the last 11 months, since he arrived at Notre Dame? He recalled learning that he had to embrace Notre Dame because it’s different. Embrace this place, Freeman said, and you’ll be better for it.
► No decision has been made about junior safety Kyle Hamilton's health and his ability to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Hamilton was seated in the second row of the press conference, next to fellow captain Kurt Hinish.
►The power of Notre Dame was underscored for Freeman after he “fell in love” with a defensive unit that he’d only known for 11 months. He hopes the feeling is mutual – at least most of the time.
► Asked about being a Black head coach in college football, Freeman said you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want. You just have to do it the right way, he said. You can be a leader.
► Swarbrick said he was in frequent communication with the university's president, John Jenkins, last week, even though Jenkins was in Rome. He said the location guaranteed “spiritual guidance” to make sure Notre Dame got the right results.
► Swarbrick said the argument that members of the Irish football team selected their head coach is not true. Swarbrick said Freeman won the job through his work as an assistant coach and in interviews over the past week.
► One of the special moments, Swarbrick said, came last Tuesday, at 2:15 p.m., when he and administrative assistant Ron Powlus met with the seven Irish team captains for 45 minutes. The captains convinced Swarbrick that they had “built the best culture of college football.” He also called Freeman “the perfect guardian” of that culture.
► The captains’ message was, “Jack, don’t screw this up.” Swarbrick said he got the message.
► Swarbrick’s mission was to hire director of performance Matt Balis and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees regardless of who the new head coach might be.
► Notre Dame needed a coach who embraced and embodied the qualities of the university and Notre Dame found that coach in Marcus Freeman. He interviewed Freeman by Zoom from Rome last week.
► Jenkins’ first question to Freeman was, "Why do you coach?" The answer, in part, was that he found it gratifying to work with young men and help them achieve their goals, and to watch them grow into mature, responsible adults.
► Jenkins believes that Freeman can inspire student-athletes to “do great things.” He lives the educational ideals that are at the heart of the football program and Notre Dame.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI